Can Games be Used to Teach? Published 2006-08-23

Did you get a chance to offer your thoughts on the question "Can games be used to teach?" from ISTE earlier this month? I was on vacation so I did not get a chance to read the point/counterpoint style article until yesterday. My take on the issue is the safe "it depends" type of answer. I have great respect for David Thornburg. But I think he has it wrong in this case. He admits that there are some games (e.g. simulations) that he thinks can be used in teaching. On this I agree.

He takes issue on the quiz show style games which he feels may contribute to short-term memorization but does not contribute to real knowledge gain. I have seen many games that contribute to the educational process when incorporated into the curriculum by a savvy teacher. Games are not dissimilar to workbooks associated with texts. There are some that are bad and the good ones are only as effective as the teacher assigning work in them.

I am tired of discussions about the pros and cons of education technology that ignore the teacher factor. Good technology will not make a bad teacher good, but good technology will aid in making a good teacher better. (And a good teacher will not use bad technology.)

A side note: as I write this, I looked over at my wife who is on her computer. My wife who hates computer games is playing an online word game. She admits that this type of game is a challenge and it does expose her to new vocab.


Jason said...

Thanks for the link. I let my ISTE membership lapse. But I just discovered that there is (or was) a a SIG for the "use of games, simulations, and 3D environments in teaching, learning, and other educational areas", which interest me, especially in regards to MUVEs like Second Life. There is also this article: A Proposal for Accelerating the Implementation and Development of Video Games in Education by Greg Jones and Kevin Kalinowski. Be interested to see what they have to say during their webcast later this month.

rob banning said...


Thanks for the link to the discussion on creating an online forum to discuss issues relating to games in education. Do you have any more information about the webcast? I, also, think that would be interesting.

You might also be interested in a post by Mechelle De Craene titled
The Sims 2.0 & Students with Special Needs
. I found it through a post by Dave Warlick.