Not Your Father's 'Mario Bros.'
Not only is the video game generation aging but also the games themselves are maturing. And I don't mean getting even more violent or graphic. Quite the opposite. I'm (tech) talking about educational titles like Muzzy Lane Software's "Making History: The Calm and the Storm." It's an extremely detailed strategy game that immerses players (aka students) in the political and military nuances of WWII. This isn't a shoot 'em up with blood and gore on the battlefield. In this game you're forced to make decisions about diplomatic ties, economic allies, and troop deployment.
Educational games of some kind have been around for many years, dating back to the days of Pac-Man. But as the technology for commercial games has evolved so too has the sophistication and interaction for educational ones. This digital learning method has gotten the attention of unlikely allies like the Federation of American Scientists and the MacArthur Foundation. The latter has offered $50 million in research to explore how these high-tech environments can benefit the next generation.
We recently traveled to a rural high school called Oak Hill in Converse, Indiana, and watched history teacher Dave McDivitt put "Making History" to work. He says the kids who play the game in his class do as well or better than those who don't. (You can find a link to McDivitt's blog here).
McDivitt believes they retain more information and better understand complex concepts. The 10th grade students seemed genuinely engaged, and not surprisingly were able to quickly grasp how the game worked. Some of the kids at Oak Hill thought video games could one day replace books in the classroom, and sure enough, during that component of McDivitt's course the textbooks remained closed. (By the way, it was an odd feeling to walk the halls of Oak Hill; I don't think I was prepared for the flashbacks to my own days in grade school.)
Video games often get a bad rap as brain rot for kids, so it's encouraging to some that may actually improve those brain cells.
Stay tuned to see the story soon on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.
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