Posts Tagged ‘Video Games’

Using Videogames in the Classroom

May 13, 2014



A very interesting article by Michael Kasumovic:


Although videogames are seen by many as a waste of time, one thing they do undeniably well is teach. The problem is that educational games are about as much a game as low-fat ice cream is delicious. Both leave a bad taste in your mouth and are generally unfulfilling.

That’s because there’s a fundamental difference between games made to teach and games where you learn. In the former, you know you’re being lectured to, while in the latter, you’re having fun and just happen to learn.

If you have children in school, you’ve likely come across Mathletics, the educational “game” that schools use to teach maths.

Contrast a maths question from the Mathletics site where students are rewarded with points with a level in Wuzzit Trouble where students need to turn cogs that differ in the number of teeth to reach the right position of a dial to free a wuzzit.

Both games teach maths, but one is a game rather than being a gamified version of a maths equations. By ignoring traditional symbolism, Wuzzit Trouble teaches through a fun intuitive mechanism where players can’t help but learn if they play long enough. The important lesson here is that students are learning through a familiar framework that minimises the costs of mistakes and allows the opportunity for discovery.

The problem is, however, that games such as Wuzzit Trouble and Dragon Box take a substantial amount of time to create and we can’t expect educators to invest such time.

But what if using games to teach wasn’t either difficult or time consuming? What if current games could be hijacked for education? What if there were easy ways to manipulate code? And what if the creation of games could be part of the lesson?

Gaming in the classroom

The value of Portal 2 and Minecraft as teaching tools is due to more than their popularity. It’s because they allow students to create worlds and manipulate the rules that govern them to explore scientific phenomena in fun and intuitive ways.

A quick search for lesson plans for either game provides numerous examples, often on blogs that provide insight into individual successes and failures.

Physics With Portals is one such blog, where high school teacher Cameron Pittman explains how he teaches Netwon’s Laws.

In a similar way, Minecraft can be used to teach simple mathematical concepts such as perimeter and area, to more complex ideas such as probabilities and reaction times.

It’s not only sciences that benefit from a technological perspective. Remixing College English is a website by English professor Tanya Sasser that explores ways to use technology to teach writing, editing, and revision. One of my favourite posts is the idea of having students explore writing through creating text adventures reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure novels.

Imagine asking students to create games instead of handing in written reports. It’s clear the creators of Cuddlefish and Benthic love researched and understood their topics. Instead of marking dozens of papers, students could play and help grade each other’s games.

Groups at Wisconsin and MIT have also been working on a new way to engage students by using augmented reality. Game editors such as Aris and TaleBlazer allow you to create a virtual world where students use GPS enabled smart-phones to visit map locations to interact with virtual characters.

I’ve used Aris to create augmented reality games to teach evolutionary concepts such as sexual conflict and life-history trade-offs. In such games, I’ve created worlds where students take the role of male spiders searching for mates while avoiding predators.

By working in teams and competing against classmates, students learn how different mating strategies evolve, why others fail, and do so in a social setting familiar to them.


Read more of the article by clicking this link


Click on the link to read Five Great Technology Tools for the English classroom

Click on the link to read 5 Great Spelling Apps for Tablets and Smartphones

Click on the link to read Are Educators Being Conned by the i-Pad?

Click on the link to read The Best Phonics Apps for iPads

Click on the link to read Should Teachers be able to Text Students?

Click on the link to read 50 Ways To Use Skype In Your Classroom

Are Violent Video Games Worse for Children than Violent Movies?

February 13, 2014


grand theft

Growing up, one of the more popular video games around was a shooting game where you were a soldier charged with the responsibility of locating and killing Nazis. The fact that the villains were Nazis was a clear stunt by the game’s makers to disguise the mindless violence of their game.

Even as a youngster, I found the game very troubling. Whilst I have always hated Nazism, I didn’t feel comfortable with pointing a gun, pulling the trigger and killing. It might not be real, but the video game designers are fully aware that the person playing their game is meant to feel as if they are actually on a killing rampage.

Nothing I ever experienced from watching violent movies compared with the emotions of going on a video game shooting spree.

It’s even worse today. Nowadays, video games designers don’t bother with Nazi’s – they provide children with police and innocent bystanders as their targets instead:

Primary school pupils as young as six are re-enacting drug and rape scenes from Grand Theft Auto in the playground, a headteacher has warned.

Young children have been initiating games involving ‘simulating rape and sexual intercourse’ as well as having playground chats about ‘drug use’, according to Coed-y-Brain Primary School head Morian Morgan.

Staff at the school in Llanbradach, Caerphilly, blame the behaviour on the 18-rated and violent computer game series Grand Theft Auto, which sees players take on the role of criminals in America.

Latest instalment GTA V is thought to be one of the best-selling video games of all time, having sold more than 32 million copies worldwide.

