Video Games as Learning Tools

I met her when we were 18 years old, freshman computer science students full of dreams, questions and of course energy. But she was different.; when we were all working hard on our homework assignments and lacking sleep, shes was playing video games. When we were  all studying hard and getting prepared for the final exams, she was playing video games. When we were celebrating the end of semester, guess what, she was still playing video games!  Kamelia has been a close friend of mine for more than a decade. We spent undergraduate and Masters programs together. I remember the first day of college, when she clarified for all the classmates that ”I chose computer science because I want to become a game developer!”, and she was truly good at it. She worked as a game developer in a company for couple of years after graduation in computer science with a minor in psychology. Later, she started her PhD at the University of Luxembourg working on “Computer Games to Treat Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”.

Following are what I learned from Kamelia completed with the crux of the posted resources on this topic:

  • Video games != waste of time. From educational point of view, you can potentially learn what you struggle to listen during a class or among the impractical homework assignments, in an entertaining game experience.
  • Video games == problem solving. All video games are sets of problems which the player should solve. Does not this sound like another form of learning?
  • Video games contain “Embedded Assessment”. A good game, in general,  is designed so that its players cannot go to the next level unless they qualify. This certainly removes the conventional test-and-grade system and replaces it with more encouraging play-and-win system.
  • Gaming based therapy programs help cognitive scientists to address learning issues  and ultimately improve mental health. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to children who are less willing to spend time in hospitals and clinics. You may find the related following TEDx talk interesting.

6 Replies to “Video Games as Learning Tools”

  1. Hi Negin,

    Thanks for sharing that interesting story about your friend. When you started, I wasn’t sure how it would end but I was pleasantly surprised! Your 4 takes on video games was a good list! You’re highlighting 4 very different qualities of gaming that make it so great for learning (and society). Thanks also for sharing the Tedx Talk, it was fascinating to hear about her social-gaming software designed for individuals on the Autism spectrum.

    1. Hi Sara,

      Thanks for you feedback. I’m happy that you liked the quite uncommon beginning of my blog! I think the best way of sharing personal histories is to narrate them as they exist in our memory. The first paragraph is the picture which I have in my mind whenever I hear about “video games”.

  2. Negin, I found your post and the embedded video very interesting. I am a father of a special needs son that has put a lot of things into perspective on teaching and his learning. My wife, his teachers, and myself have ongoing (almost daily) discussions about what is working and what is not. We have to learn how he learns. For him, everything is spatial or visual. He has a visual schedule of his day. There are no oral instructions for tests for him. If you want him to do something, it has to be written down. Eventually, he will learn how to learn that is special for him.

    1. John, thanks for sharing your experience. I can imagine how challenging this learning process is for you and your son. You may want to consider video games as a learning tool and see whether they help or not.

  3. As a late comment, I like your story and how you explained the benefits of video games with a personal story. My question is, how she could pass the exams without studying especially the ones you have to memorize items?

    1. Good catch! Well, many of the computer science courses are project-oriented, and as I mentioned my friend was exceptionally good at programming. For the other courses, she often would spend 2 weeks prior to the exam for memorizing and practicing. And she usually did quite well relative to that short amount of time! She was one of the smartest students, but just different than the others.

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