The Hidden Connection Between Video Games and Learning

Kids will play an average of 100 hours to “get good” at a video game. Will they put in 100 hours to “get good” on schoolwork? As an educator I know they do not put this time into schoolwork. Clearly our “rewards” used in school do not motivate students to put in time like they put time into video games. In a video game, they don’t get grades, they don’t get extra credit, and they don’t win money, yet commit hours to practice. On average, 8-12 year olds play 13 hours of video games per week, and teenagers aged 13-18 years old plays 14 hours a week. I would venture to say that they are not dedicating the same time to schoolwork.

I have to ask myself what we can learn from video games, and whether we can apply that to our lessons for school. What are some key features in video games? If we analyze a video game, some commonalities emerge:

The objectives and goals are spelled out at the beginning of the game.

There are strategies and skills to be learned

There is a vocabulary that must be learned

There is a public measure of how well you are doing

You quickly learn what to do better next time to improve your performance in the game

To help kids learn, we must make sure they understand our lesson objectives. After a 45-minute lesson, if we ask a student how well they did, they should be able to articulate a notion of how well they met the objectives. They should not respond “I don’t know”, although this is a typical teenager response. With any unit of study, we need to explain the strategies, skills and vocabulary that are needed, and we need to give these at the beginning of the unit. A mechanism to track their own understanding of the concepts in the unit will help students succeed. Students need an opportunity to reflect on their work and know what to improve upon for next time.

Putting these ideas into practice will produce a good recipe for our lessons and planning in school. Hidden Connection Between Video Games and Learning game addiction

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5 thoughts on “The Hidden Connection Between Video Games and Learning

  1. I agree that clear objectives and feedback on how to obtain the goal you desire are essential for satisfying learning — no courses are as frustrating as the ones where you come to the exam unprepared because the learning objectives have not been clear or have not been covered. However, in the games I’ve observed my kids playing, I’d argue that it’s the reward principle that gets them hooked. In our culture we’ve criticized praise and rewards, saying it’s better to be internally motivated than externally, and rightfully realized that rewarding academic achievement can create difficult situations for students at each end of the spectrum. However, I still think that in most games, it’s the points (and sometimes sparkles) you get that are the main motivator — how can I get my score a little higher each time? I always played that game with my schoolwork… but you have to admit, in general school work is harder than games. In games, you can proceed at your own pace, but in school you have to keep up with the curriculum. In games, you can pick the ones that fit your interest, but in school everyone does everything. And in games, I’ve noticed that my kids often quit or switch games after about 100 hours — but they put in more than that on each subject in school each year. No wonder they don’t want to do extra at home as well. I don’t think making school more like video games is quite the answer, though I do like the suggestions you made above. I think things like Explorations and Discovery Fair are great ways to learn math, science, writing, communicating, planning and so forth while keeping things interesting for everyone and making learning fun rather than tedious. Way to go!

    • Thanks Rebecca, you raise valid points. Just to clarify, I am not saying we should make our classrooms into video games, but rather try to extract the key learning components of them and incorporate those into our teaching. I am thankful that parents like you motivate your children to put the hours into their schoolwork as well as finding the balance of screen time with them. Awesome comment!

  2. Good stuff. Very intriguing. You said “There is a public measure of how well you are doing”. Is there anonymity through the use of alias’ in the gaming world? If not then do we find the ones who “suck” generally dropping out of the game or being ridiculed? I do like the idea of self evaluation and potentially helping them to see the areas where they need to focus and improve through a series of poignant questions.

    I like the way you think “outside the box”, I think it is key if we want to establish/maintain connection with this generation.

    Thanks for caring.


    • thanks Wade, you bring up the concept of “Good Digital Citizenship” that we do need to be accountable in what we do online.

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