A letter sent to parents said children were ‘acting out scenes from the game which include the strongest of sexual swear words’, ‘having conversations’ about sexual acts and ‘play acting extremely violent games that sometimes result in actual injury’.

Click on the link to read The 10 Best Road Trip Apps for Children
Click on the link to read Parents Shouldn’t Be in Denial Over This Very Real Addiction

Click on the link to read Video Game Addiction is Real and Very Serious!

Click on the link to read Internet Addiction and our Children

Click on the link to read Issues Relating to Kids and Video Games

Primary Children Caught Playing ‘The Raping Game’

February 17, 2013


When we used to play it, we called it ‘tag’:

Primary school children have been banned from playing a new break time game they called ‘the raping game’.

The playground activity had been named after a violent video game which depicts violent sexual assaults on a mother and two daughters.

More than a dozen boys, some as young as nine, were caught playing the ‘the raping game’ at Stanford Junior School in Brighton, East Sussex.

The school confirmed it had been taking place and headteacher Gina Hutchins said she had spoken to children about the vile name. It has now been called ‘the survival game’ following the head’s intervention.

Mrs Hutchins said: ‘As soon as we found out that this inappropriate word was being used, we spoke to the children concerned and they now no longer use it.’

The game has been played mainly by boys in Year 5 at the school for the past two to three weeks.

It involves one person being ‘on’ who has to catch others until only one is left uncaught and that person is the winner.

About 13 boys, aged nine and ten, played the game in the school playground but have since changed the title.

One concerned parent said: ‘I was horrified that my son had learnt that word.

‘He is only nine. Thankfully he did not know what it meant but it was that horrible thought he might use it elsewhere.

‘Most people assume children learn these words at home.’

The parent added she did not blame the school saying it is almost impossible to stop children bringing words into the playground.

They commended the headteacher for her swift actions in taking decisive action and stamping out the use of the word.

It is unsure what video game led to the naming of the game, but several on the market contain scenes of rape.

One game called Rapelay sees the main character try to rape a mother and two daughters.

Both a Parents’ Best Friend and Worst Enemy

April 21, 2012

I witnessed a 10 year-old boy having a major meltdown at the shoe shop last Sunday. He acted in an obnoxious way and completely embarrassed his mother. Kicking out in obvious frustration, he berated his mother for taking him to the shop (even though she took him because he needed new shoes!) He screamed out on a number of occasions, “This is so boring!”

It took a while for the mother t0 react decisively. At first she tried to reassure him, then sweet talk him. Finally she decided to threaten him. Nowadays, when a parent threatens their child there seems to be a standard “go to” consequence – the use of the family game console. The mother said, “That’s it! No more Playstation for the rest of the day!”

And then she paused, if only to reflect on what she had just done and whether she was comfortable with the challenges that come with setting such a punishment.

“What?” came the boy’s reply. “No Playstation? For the whole day? Why?”

“Because of your tantrum. I’m fed up with it!”

“But that’s not fair! I was just bored, that’s all!”

And then, as if the penny dropped, the mother realised what she had done. In a haste to punish her child, it dawned on her that she had in fact punished herself. She realised that her child is tolerable in front of the Playstation and a considerable challenge away from it. So she scrambled for an “out clause.”

“If you behave for the rest of your time here I might reconsider.”

Unfortunately, this is becoming standard practice among parents. As much as they hate watching their children becoming couch potatoes and gaming addicts, as much as they wish that they could get their attention quicker and steer them away from these distractions when it’s time to do homework, they have come to rely on it for peace and quiet. Here this mother had the perfect punishment for her son’s terrible exhibition. Following through would certainly be a “game changer.” It would make the statement that if you want to misbehave like that in public again it may come at a major price.

But no, this parent wasn’t prepared to risk ruining the rest of her Sunday for the sake of this statement. She probably wanted her son to be out of sight and mind for the rest of the day and there was no way that was going to happen with the punishment she nominated.

I am not trying to judge this parent. We have all breathed a sigh of relief as our child has camped in front of television or computer screen at some stage.

I am merely commenting on the stranglehold this technology has over parents, children and families.

Teachers Concerned About Violent Video Games

March 28, 2012

Whenever teachers dispense parenting advice, the outcome is almost never a positive one. As much as I agree that children who are exposed to violent movies and video games are worse for it, I think it is essential that teachers spend less time judging parents and more time concentrating on the curriculum.

Still, in a perfect world, parents should reflect on some of the criticisms conveyed by teachers:

School pupils are being allowed to stay up until the early hours of the morning playing games that are inappropriate for their age, said Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

She said many parents were failing to adhere to age-restrictions on the most violent games, raising concerns that children are growing up desensitised to aggression and bloodshed.

It was also claimed that over-exposure to screen-based entertainment was robbing children of valuable time interacting with friends or playing outdoors – harming their education and long term development.

