“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education. “ – Mark Twain
Gaming has had a negative connotation in society. In high school, I did not want anyone to know how much I played computer games. I did not tell anyone I built my first personal computer in 8th grade, and I certainly did not tell anyone I spent several hours a day playing computer games. Throughout high school, I thought playing video games would damage my popularity. What I did not realize was their positive effects on me.
In college, I started to realize I was learning from my video games. Whether I developed a deeper understanding of history, a wider view of city planning and management, or a quicker ability to identify advantages and exploit them, I was gaining from gaming. Video games made me a better student.
Post-college, I went from simply playing games to applying their lessons to the rest of my life. I got my teaching license and started reading books on history, economics, and education. I was able to apply this new information not only to my life, but to the video games I played. It was in Call of Duty 2 that I got a glimpse of the hardships of war. Building Wonders of the World in Civilization 3 and Rise of Nations enticed me to research more about Angkor Wat, the Eiffel Tower, Macchu Picchu, and the Hoover Dam. All of those wonders are in the Virginia end of course test for World Geography. Video games made me a better teacher.
It was my Masters Degree program at George Mason University that got me to examine my gaming experiences and recognize the value in them. It was a shock to see professors teach me how video games can be value learning tools. It is was in this program I played Tetris to learn quick decision making, Lemmings to learn strategy, and Rollercoaster Tycoon to learn economics and management. Games in and of themselves are not teachers, they need proper guidance for them to be effective. Compare them to movies, television, and books, only with proper guidance do they become learning tools.
Video games even brought to light skills and abilities I never knew I had. Each video game taught me something different. Online video games taught me to be tactful, polite and work with complete and sometimes hostile strangers. They also taught me leadership skills. I never thought of myself as a leader, but I eventually organized and led 40 people in World of Warcraft raids. I never thought I could lead an inservice for other teachers or be a “go-to” person, but I now have veteran teachers ask me where to blog and wiki and how best to implement these technologies in their classes.
Left 4 Dead and Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory enhanced my quick decision making and appropriate response. A student had a medical emergency in the hallway, hearing just my name called, I went into action. I told the class how to continue the lesson and then went to the ailing student. I do not know if I would have reacted the same without playing through virtual crises.
Now as an experienced teacher, I apply these and other skills I have honed in my hours playing video games to the classroom. I began to develop processes that use video games as a learning tool. These processes encourage critical-thinking during game play, as well as build many other life skills for my students. To help refine my processes, I began conducting research and I found that there is not much information on using specific games for learning. Video games are tools that can create unparalleled learning opportunities, and I wanted to start putting these processes and tools into the hands of parents, students, and teachers around the world. I mentioned this idea to one of my best friends, Benjamin Russell, and he thought spreading this knowledge was not just a great idea, but a necessary one.
This website is a culmination of our efforts to create a resource on video games and their learning capabilities. You can look forward to information on books, blogs, and video games as we continue to build an informative site dedicated to our shared passion, video games.