Education: Goal-Oriented Gaming

I grew up with the belief firmly implanted in my head that video games were a bad influence that would distract me from more constructive pursuits, namely, reading. If the Internet had been as engrossing as it is now among kids, then that probably would have made the list, too. But technology isn't an absolute distraction, as I wrote before a few weeks back, nor it is an immediate boon to any educational pursuit. It depends on how it's utilized, even if it happens to be a video game.

PETLab, a research lab at the Parsons School of Design, seeks to find ways through which video games can further educational pursuits, particularly with regard to social causes. The article about the study, which can be found at eSchool News, mentions the example of military training, which has incorporated games that simulate possible situations that troops might face. Apparently, training games have also made their way into the classroom as tools for teachers and administrators.

The article also links to an example of one such educational game, which brings attention to poverty in Haiti. The game, Ayiti: The Cost of Life, was developed through a collaboration of the nonprofit organization Global Kids, a group of students from Brooklyn, New York, and game developers at Gamelab. UNICEF partnered in hosting the game.

ayiti1.png

The game in progress

Ayiti: The Cost of Life is fairly reminiscent of The Oregon Trail (but with much better graphics than the original version, of course): players aim to keep a family from dying. The even higher goal is to secure an education for as many members as possible. The game is definitely worth checking out, at least (and perhaps especially) for the background information on the its creators and the scenario it simulates -- life for a poor family in Haiti.

ayiti2.png

Barely squeaking by financially

Although not traditional schooling in terms of reading, 'riting, and 'rithmetic, it's great to see potentially mindless technology targeted towards social good. And come to think of it, schools definitely do seek to instill values pertaining to social good. Canned food drives and donations to the United Way all throughout my K-12 education are two examples that come to mind. If PETLab succeeds in developing games similar to Ayiti: The Cost of Life, it will surely contribute to providing students valuable lessons in social studies -- in the full sense of the term.

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8 Comments

  • Shon Bayer

    One of the things that validated the value of gaming in the K-12 space is that it is being pushed into corporate America (which is typically more results oriented than the edu space.)

    For instance, Sun Microsystems is using gaming as part of it's new hire orientation and training: http://learning.sun.com/sls/st...
    I think that as much larger portion of the population is familiar with the interfaces and idioms of games, the engaging learning opportunities that games allow will further push into the mainstream.

  • Xeno

    Nice to see we are finally starting to change the minds of shallow individuals like yourself. It's ok, we understand that your kind of people fear change, but our kind has just gotten used to waiting for you to catch up. Now, stop holding up the whole human race and wake up

  • April Joyner

    I'd agree. All games can offer such value, and that's why it's no surprise that projects like PETLab have come about.

    I only say "potentially mindless" because if they aren't enjoyed in moderation, video games -- like many other activities -- can easily become an addiction and a distraction. I'm sure my family had such bad opinions of video games because there were a few examples of this effect that hit very close to home!

  • COD

    I can't even begin to list all the "stuff" my kids have learned from video games. Even "mindless" games usually involve a lot of strategic planning and thinking in order to win. That's all valuable, maybe more value than the "book learning" in some cases.

  • Joseph Allan

    One of the things that validated the value of gaming in the K-12 space is that it is being pushed into corporate America (which is typically more results oriented than the edu space.)

    For instance, Sun Microsystems is using gaming as part of it's new hire orientation and training: http://learning.sun.com/sls/st...
    I think that as much larger portion of the population is familiar with the interfaces and idioms of games, the engaging learning opportunities that games allow will further push into the mainstream.

  • Joseph Allan

    Nice to see we are finally starting to change the minds of shallow individuals like yourself. It's ok, we understand that your kind of people fear change, but our kind has just gotten used to waiting for you to catch up. Now, stop holding up the whole human race and wake up

  • Joseph Allan

    I'd agree. All games can offer such value, and that's why it's no surprise that projects like PETLab have come about.

    I only say "potentially mindless" because if they aren't enjoyed in moderation, video games -- like many other activities -- can easily become an addiction and a distraction. I'm sure my family had such bad opinions of video games because there were a few examples of this effect that hit very close to home!

  • Joseph Allan

    I can't even begin to list all the "stuff" my kids have learned from video games. Even "mindless" games usually involve a lot of strategic planning and thinking in order to win. That's all valuable, maybe more value than the "book learning" in some cases.