Educational Video Games: Technology in the Classroom
In an era where digital media is a part of virtually everything, the use of technology in the classroom is essential. Educational video games not only offer a way to engage students, but the use of games in educational settings has far-reaching benefits. Recently, efforts have been made to bring commercial video games into the classroom because they have the potential to transform the educational process through distinct advantages.
Popular Educational Video Games: SimCity
A great example of a popular video game that boasts a myriad of classroom applications is SimCity. I was initially shocked by the headline: “New ‘SimCity’ Tries to Link with Schools” on SFGate.com because I never thought that a game by the makers of The Sims would end up in the classroom. However, this is the 21st century and times are changing. The more I have learned about SimCity, the more convinced I am of its value as an educational tool.
In SimCity, the player is Mayor. This data-rich universe requires the player to make choices with realistic consequences for the city and its citizens. As the city’s mayor, the player is responsible for building roads, zoning, budgeting, and dealing with real life dilemmas as they arise. As students make critical choices for their virtual cities, they are developing real world skills such as budgeting, design, and planning.
SimCity has been used for educational purposes since the first version came out in 2003, but now the makers of SimCity, Electronic Arts, are making a more concerted effort to get SimCity into the classroom. To do so, they’ve launched GlassLab, a collaborative effort between game makers and educators slated to be a central resource for teachers who want to use games in the classroom. GlassLab is behind SimCityEDU, which offers comprehensive game-based lesson plans in a variety of subjects arranged by grade.
To Use or Not Use Video Games in the Classroom: That is the Question
A lot of current educational games for kids can’t match the intricacy and realism of a game like SimCity. If teachers are to compete with the digital media that their students are seeing outside of school, they need tools that are more motivating and engaging. Using a regular video game as part of a lesson demonstrates that school relates to students’ lives and that there are constructive ways to use technology in the classroom.
Recreating real life accurately in classroom activities is a challenging task. However, select commercial video games can fill the void through simulations of real life scenarios. SimCity is a fascinating and tempting game. The possibilities this virtual world holds for difficult-to-teach subjects, such as Financial Literacy, can be quite enticing to teachers.
Virtual Kids Games Pros and Cons
Despite all of the benefits video games have to offer, there are some things that teachers should look out for. Kids’ video games can have an addictive quality, as noted in a recent GlassLab blog post. In “GlassLab’s Prototype Put to the Test,” Jessica Lindl observed that the students in a California classroom were so excited by the game that they wanted to skip recess. I hope the teacher didn’t let them.
One of the 21st century skills that we’re all still trying to learn is how to find balance between the virtual digital world and our real lives. It’s not hard to imagine a future in which students learn everything within simulated environments, as depicted in scenes from the popular science fiction novel “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. We need to remember that these digital environments are meant to help us think and work in the real world, not to take the real world over. Of course, the two may be melding at a rate that we can no longer control.
Best Use of Technology in the Classroom
Technology is now an integral part of our students’ lives and our own. Teachers can take advantage of students’ computer literacy by using educational video games in their lessons. With resources like GlassLab and SimCityEDU, educators can access the tools they need to utilize video games and technology in the classroom effectively.