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The internet for education
Dawn Hallybone has been teaching for 17 years and has been using computer games in the classroom for the last four years. She described to Vodafone’s Digital Parenting magazine how she uses games to engage her students and help them develop new skills.
Games as a learning tool
The most powerful learning tool ever created” is how Lord Puttnam, British film producer and educator, described the video game. Certainly, the use of technology within the classroom has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years.
Consoles such as the Xbox and the DS and Wii from Nintendo have been firm favourites in family homes over the last few years. Just as families enjoy playing together on them, these devices can also be used in the classroom to help young people learn, explore and have fun.
Games like Brain Training on the DS have an obvious educational context as players look to improve their mental maths skills. However, it is not just the obvious ‘educational’ games that work well in the classroom. For example:
Mario Kart (DS) can be used to look at work on decimals, as well as investigating forces within science.
With Nintendogs (DS), children get the opportunity to look after a virtual dog and gain an understanding of the cost of owning an animal.
Endless Ocean and Wild Earth African Safari (Wii) enable children to ‘leave’ the classroom and explore the world virtually and can be used as a stimulus for creative writing, factual writing and science work on habitats.
Younger children can connect with and learn about animals from their familiar nursery environment by playing Kinectimals (Xbox Kinect) or EyePet (PlayStation 3)
Outside of games consoles, there has also been an explosion in educational apps for smartphones and tablets. These apps enable children to explore and discover, with their parents, and to build crucial numeracy, literacy and creative skills.
Children don’t have to just be consumers of games – they can create them too. By using programs like Kodu and Scratch, both of which are free, students can be encouraged to explore creatively and make their own computer games which they can then play and share with a global audience.
As with all technology, however, games are not the only tool or the only answer – they should be used alongside other tools for learning and in moderation, and as a way of exploring alongside children, not in isolation.
For me, using a game in the classroom is a way of reaching out and enabling all children to succeed and develop. It is alright to say “I don’t know”. It is alright to fail and to try again. In the words of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."