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Video-Games in the Classroom

MADISON - Tapping the potential of using video games in the classroom, in such varied fields as physics, Revolutionary War history and environmental engineering, is the aim of a new project being led by a University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Education Arcade is an initiative that hopes to raise teacher awareness of the effectiveness of game-playing in education, encourage software developers to come up with new educational games and build markets for their products.

Kurt Squire, associate professor of education at UW-Madison, says the
project will bring together scholars, designers and game publishers to help assess the effects of game playing and disseminate the technology.

"Kids spend more time playing games, generally, than watching TV," Squire says. "We want to help teachers, parents and policymakers understand the role of games in education."

Building video-game literacy among teachers is a key step in the effort, Squire says.
"We have people teaching now who were raised on the medium, but the kinds of people who become teachers aren't game-players - they are teacher-pleasers," Squire says. "Game players tend to be a bit more counter-culture. A lot of people say it's a frivolous waste of time. We're trying to get them to open their minds."

In his recent book, "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy," James Paul Gee, a UW-Madison curriculum and instruction professor, says that video games incorporate learning principles that reflect what researchers know about human learning. Still, Gee found that not only the games, but also the sorts of powerful learning principles they incorporate, are poorly represented in today's schools.

Both Gee and Squire are the lead instructors in a daylong workshop on video gaming and literacy sponsored by the UW-Madison Office of Education Outreach on Feb. 12 at the Best Western InnTowner, 2424 University Ave. in Madison.

Squire and his MIT colleagues have developed a game called “Supercharged!,” an electromagnetic simulation game in which players navigate through magnetically charged mazes. The game requires students to understand how atomic particles work.

"You're entering a world of physics, where you have to think of what it's like to be a charged particle," Squire says.

Recently, the game was used in a science curriculum at a Waltham, Mass. middle school and students who played the game outperformed those who used a traditional curriculum by 20 percent in a final test of main concepts, Squire says.

Another game that has resulted from the effort is Environmental Detectives, which uses handheld computers and global-mapping technology to help students identify the source of a toxic chemical spill. And Squire and his colleagues are also working on a game called Revolution that uses Colonial Williamsburg as a history-teaching tool.

Squire says well-designed educational games, far from being simple diversions, are challenging and thought-provoking for students.

"These games tend to require more thought than students are used to," he says. "A good game will make you fail and lose. We've had students say, 'Whoa! This is hard.'"

Over the years, much of the popular video-gaming market has consisted of games developed by men for boys.

"It's nothing inherent in the medium - it's more a function of the games that have been released," Squire says of boys' attraction to the games. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a girl who hasn't played a video game."

The Education Arcade, an offshoot of a now-ended two-year effort called the Games-to-Teach Project funded by Microsoft, began this fall with a grant from the Electronic Software Association.

The initiative was featured in Technology and Learning magazine as one of the top 10 innovative projects of 2003.

Eric Klopfer, director of MIT's Teacher Education Program and an assistant professor of urban studies and planning, says he hopes the effort will help video games become a full-fledged part of classroom life.

"Gaming technologies have improved and diversified to engage a much wider range of interests and abilities," says Klopfer, who received his doctorate at UW-Madison. "Students are interested and ready to play, and we are providing the technologies and curriculum."

Related Articles:
Game-Based Learning Strategies"
The Learning Game - Researchers Study Video Gaming Principles that Apply to Education

Dennis Chaptman from UW Communications can be contacted at


SHUAN responded 9 years ago: #1

video games are not a waste of time.They are a type of entertainment.I mean you guys don't think that football or basketball are wrong.You don't think that tv is wrong when tv is just as bad as video games.

David Evans responded 9 years ago: #2

The uses of games in education is a very interesting concept, not new, but interesting...Has there been any research that shows the advantages or disadvantages of using simulations of this type in learning?

Is this game currently available?

Navi responded 9 years ago: #3

this is a concept i've been trying to sell for a few years, without success, mainly because i have yet to become a teacher. however, i can definitely see value in this. OREGON TRAIL was used as a tool by one of my sibling's teachers and they were definitely immersed in the material.

Matthew Hamilton responded 8 years ago: #4

I am a male student in high school and I think that the use of video games in the classroom would help make the teaching methods more effective. Plus the statistics of kids falling asleep in classes have increased. This is mostly because of not enough sleep but it is also from a lack of interest the new generation my generation is just not interested in lectures.

john responded 8 years ago: #5

I think that video games in the classroom is a great idea becase I am always bored in class.

Joe Kallio responded 8 years ago: #6

I think this is a great idea and I am using this information on my project.

ddrayer responded 8 years ago: #7

I am a ED D student at the University of Pacific Stockton California. I am doing my disertation on the use of games in the classroom. As a 30-year teacher, I have found that anything that increases interaction in the classrrom, increaes learning and video games, has a great potential to increase student engagement in learning. Teachers need more training and games that relate to what they are teaching.

Phil responded 8 years ago: #8

Video games rock. They should be in school.

Raiyan Saliddin responded 8 years ago: #9

I'm about to graduate high school and sometimes because of being bored, I think of going home or somewhere just to play video games. I think it's a good idea anyway.

k.s.Sreejith responded 8 years ago: #10

Yep, I think that playing video games in the class room will be interesting because when a tiring, four-hour class schedule is over, then one could to the video game lab play some games and relax their mind.

What do you think about it?

sarah miller responded 8 years ago: #11

This would be great for my 6 year old boy. He loves to play video games like Halo. He will play for hours, then when he goes to school and just sits at a desk and listens to a teacher, he gets into trouble because he is bored. This would be a great way for him to learn. My husband loves video games. That is where the kid gets it from. My husband might be able to help you guys out. He loves to build video games. Give us an e-mail.

dylan garaczkowski responded 8 years ago: #12

I dont think that there should be video-games in school. Already, me and my friends whenever we are in a room with computers we get past the "blockers" and just play stupid games.... if we were made to play these "learning" games, they would make us more available to be able to get on the Internet and do whatever we wanted.

Although just plain "entertainment" video games still teach us stuff.... mainly basic problem solving, but still it teaches us about many things........

email me if u have any problems with this

jessie garner responded 7 years ago: #13

I think every public school should have vr helmets and teach with the virtual reality programs. A kid could learn twice as fast.

Paul responded 7 years ago: #14

It doesn't take a genius to realize that games should be used in the classroom. Yet, we still have people that oppose it completely and think that video games are a complete waste of time. I have been playing video games since I could walk, and I've even played educational games; such as Math Blaster. Without Math Blaster I probably wouldn't have ever learned to like math as much as I do today. So, I consider it a direct cause of me getting a 28 in math on my ACT, which helped me to get a scholarship to college. Which otherwise I wouldn't have achieved.

juan responded 7 years ago: #15

Video games are actually exciting i mean i play them soo muhc only i like to predict what would happen next then just go it building up to when i dire or get game over....

SamPD responded 6 years ago: #16

The concept is promising. If it succeds, then it will renderd triditional menthods of teaching obsolete.

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