#6: VIDEO GAMES IN TEFL

Are you in favor or against computer games? Do you believe they can create a generation of dumb and antisocial people, or quick-witted and creative ones? A poll conducted several years ago says that  97% of children aged 12 to 17 play video games. They are here to stay want we or not. So we need to make good use of them for educational purposes as well. Here are some ideas for you to reflect on.

I won’t believe to find a single child who doesn’t like computer games and I have never seen a kid who’d pass by people playing a game without staring at the screen for a while. Some of them are so addicted to one or another game that they may spend sleepless nights before the PC or another device. So this gives rise to the thought  that there should be something “magical” about digital games. Indeed, there is.

So what is a digital game? if it is played on a computer or a gadget, has rules and seeks to accomplish a mission, and has roles that the games take.

Let’s see why children prefer games above their school lessons and how they can be implemented in learning to yield better results.

One of the important factors that makes games so engaging is that games are meaningful: that is you have your avatar in the cyberspace and all the things he/she/it does you identify with yourself. Or, in case of other types of games, you directly play the game. So you want to perform well as the game assesses your performance on an ongoing basis and give immediate feedback: you perform badly you lose points, you choose the wrong action and your life in the game is terminated. You need to start all over again. If compared to conventional education, we see that the things are really different. The assessment and feedback sometimes may arrive when a student has totally forgotten what assignment they are for.

So why should anyone want to play a game where they can lose? Simple as that, just because is a safe environment for failure: you can try it as many times as you want and every time you “die” in a game you are reborn, just like e phoenix 🙂 . You can’t take the risks in real life just the way you can in a game. And especially don’t try to practice this at school. If you submit a full of mistakes assignment you will probably be penalized with a terrible mark just like your work. And especially don’t try to misspell every single word in a dictation for the next level to know what are the correct versions just like you sometimes may be doing in a game. Remember, after your teacher sees this, there may not be a second time for you …

What games to choose? There are long lists of “Serious” games that tap on different skills and aspects of learning of a student. The teacher or a parent needs to scrutinize the game to see if it is level-appropriate, user-friendly, if it targets the topic or point to be taught or fostered. Choosing the right games needs thought and time on the side of a teacher and a parent taking into account the students’ opinion as well.

What about violence that these games feature? Report says that more than half of COT (commercials off-the-shelf) games have elements or violence in them. Yes, no one argues. but they are just more that half on the games. The other half is still there!!! On the other hand, there is no reliable evidence of violent games pushing players to aggressive actions in real life. They may prove to be just limited to players’ feeling aggressive and  irritated internally.

So as a parent, an elder sibling or a teacher, you need to reflect on how to make the most out of COT games for your younger friends, how to thoughtfully integrate them into curriculum, how to help students apply the concepts and skills learnt from games in real life, how to make them autonomous enough to make the right choice of games themselves… Can you just take any game and use it to educate? My answer is NO. You think it’s a lot of work? Well, no pain, no gain.

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