Video games could be the next big teaching tool

Video games are gaining a stronger foothold inside classrooms.

Video games are gaining a stronger foothold inside classrooms.

Olds College has introduced a new requirement to graduate from the school — video games.

All students will now be required to complete a mandatory Discover Entrepreneurship course, of which the iPad game Lemonade Stand is a central part.

In Lemonade Stand, players manage their own small business (a lemonade stand) and complete modules of their course by doing so.

Completing modules unlocks achievements that unlock features in the game and allow the player to continue progressing through the modules of the course.

The idea of playing the simulator is to allow students a chance to practice skills and gain experience in a consequence-free environment.

While some believe that the course with its heavy-involvement of a video game should not be mandatory and there are arguments using the video in the program will not necessarily be effective, it cannot be denied that it will certainly appeal to another demographic of learners, something that schools everywhere need to continue doing.

In my opinion, teachers have long overlooked the educational potential of video games. Video games have existed in classrooms for a long time, but have never really been widely accepted as teaching tools or a mainstream method of instruction. Games like Word Muncher, Math Blaster and Oregon Trail are familiar to anyone who was in primary school in the 90s.

However, I remember that video games were always used sparingly in the classroom.

My teachers seemed to prefer making me write things down over and over again until I got it right rather than using a program that might actually make learning fun and exciting.

Luckily, (and to the constant frustration of my mother, who is a teacher) I spent a lot of my time outside the classroom playing video games as well.

As a kid in the 90s I spent a good deal of time playing on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis – the reigning kings of video game consoles. Back in those days, there were no voiceovers in video games.

Even as I got older and the SNES and Genesis were replaced by the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation, voiceovers were still kind of a rarity.

When characters spoke to each other, or when there was a cutscene to develop the story, you had to read everything on the screen.

Some games had stories that were just as complex as video games today, which made for a lot of reading.

You can’t tell me that didn’t help my reading, writing or vocabulary skills.

Puzzle games are another good example.

Puzzling has always been a popular concept in gaming and puzzles are often used in games that don’t strictly fit the puzzle genre as well.

It is believed that puzzles improve memory and problem solving skills, things that any good teacher wants students to have.

Mathematics also has a place in video games.

Many game genres, like my favourite genre – the RPG (Role Playing Game), require players to earn and manage money.

Other games, including strategy games like Age of Empires, require players to collect and manage resources in order to build up a civilization.

Players must spend resources to construct buildings and train units.

Resources usually have a limited or fixed supply, forcing players to budget their resources, much like they may have to budget their bank account in the real world.

Schools everywhere are finding it more and more difficult to keep students interested in learning.

As such, teachers everywhere are continuing to search for new and innovative ways to deliver course content.

Video games could be a good way to keep students of varying ages interested in their own education.

I am far from suggesting that we introduce every console into every classroom and have students play games all day, they have a place and time just like everything else. But, video games are an incredibly popular hobby that many students already engage in on a regular basis. What is wrong with using them in the classroom a little bit more?