Home > Uncategorized > Gaming to Engage Learning

Gaming to Engage Learning

The video I chose to watch for my tech task was an interesting one. I watched a TED talk by Ali Carr-Chellman on the education of boys as well as video games. She talks about how video games are a culture of a large population of boys in our classrooms and how we as teachers are trying to take their culture away.

I find this all very interesting because in a previous post I had debated about video games and the effects they have on our children. After listening to Ali she makes some very good points that I agree with.

Before I continue on I must stress much like she did at the beginning of her presentation. This conversation is about boys. This is not to say that girls do not have their struggles in schools because they do. This is also not saying that all boys are the same or all girls are the same. This IS to say that most boys can be categorized in some similar traits.

The culture in schools isn’t working to the benefit to the boys in schools. Looking at some sample data (which I am assuming comes from the US but Canada can probably relate) states a few interesting things that shows us that the schools culture isn’t working for boys.

For every 100 girls, 250 boys are being suspended from school.

For every 100 girls, 335 boys are expelled.

For every 100 girls, 217 boys are in special education classes.

For every 100 girls, 276 boys have a learning disability.

For every 100 girls, 324 boys have an emotional disturbance.

Boys are 4X more likely to have ADHD

Just looking at these numbers really makes me wonder if school has become an anti boys club? Is that too far-fetched to think that the male population in school has been put into an environment where they cannot succeed or be engaged the way the females are?

So how do we engage the male population? Let’s think about this for a moment. What is it that boys are interested in the most? From my experiences it seems as though most boys in elementary school are interested in sports, and video games.

Most people think that playing video games all night is affecting their academic achievement. Now this is something I have stated in a previous post and Ali has made me really think about what I was saying. But at least I’m not the only one out there thinking these things.

One of the most interesting things Ali said was “video games are not the cause, they are a symptom.” To me this made sense in the way that our negative views on video games as educators. Many of us feel it is nothing but a distraction to a childs learning. If a child is spending countless hours playing video games at home and when they come to school all they want to do is talk about video games, then when is this child supposed to learn anything “useful?”

Since many of the video games portray very realistic violence, the whole notion of video games all together has been often outlawed in schools. Teachers don’t want students talking or writing about video games. There is a problem with that though. By doing this we are no longer giving the student the choice of what they can write about or what they can do a report about. We are forcing them to do what we as teachers want them to do. Just think back to when you were told to do something that you didn’t really want to do? Not the best situation. Did you feel very motivated to be in that situation after being told what to do? Now how would you feel if you were put into that type of environment on a daily basis? Now I’m not saying that kids should be allowed to play video games during class time or any other radical thoughts you might be thinking right now, but is it really a big deal if a kid is engaged in his writing because he is writing about a video game? Or maybe he is writing about something violent. Does this mean this child has issues that need to be dealt with? Doubtful.

Ali goes on to talk about three main reasons why she thinks boys are unengaged in the classroom.

1. Zero tolerance going a bit too far – when an Eagle Scout gets suspended for having a pen knife in his locked car at school, it’s going to far.

2. Fewer male teachers – 7% of the teachers are male (US stat). This stat is very interesting to me being a male teacher in elementary education. This may not seem like an issue to some but think about it this way. Yes, boys have their fathers, uncles, etc as male role models but where is the male influence for those 6 hours a day Mon-Fri if there are no male teachers? How does a child feel when they seem to be surrounded by female role models for most of their daily lives? They feel like they don’t belong.

3. Kindergarten is the old Grade 2 – the compression of the curriculum is making it harder to succeed.

Throughout her talk, Ali makes very good points on many things, but where I have my doubts are the solutions she comes up with. Maybe her solutions would work, but are they realistic. The one solution I definitely do agree with would be bringing back more boy culture into the schools. This would include the hiring of more male teachers, allowing students to do school work that involves video game content, and ultimately change their attitudes toward school. Where I have my doubts is when she begins talking about designing better games and investing more money into creating engaging games for students. I think that is great but when it comes down to it, kids play games like Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. The budgets for these games is through the roof, so to get anywhere close to that popularity would be next to impossible for a game of educational value. Even if funds were provided for such a creation, how are they going to convince a kid that this game is better than the realistic scenarios of Call of Duty?

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. January 25, 2011 at 4:00 AM

    Hello Dallas,

    I am a U of R grad student taking a class from Carol Schick. (I took one from Alec last semester, which lead me to your blog.) As part of Carol’s class, Multiculturalism and anti-racism within the curriculum, I just read a very interesting article dispelling the argument that boys are underachieving due to fewer male teachers. The article talks about the history of teaching and makes some very interesting points that I think you would find quite interesting. I have the article as a PDF file, so if you are interested, drop me an email and I can send it to you.

    Keep on blogging and enjoy Alec’s course!

  2. January 25, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    Hi Dallas,

    I think video games may have something to teach us, but possibly not in the way you think. Have you read the book Everything Bad is Good for You? It has some really significant points to make about how video games help develop our brains. The most popular games tend not to be the most violent ones and develop an array of problem solving skills. What I think we need to do is take these lessons and apply them to curriculum to engage our learners.

    I think the problems boys are having may not apply only to boys. I just think boys may act on it more. What I think we’re seeing in education are students who are not engaged in their learning, at all ages. Solve that problem and I think you’ll see most of your negative stats disappear.

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