Video Games In The Classroom

GameCore is a weekly column by's William Vitka and Chad Chamberlain that focuses on gamers and gaming.

I sat in on the Educational Arcade's conference about how video games can be used in the classroom.

Something that struck me as sad was that there weren't many journalists at the discussion. One would think that a panel discussing how video games can be used to educate future generations would be a topic of extreme interest, but it didn't get anywhere near the kind of coverage that some of the games got.

Most of the attendees were teachers, all bristling with questions and comments.

Some suggested the possibility of allowing kids to write about games as they would books. Book Review, meet Game Review.

And really, why not? But that question raises another issue: can or should teachers and the educational system raise video games to the level of literature?

Another teacher discussed having her students use The Sims to better help them visualize Shakespeare. Load the game, arrange the characters as they would appear on the stage. To that end, she said, "school is a very slow, linear experience. Game playing … is a very fast, multitask experience." She said she wasn't sure if the two could be pulled together without sacrificing the integrity of one.

Jim Gee, an author and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, noted that kids he has talked to say they do well in school, but what they're teaching themselves at home about digital software is "what will prepare them for the future."

A Portland, Oregon schoolteacher said he welcomes a shift allowing classrooms to operate with the video game culture in mind. Unfortunately, he said, many who don't understand gaming believe that allowing video games to have a starring role in the education process is "brainwashing the next generation."

The overwhelming sentiment of the panel discussion was that teachers, especially American teachers, need to become more video game knowledgeable.

Conservative, traditional teachers may feel that games threaten their position in the classroom, but video games have incredible potential for use as educational tools.

Do not fear the games, use the games.

As Gee put it, "the academic domain is a game itself."
By William Vitka