In his TED Talk exactly six years ago, American video game designer Jesse Schell predicted a future in which games would rule everyday life. The government would hand out experience points—aka tax relief—for making “right” decisions, such as paying off your credit card bill or saving more in your retirement fund. Companies, too, would use gamification to collect data and reward you based on what you buy, eat, and even how long you brush your teeth.
Although this may seem drastic to many Americans, we believe everyday gaming is here to stay. In the U.S., where its applications aren't nearly as extreme, digital gaming is already making headway in education. In fact, it's become widespread in K-8 classrooms—and has garnered critics as a result. As a Taiwan-based social gaming company with eyes on both China and the West, we know that gaming can have a significant and positive impact on education—while steering clear of Jesse Schell's most severe predictions. Below, we 1) correct the most common myths about digital gaming, 2) outline key benefits of bringing games into the classroom, and 3) point teachers toward specific games that benefit different types of learners.
What the Cynics Say
These are the myths about classroom gaming that most frequently pop up on teachers’ forums, along with our responses:
Myth: Students today are turning into zombies, glued to their games 24/7.
Truth: Children and teens are drawn to novelty and technology, especially when their peers are interested as well. Instead of trying to dissuade them, we can make the most of students’ passion for and easy access to gaming. For example, some developers are creating apps that encourage social and emotional skills such as empathy and cooperation.
Myth: By promoting virtual reality, gaming shortens attention spans.
2. Game playing encourages collaboration, peer validation, and a different kind of teamwork than is often found in traditional group projects. Teachers are able to prompt more introverted students to speak up, and to connect with students who are otherwise difficult to engage.
4. Classroom gaming has never been easier, as teacher-to-teacher sharing of lesson plans has made educational gaming resources easier to come by. Sites such as Khan Academy and OpenEd now feature content with at least some elements of gaming. PaGamO, for instance, allows teachers to create custom games and share them with other educators.
Games to Reach Every Learner
In the end, the only way for teachers to know if digital gaming will benefit their students is to try it out in their own classrooms. But determining which games to use with which students can require a lot of trial and error—and late night research. That might sound fun if you're a gamer, and tedious if you're not. To lend a hand, we've put together a gaming playlist. Below, we recommend specific games suited to seven learning styles popularized by renowned Harvard professor Howard Gardner in his landmark Theory of Multiple Intelligences. Good luck and game on!