Sunday, January 21, 2007

Social Impact Games & Gaming in Education


I'll be the first to admit, I'm not much into video games, yet even I have heard kids excitedly discussing WarCraft and Halo. I think it safe to say that most kids are significantly more engaged with their video game console than their schoolwork. I, like many educators, have considered: what if we could somehow combine the two?

In reading Hungarian medical student,
Bertalan Meskó's, blog post on medical video games, I was reminded of a very interesting site which compiles "social impact games." One such linked game explains,
The Liemandt Foundation is dedicated to facilitating, testing, and promoting “stealth education” video games so that they can make learning fun for kids who might enjoy playing games more than listening to teachers.
There are specific learning games, such as Kinetic City's Nowhere to Hide demo on natural selection (birds, bugs, and pollution). The political and social games range from interesting, to disturbing, to downright offensive for some.

Check out some of these games at Social Impact Games and the Serious Games Initiative.

However, this brings me to an interesting dilemma. Where is the balance between our need to educate and our expectation (by today's kids) to entertain? Is there a satisfactory and possible compromise?

Magazine T.H.E. Journal believes education is Trending the the Right Direction. Also, considering the issue of using gaming and interactive software in education is the focus of an upcoming international symposium sponsored by The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), I think it is an important trend to watch.
There are salient differences between the design environment for those who design games and those who develop products for the K-12 market. One difference is that game developers are largely unconstrained by national or state mandated curriculum and can design their products for integrity and validity as a stand alone experience. Also, game designers must count on the nature of the experience to engage the student rather than relying on an adult authority to require kids to use it.
To date, there has been limited cross-over between the worlds of education and gaming/interactive software. This Symposium will explore if there are effective strategies for stimulating greater synergy between these sectors with the goal of providing more compelling and engaging learning environments for our children.
I plan on attending that March 27th symposium. I'll keep you posted.

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