Model your Classroom off Pac Man?(Scholarly Critique 1)

Video Games in Education,” authored by Kurt Squire, draws the comparison between how video games are able to create intrigue and passion and these elements are absent in many of the traditional classrooms around the country.  Squire goes onto depict various types of video games and how each style contributes to learning.  This is balanced with mainstream concerns revolving around the effects of video games on individuals.  Repeatedly, the point is made that there has been little to no credible research or reliable testing to determine the overall effects of video games, detrimental or otherwise.

The abstract immediately caught my attention as it made bold claims against mainstream educators, “By and large, computer and video games have been ignored by educators” (Squire 1).  I found this inaccurate and bordering offensive as an educator in the modern educational milieu.  My interest was piqued and further inflamed by the promise of “new and powerful opportunities” (1) within the realm of video games in education.  In regards to the claim that teachers have ignored video and computer games, there was little supporting evidence; however, the reasons for including video games in the curriculum were compelling.

Squire referenced T.W. Malone’s 1981 work, “Toward a Theory of intrinsically motivating instruction” in regards to Pac Man and the popularity it commanded.  Malone stated that there were five reasons as to why a video games is compelling.  First, there are clear objectives or goals; two, there is immediate feedback and different methods in evaluating progress; third, the possibility to adjust difficulty levels; fourth, “elements of surprise”; and lastly, an emotional pull.  It is clear to see the correlation each of these elements could and should play in a classroom setting.  In fact, modern learning theory subscribes to many of these elements, only with different verbiage: learning objectives, differentiated learning, relevancy, etc.

One of the recurring ideas within the text is that there has been a lack of qualitative research in regards to the impact that video games have on a player’s long-term psyche.  The assumed identify of violence, academic apathy and a reduction in creativity often associated with video game enthusiasts is unsubstantiated according to Squire.  He does not go as far as to argue the opposite, rather states that more research is needed to fully understand the effects these games can have on a person’s personality.

Moving forward the structuring of video games in regards to the content of a lesson and unit have significant merit.  However, the question still remains as to what, if any, long term effects consistent play of video games has on an individual.  After a cursory search through, it would appear that there is, in fact, a plethora of research on the topic, specifically dealing with violence and duration of play.  The question is not whether a violent video game encourages violent behavior, most would call that common sense.  Rather, the relevant question is do educational games actually encourage and facilitate learning?


To Play or not to Play? Is that even a question?


Courtesy of Merriam-Webster

Humans inherently enjoy games, whether it be chess, ping-pong, baseball or Super Mario Brothers.  Like the rest of the human population, I have a certain fascination with games and a competitive spirit that spurs my interest in the gaming genre.  Ultimately, this is the fundamental reason I took interest in INTE 5320 as offered by UCD in their ILT master’s program.  But my interest in this course goes beyond a simple fascination in games; it extends into my professional career as well.  Through my experience as an educator, it is undeniable that games can be an integral tool in the classroom.  They capture interest and can be tailored to any lesson to help meet educational objectives.  What teacher has not heard the words, “Can we play a game today?”? Instead of fighting this wave of enthusiasm, why not embrace it?  It is foolish to disregard this innate desire of students, rather that passion should be harnessed and used to infuse knowledge utilizing this highly effective conduit.  The hope of more effectively combing a learners love of games and an educational opportunity is the ultimate reason for my participation in INTE 5320.

Throughout the term, I hope to learn more about the symbiotic nature between learning and games and how they can be better intertwined to meet learning objectives.  Being fully aware that this is not a design course, I have no preconceived notions about designing games.  I hope to acquire the theory behind games that will allow me to be more effective in the planning of gaming situations for learners.

My history of play or gaming has always been centered on sports, more specifically soccer.  To quote Pele, the beautiful game.  I have played and been involved in the game since the age of five.  Since that momentous first invitation to play on a friend’s team that was coached by his father, I have been privileged to be a part of both state and national championship teams, international teams, semi-professional teams, and have coached various levels.  My involvement with this game (along with my family) is why I am who I am.  It taught me the lessons needed to be successful, from work ethic, to leadership, to problem solving.  The importance of finding a passion and working towards mastery while gaining transferable skills is a path that every individual should undertake.  My life changing game is soccer, but for another person it might be football, or chess or Call of Duty.  The importance and impact a game can have on a person’s life is unimaginable and the possibility of using this power within education is an asset that cannot be ignored.