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Research: The Educational Value of Serious Games

The Use of Games as Entertainment May Be Dwarfed by Serious Game Applications

Via: Level Up!

Video games are exciting, challenging, and a vital part of life for many teens. This year energize your students by using video games as an engaging educational tool to teach core language arts and STEM concepts

LEVEL UP! has made available for review the research Educational Value of Videogames.

Here are the highlights:

Education Today Continues to Evolve

 Literacy has evolved beyond the definition of the ability to read and write. Literacy now includes the ability to seamlessly interpret on-screen information, such as the graphics in a videogame, and the ability to rapidly decode symbols. To be effective, gamers must be able to quickly decipher each game’s symbols and conventions, which is essentially what good readers have to do in terms of deciphering the alphabetic code.

 Serious Games are not replacing literacy activities, they ARE literacy activities.

 Literacy specialists are just beginning to investigate how reading on the Internet affects reading skills. Students are developing new reading skills that are neither taught nor evaluated in school.

 Educational practices need to recognize today’s participatory culture and to find different ways of delivering content. Today’s new cultural competencies include the ability to navigate across different kinds of media and to “mashup” the various media content. Games are the ideal model for combining content in different ways and incorporating problem solving. There is a need for educators need to see games as an alternate learning system.

 Videogames use the scaffolding concept extensively and thus have numerous educational applications.

Today’s Students are Different

 Outside of school, students are multi-tasking with the use of technologies such as instant messaging, cell phones, computers, e-mail, digital music devices, and videogames.

 Youth now spend more time with digital media than they do watching television. Students who have grown up with interactive technologies integrate them seamlessly in their daily lives.

 Yet these same students who are so thoroughly connected to technology outside of school are largely disconnected within their classrooms. Students increasingly express frustration and dissatisfaction with their school experience, and the limited access they have to the Internet during the school day.

 These digital savvy students want learning experiences that parallel the exciting and engaging digital formats which they use in other parts of their lives. Most instruction in schools remains rooted in the “tell and test” format which assigns a passive role to students and requires them to read from texts, listen to lectures and repeat the information back on worksheets, in class discussions, in reports, and on tests.

 The skills that make gamers successful often help them be more sociable and develop strategic thinking and leadership skills.

Today’s Teachers are Different

 A growing number of today’s educators realize that videogames are embedded with core academics and require analytical problem solving skills. Games can convey a different perspective than students can get from a text book or even from going to a museum and looking at things in glass cases.

 The increased use of Serious Games is the result, in part, of more young teachers, who grew up playing games, recognizing the value of incorporating interactive features into learning.

 Gaming requires reading, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills help teens learn in a way that is unfamiliar to many teachers. Many teachers are using games to help teach concepts that have been historically hard to teach and difficult for students to learn.

 Properly designed videogames have the potential to improve student motivation as well as the educational outcomes, and facilitate the transfer of learned skills to practical application. However, teachers must have a sound understanding of which game features are important and the why and how of best design that result in positive learning outcomes. Teachers will need to continue to work to include gaming innovations in their teaching and redesign instructional practices and leaning environments to take advantage of the exploration.

Today’s Game Designs Are Different

 One value of videogaming has to do with their motivational factor. The motivational factor of gaming may have some very important applications in the educational process. Because players are so interested in the game they continue to play the same game again and again, even after repeated failure, in an effort to get better at the game.

 One reason games are good teaching tools is that they start off easy and gradually get harder. There is also a “circle of no consequences” that makes it okay to fail. There are no repercussions in the real world for failure at a game. In education there is an emphasis on success within a given time frame that creates pressure. Some students do not perform well under that pressure.

 Regime of competence principle - This refers to the design of videogames that assures that every level in a game is on the outer limits of the player’s ability, just hard enough to be a challenge, but still allows the player to be successful. This gives gamers a sense of simultaneous pleasure and frustration.

 Games today can be divided into entertainment and Serious Game categories. Games are getting much more realistic, and can be incredibly motivating. The use of Ggames as entertainment may be dwarfed by Serious Game applications.

 One example involves elections. Student body elections are intended to help students understand government and democracy, but not all students run or participate in the governing process. But a game like “The Political Machine” allows all students to manage a campaign, decide platforms, plan fund raising strategies, and develop advertising messages.

 Videogames, based on the training of socially valued practices, will create an educational system in which students learn to work and think as professionals. The purpose is not to train students for these professions, but rather to provide students with an opportunity to see the world in a variety of ways that are fundamentally grounded in meaningful activity and aligned with core skills, habits, and understandings of a postindustrial society. Games will help students create representations of professional knowledge.

 Videogames are very effective at teaching logical, consequential thinking. U.S. Army studies indicate playing videogames as much as ten hours can improve the ability to process visual information and improve overall spatial orientation skills.

 Games involve participation in collective intelligence, and blur the distinction between the production and consumption of information. They emphasized expertise rather than social status. They promote international and cross-cultural media and communities.

 Games are inherently simplifications of reality, but they are at their most powerful when they are personally meaningful, experiential, and social all at the same time.