How can we learn through games?

My 7 year old son impressed me a few days ago when he asked me what “thrust” was – I eventually got him to understand that it was a force that was required to make objects move in a given direction. I then asked him what had bought this idea on, he told me that he needed to “generate thrust to make something move in Minecraft” – I actually don’t know if he managed to solve his problem (I will be checking); but the fact the he was interested and asking very good questions he probably wouldn’t have asked otherwise…

The fact is that games provide a medium that children can use to enhance their learning; this doesn’t have to be electronic gaming, it could just as easily be a games played outdoors or even board games. All games, to a certain extent have an educational value that can be exploited.

While I’m on the topic of Minecraft and video gaming, I’d like to reflect on the reasons why I feel that such gaming is not only enjoyable to children, but also very educational:

Competition – Most games promote a culture of competition; whether it’s the individual competing against themselves or they are fighting off aliens from outer space – it ultimately boils down to winning! Healthy competition is something that should always be promoted and a culture of competion will no doubt allow students to excel. (One interesting example would be Brain Training where the child may play games to complete with themselves, in order to get a better score, at the same time training their brain…)

Relationships – The student learns about the different relationships that they must have with the characters in the game. This can be likened to charactes in a story or people that they interact with in real life. The fact is that awareness of relationships and understanding others (which can sometimes be reflected in games) is very important for the learning process.

Cultural Relevance – Games always accommodate the culture and demographic that they are aimed to satisfy. This allows the audience to become familiar with the game and allows them to engage and learn. An engaging game that is educational is no doubt an excellent tool.

Common Language – This allows users of a particular game to interact with the game and possibly other users. When game manufacturers create games they target them to the individuals that understand the language (what would be the point of a game that you couldn’t understand?)

Games unite people – Unity and collaboration is an excellent tool in teaching and learning and one that is heavily promoted in a lot of games.

Ultimately, if used properly and in the right contexts, games can be an excellent tool to promote teaching and learning…

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