Video Games: 21st Century Classrooms

This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his project on social media and digital culture .  See a more detailed overview of this assignment.

I am currently researching  the effectiveness of video games as a learning tool as part of a course on written and oral rhetoric at Stanford University. Over the past two decades, video games have been slowly occupying more and more time in peoples’ lives. As a result, certain observant individuals have made attempts to harness games in to a way for people, and especially children, to learn. Some of these games have failed and some have succeeded. In my research, I plan to explore what it is in video games that makes them such a viable option for educational use.

In my preliminary search for information about my topic, I began by searching close to home. I was pleased to find numerous articles by Keith Devlin, who is a mathematician and the Executive Director of Stanford’s H-Star Institute. The H-Star Institute is a research center made for the exploration of the ways in which technology and people interact and the effects they have on each other. Devlin has written many times about the benefit video games would have if they were used effectively in a classroom. I believe the video below summarizes what he believes very well:

Devlin explains how engrossed people have become with video games recently and he asks a very good question: Why not use something that the students are already engaged with? He uses the term “meaningful environment” frequently, which has been used in many past studies and is described as an environment in which a person relates to or cares about what is happening. Devlin explains that 3D Massively Multiplayer Online games are especially effective. This is a result of the player’s identification with the character that s/he made in the game and the things that the character is experiencing. Creating educationally-based obstacles for the player’s character allows the player the chance to learn how to over come such a challenge. This is Devlin’s basis for believing in educational video games.

As I continue my research on the subject, I hope to be able to secure an interview with Devlin and find out how progress is going on his own game, which he has begun development on with the help of a game development company. I would like to find out what the specific parts of his game are that he sees as necessary for education. I have no doubt that when my research is complete, I will know how a truly viable educational video game can be constructed.

~Trevor Metoxen, Stanford University ’13

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This entry was posted in CCR exchange: Student Research, Networked Rhetoric: Section 1, Stanford Networked Rhetorics class. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Video Games: 21st Century Classrooms

  1. Pingback: Researching Networked Culture | The Cross-Cultural Rhetoric Blog

  2. flinkbeder says:

    Very interesting topic; I like video games and it’s always interesting to see how they can be used productively. I’ve seen their use for doctors and military combat experience, but this use is fairly new to me. I wonder if there is a problem with utilizing video games as a teaching tool because they can only teach a limited amount of math. I can see how basic algebra or geometry could be taught, but I do not see how calculus or beyond could be learned through WoW etc. If this method does caught on, would it only make it harder for students to pursue calculus because they no longer have a video game to make it interesting? Just a thought; maybe video games would solve one age group’s problem, but cause another.

  3. hspinks says:

    This sounds very interesting, and I think you did a good job explaining your topic. I like the key term “meaningful environment” and I am very interested to find out the results of your project.

    When I read the title and first couple paragraphs of your blog post, Massively Multiplayer Online games were definitely not what came to mind. The first things I thought of were children’s games that teach spelling, or other simplistic games like that. I am very curious: do there already exist any massively multiplayer online games for the purpose of learning? I’m assuming that this is what Devlin is working on, but would this be the first one of its kind?

  4. amartinsu13 says:

    This is certainly an interesting topic, more so because I used to be an avid gamer. The first question that comes to mind after reading this is: “what are these educationally-based obstacles that players need to overcome, and what would they learn from it?” In the setting of an MMORPG, perhaps it is just brain teasers that players need to complete before moving on? It certainly sounds like something that could get competitive kids excited to play. As a kid, I always wanted to be the best at whatever I did, especially games. I’m excited to see where your research goes!

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