students are on a computer for more
than a few minutes, they are quick to
try to save the queen, avoid crashing a
car, or slay the dragon, but they resist
any technologically enhanced learning activity that does not resemble a
game. Video games give them a rush
of excitement, and before long, plain
old learning can’t compete. My conclusion is that the use of video games gives
students unrealistic expectations that
detract from their motivation to apply
technology to other tasks.
When I watch students engaged in
video games, they appear tense, as if
they’re perched to literally slay a dragon. One could argue that, while using
technology to explore new topics will
keep students in the positive portion
of the stress curve, action video games
are actually causing distress. Perhaps
these games are able to grab and hold
students’ attention because they create
spikes in adrenaline. Physiologically,
The use of video games creates unrealistic expectations in students that
detract from their motivation to apply technology toward other tasks.
how can this compete with simply exploring topics? That’s likely why, if I am
not vigilant about keeping students on
task, they throw all of their energy into
seeking out action video games. After
observing this again and again, day
after day, I have come to the conclusion
that this compulsion offsets any potential benefits attributed to video games.
What’s more, when I hear students
talking about “gaming,” they’re usually
referring to video games with varying
degrees of violence. In his 2003 article
“Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts,
and Unanswered Questions,” Craig
Anderson says that meta-analysis and
“considerable progress in basic theo-
retical models of human aggression”
demonstrate that the “facts become
more understandable and convincing”
that violent video games contribute to
violent actions, and we have seen this
borne out in the tragic cases of some
school shootings. At the same time, it
seems that empathy, camaraderie, and
civil interpersonal relationships have
all but become extinct.
— Gary Butcher is an information technology
instructor at Falcon High School in Colorado, USA.
He recently finished his doctoral dissertation on the
use of software programs with autistic students.
Think about all that for a minute.
What if going to school felt the same
way? What if when students arrived at
school, they knew they were about to
be presented with a challenge that was
difficult but achievable, a challenge that
was significant to the world outside of
the classroom walls, a challenge during
which they would consistently learn
if they were on the right track, a challenge where they were empowered to
make their own decisions and choices?
I think this would lead to students who
would love coming to school, have
high engagement in their learning, and
be prepared for a future world of work
and learning where they will need to
solve difficult problems.
I have been lucky enough to work
in classrooms where teachers are trying to make the connections between
video games and content learning.
Several classrooms in my school are
using online multiplayer content-area
games. When you walk into the class-
The really compelling feature of video games is their ability to give you a
task to complete that is hard enough that you feel challenged but easy
enough that you know you can do it.
rooms playing these games, you can
feel the excitement in the air. It is loud
as students shout encouragement
back and forth. It is busy as students
ask for help with problems they are
unsure of. It is focused as students
work on content-area skills to conquer an online problem.
But that’s not all. As they play these
video games, the students are build-
ing their knowledge and confidence
in multiple content areas. Whether
they are simulating the challenges
of being president in iCivics (www.
icivics.org), determining why the fish
have left a national park in Quest
Atlantis ( www.atlantisremixed.org),
working as a team to solve math
problems to conquer a node in Di-
mension M ( www.dimensionu.com),
or trying to contribute to the Ameri-
can Revolution in Mission US (www.
mission-us.org), the students are en-
gaged, persistent, and better problem
solvers as a result of their experience
playing games in schools, according
to their teachers.