It follows repeated concerns from psychologists that watching violent films and playing games such as Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Modern Warfare makes youngsters more prone to violence.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Bousted said: “I think what we are talking about, first of all, is the amount of time children spend locked in their room. The fact that children spend hours locked in their rooms playing computer games, which means they’re not interacting, they’re not playing and not taking exercise.”

Some of these games were “very violent”, she said, and risk having a major effect on “tender young minds of children and young people.”

Dr Bousted said that many teachers fear parents are ignoring age restrictions on computer games, which often ban their sale to children aged below 18.

“The watershed tends to work quite well, but with online TV and video children and young people are probably watching inappropriate content over a range of media,” she said.

It would be great to share criticisms with parents without fear of reprisal. But, in my experience, the importance of having parents on side means that these criticisms can interfere with a healthy parent/teacher partnership.

Kids Need Meaningful Relationships More than Mobile Phones

March 12, 2012

No matter how advanced technology becomes, nothing will stop us from needing human contact and real interaction. You might be able to stockpile Facebook friends, but nothing can replace the loyalty and support offered by a real friend.

Sometimes I feel that we have allowed ourselves to live in glass cubicles, shielded from real people, real conversations and real experiences. The same technology which was devised to bring us closer together has been misused and ultimately, has kept people out.

Teachers have been instructed to keep emotional distance from their students, the local small business operator who cared about his/her community as much as their bank balance, has been replaced by people not interested in the place where they work or the people who frequent their establishment. People are much less likely to say things like, “I just met someone on the train. We got talking and she told me all about her interesting life.” The only talking on trains is via mobile phone.

Is this really a natural way to live? Is this how we want our children to grow up? Are we really surprised to read that children don’t play with other children like they used to?

A new study that found almost 50 per cent of kids don’t play every day has prompted an expert’s warning about a generation of depressed and anxious youngsters.

The study, hailed as the first of its kind in Australia, carried out a total of 1397 interviews, including 344 with children aged between eight to 12.

About 40 per cent of them said they don’t have anyone to play with while 55 per cent say they’d like to spend more time playing with their parents.

Forty-five per cent said they were not playing every day.

The MILO State of Play study, which also interviewed 733 parents and 330 grandparents, found that more than 94 per cent of them believed play was essential for child development.

But it is still rapidly falling off the list of priorities, said child psychologist Paula Barrett.

“The longer we de-prioritise it, the more likely we are to have unhappy and inactive Australian kids which are more likely to be anxious and depressed, resulting in a raft of social problems in adulthood,” she said.

Dr Barrett said unstructured, active play was essential to help children learn important life skills, develop imagination and creativity.

“This finding highlights a concerning yet common misperception that many parents share – they dont think that kids need to play regularly after the age of eight,” she said.

Many will criticise me for drawing a parallel with the state of society and the development of new technologies. Of course technology isn’t solely to blame for a lack of real and personal interactions. But let’s face it, they have made the issue more serious. Just look at the advertisement above. Do we really want life’s pleasures to be about how nifty our touch screens can become?

In 2005 a landmark movie was released entitled, Crash. It depicted New York as a place where people are too insecure and selfish to interact with others. The only way a person can have any dialogue with a stranger is if they, quite literally, crash into each other.

Our children need real friends, not Facebook friends, they need play dates not peer-to-peer gaming sessions and they need the adults in their lives (including teachers) to scrap any notions of emotional distance and become engaged.

Let’s tear down the barriers and bypass the touch screens and actually … talk with each another!

Are Children Getting Enough Sleep?

February 14, 2012

Kids seem to be looking and feeling mored tired than ever before.

A recent study indicates otherwise:

It is a common complaint of our modern age that kids and teens don’t get enough sleep.

Video games, TV, social media, and other trappings of our increasingly tech-centric lives are often blamed, but a new study shows that long before Facebook or PlayStation 3, kids were sleeping less than experts said they should.

When researchers in Australia reviewed sleep recommendations and actual sleep times among children over the past century, they found that kids consistently slept about 37 minutes less than recommended at the time.

Each time, new technological marvels — be it the light bulb in the early 1900s, TV in the 1950s, or computer gaming systems and social networking today — were blamed for declining sleep times.

“The message that children don’t get enough sleep has been the same for over 100 years,” says researcher Tim S. Olds, PhD, of the University of South Australia.

I wonder if children today experience a different form of tiredness. A tiredness as a result of late nights, a lack of physical exercise, a carb dominated diet and excess weight. Perhaps the tiredness is the same as always, but the presentation of the tiredness is more extreme.

Issues Relating to Kids and Video Games

January 3, 2012


Excessive video game use and high rates of video game addiction lead to much anguish from concerned parents. Many parents never saw the addictive pull of video games as an issue when they bought consoles for their kids or allowed them to have a computer in their bedrooms. I read a very interesting piece by writer, Scott Steinberg, on the major issues relating to children and video games.

