We all know that many video games are extremely addictive. We also know that you may not be learning very much from playing them. But how can we leverage the innate pleasurability from video games and turn them into valuable learning opportunities?
One very simple way is to customize the game using programming. This may or may not be possible for certain games but is an easy and no brainer solution for many games. A game that can be customized using programming is Minecraft and WEquil.School provides a class taught by Benny that teaches how to program Java in Minecraft that you can learn about here: https://www.wequil.school/java-coding-class
Not only can you customize existing games with programming but you can also program your own games. One of which is a great beginner programming language called Scratch that is also taught at WEquil.School! It is a very valuable language to explore the possibilities of programming to then expand on that knowledge into harder and more complex languages like python.
Also, when it comes to getting a young person excited about using things like programming to customize their game or to create a game of their own it really comes down to communication. Begin by showing the possibilities of what they could create. To get a child excited about programming in Minecraft, show them some of BADRonin’s amazing creations using code! This will then make the conversation more about “How can I do that!?” instead of “why can’t I just play Minecraft?”
Another way to make games into valuable learning opportunities is by creating projects out of it by asking questions, especially the question “why?” Here are some questions you can ask:
Why do you like this game?
What are some things you think could be improved about this game?
Why should I play this game?
How does this game help you in other aspects of your life?
If you could make your own game what would it be?
From this you can get ideas on how you can leverage their strong points of interest! Do not have a project idea in mind before asking the questions. Keep asking questions and digging deeper to see what really excites the young person about that game. And then see how that point of interest ties into other things.
Be creative about how you go about making the game into a learning opportunity. If they are not gathering knowledge then you can use the game to develop skills such as writing about the game and developing their writing skills. Sharing something they created in the game to develop their public speaking skills. Collaborating with others in the game to create something to develop collaboration skills. There are many different ways you can start integrating learning into what would otherwise be leisure time.
Just by going through the deep learning process with a project relating to the game adds a lot of value. By creating the project they are developing their writing or video filming and editing skills. By sharing their project with others and iterating on their project they are collaborating and learning to improve upon their work. By presenting it on demo day they are practicing public speaking and building their digital capital and body of work.
Another way to integrate learning into games is by developing responsibility. Ask the young person to write out a proposal of how much game time they think they should have while getting everything else that is important done, and not spending too much time in front of the screen. This helps them learn how to create a persuasive article where they are writing out their own plan, and trying to negotiate. It would still be the parents’ final say, so the project would have to be very targeted in trying to lay out a reasonable proposal. I think this is a very useful project idea because it helps with many things including giving the young person freedom which would then mean responsibility and also by creating a project out of it they are getting all the benefits listed above.
Many video games are addictive. But there are ways you can leverage that to create valuable projects and learn valuable skills while having fun. Won’t it be awesome if kids are addicted to learning and creating? I would be interested in hearing more ideas on projects and ways games can be leveraged as learning opportunities!