He examines some of the most common concerns parents have about video games:

– Amount of Play Time
– Age Appropriateness
– Health and Obesity
– Addiction
– Safety Concerns
– Violence, Aggression and Misbehavior

The issue of particular interest to me was the video game addiction section. Video game addiction is not a term we hear very often, but I’m afraid it will be widely familiar in the next few years.

  • Addiction– For some kids, there is a real danger of becoming too involved in playing games, or even in living too much of their lives in the virtual world of the Internet. In rare cases, true symptoms of addiction can develop, and such kids can require direct help from their parents, peers, and professionals to have a healthy, balanced life. While a change of environment and routine can sometimes be enough to break kids out of an addictive mindset, the reality is that it’s hard to prohibit kids from using technology on a regular basis, since it’s such an integral part of daily life. Many experts encourage parents to become more engaged in the addictive activity in an effort to better understand the problem and prospective solutions. They also encourage families to seek out professional help should children exhibit warning signs of addiction. Several of these warning signs, according to the Search Institute, an independent non-profit organization dedicated to creating healthy communities, and other sources, include:
  • Playing for increasing amounts of time
  • Lying to family and friends about video game usage
  • Thinking about gaming during other activities
  • Using video games to escape from real-life problems or bad feelings, as well as anxiety or depression
  • Becoming restless or irritable when attempting to stop playing video games
  • Skipping homework in order to play video games
  • Doing poorly on a school assignment or test because of time spent playing video games

I urge parents to spot the signs before the addiction gets completely out of hand. It may even be worth reading Mr. Steinberg’s book, “The Modern Parent’s Guide to Kids and Video Games,” which will be free to download at in February 2012.

Experts Call For Homework to Be Abolished

December 12, 2011

I was once strongly opposed to homework, but I have since softened my approach. It’s not that I believe homework is a good thing, it’s just that I have observed what children do withn the extra time and I can’t say it’s productive. Quite apart from playing in the backyard or walking the dog, kids are more likely to spend their waking hours on the computer or watching television.

Whilst experts believe abolishing homework will free up time for healthy activities, the truth is that it will only result in more time in front of a screen.

CHILDREN are spending too much time “sitting around”, looking at screens and doing homework, when they should be outside playing.

New Deakin University research suggests parents should encourage children to play the old-fashioned way outside with mates rather than nagging them to complete homework or allowing them to watch TV or use computers, the Geelong Advertiser reports.

Associate head of research at Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Professor Jo Salmon, yesterday said pushing kids outdoors to play would help improve the health and happiness of children.

Parents needed to set rules around the amount of screen time children were allowed every day, and enforce a limit of two hours in total, Professor Salmon said.

They should also try not to place too much academic pressure on their kids and recognise that playing outside and being active was probably better for children than sitting inside practising spelling or sums.

While previous generations of children would come home from school, have a quick snack and then head straight outside to play until dinner time, most children now came home from school and propped on the couch, their bed or at a desk, she said.

Recently named one Australia’s top child health researchers by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Professor Salmon said while she was an optimist by nature, she was concerned for the future health of Australian children.

I was once an optimist too. I hoped that instead of homework, my students could help wash dishes or take on some other household duties. I hoped they could go to the library and borrow books. But that is not what happens in reality.

So I am now faced with a choice. Do I prescribe homework that serves as revision for skills taught during the week in class or do I just let them use the extra time for more television and video games?

Video Game Addiction is Real and Very Serious!

November 27, 2011

I am not one to use therm “addiction” lightly.  Many would dismiss video game addiction as merely a bad habit or a product of an anti-scocial personality, but it is very real.

Video game addiction can take over a child’s life and deeply affect their relationships, schoolwork and daily routine. With role-playing games such as World of Warcraft now in vogue, the video game addiction has become far more serious.  Because these games have no designated end point, the game goes on indefinitely.  This means that kids struggle to put the controller down in order to eat, sleep or even go to the toilet!

It is an addiction which at the moment is relatively hidden:

In fact, in 2007, a Harris poll found that 8.5% of youths between the ages of 8 – 18 in the United States could be classified as video game addicts.

“The excitement, the thrill and the challenge, for some people gets greater and greater, and then it takes on a life of its own.” Dr. Anna Bacher, a therapist in Sarasota, treats patients with addictions — including those who have a hard time putting down the controller. “It can go to the extreme, where they stop sleeping, they stop eating, the person becomes irritable, lethargic, depressed, highly anxious and very difficult to be around.”

It is absolutely essential that parents are aware of the consequences of an addicted child before the odd game of World of Warcraft and games of its type, become an obsession. Parents should not feel that copious hours in front of the computer amounts to innocent fun.

Yes, gaming addiction is better than drugs. But not as much as some parents may think.

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