Games to Teach the Youth

For most of my life I have been unhappy with the education that has been offered to me. Few countries know how to deal with gifted or troubled students, and only a few teachers are able to act properly when they find one. The bane of the genius and the idiot is to never be understood, they say. Well, I did a little thinking, some more talking, and finally decided to do some writing on the topic as well. Why do we often find education inadequate, and why are students growing increasingly uninterested in the classroom activities?

A simple answer would be something like “They are not interesting.” Well, let’s stick with this and try to figure out how to make learning more interesting. After all you can be the greatest teacher the world has ever known and will ever know, but if your students are not interested in the stuff you are talking about, almost all of your talent is wasted. We can look at neurobiology, or at religion, or at psychology, or at philosophy, and we would probably find some pretty good answers. However, I would like to offer you a drastically different approach to the problem – let’s look at games.

Games, unlike dry learning, are by definition interesting. Some of you may remember my blog from a while back – Gaming Can Make a Better World. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend reading it and watching the video, it has some points relative to what I am going to talk about here. If you don’t want to – that’s fine, I am not going to base this blog on the other one.

So let’s get to the core of the problem. Studying is rarely interesting. Gaming usually is. So if we could combine the two – somehow – we have a potential recipe for success. Maybe if we looked deeply into what makes games interesting and look at what makes schools boring… then we might be on the tracks of a revolutionary redesign of the educational system as we understand it, and have understood it for hundreds of years. And just for the purposes of this blog, I am going to take World of Warcraft as an example of a game, and the American high school education as an example of schooling system.

Achievements & Failures

In yet another blog I talked about what attracts me to WoW. I won’t ask you to read it if you haven’t, but my point there was that one of the most addicting elements of WoW and all the other MMORPGs is that fact that they are virtually endless. There is always something that’s just beyond reach. In a way, you can sense a feeling of continuity – you’ve spent weeks trying to slay Heroic Professor Putricide, Blood-queen Lana’thel, and Sindragosa. It was hard. It was time consuming. But now all three lay dead at your feet, you feel a surge of exhilaration from the colossal achievement you’ve accomplished… yet the Lich King is still within an arm’s reach. What do you do? You don’t stop raiding for a month basking in the glory of the fact that you’ve destroyed those very hard fights. No, tired you get up on your feet and run to the Lich King, because you know he offers a new challenge to you and your fellows. You will likely fail time and again before climbing this mountain. But what do you do when failures knocks your door down? You try again. And again. And again! And then you succeed. And there is another goal to aim for, and you know that after you conquer it, there will be another one. Yet you don’t give up, because you know the game will never end – you keep moving towards this mysterious final challenge.

So what did we learn? Games offer infinite number of attempts to succeed. Games always offer you one more “level” – and that level feels like the next piece of a giant puzzle. Games don’t punish you for failures, yet they stimulate you positively towards success. “Congratulations, you won! Here’s a prize.” or “Aww, you failed. It’s alright, I’ll just hold on to the prize until you win :)” – that’s the basic philosophy of all successful games I know of.

School, you will notice, is quite the contrary. Usually you have only one shot to do a test, exam, quiz, or homework assignment correctly. Wouldn’t you say that the goal of our schools it to teach students that they should either do something correctly on the first try, or suffer the consequences? It certainly looks like that to me. In addition to this, whenever you were being lectured, how often has your professor or teacher prompted for interactivity in the classroom? You might come from a school better than mine, but in my own experiences I have very rarely caught myself thinking “Hmm, we didn’t really discuss this particular case in this lesson. I wonder if the next one will be about it.” or “Oh, this makes sense! I should have known that, this is clearly how the world works!” Instead I have often wondered why we are learning this particular thing, since I would normally be unable to put it in any context. Only rarely would a following lesson feel like an extension and clarification of a previous one.

And the big one in my eyes – failures in school. Failures are severely punished, and chance for redemption is very rarely given. As I mentioned above, shouldn’t the goal of our education be to learn whatever we are supposed to learn? And if that is the case, why does it feel like there is a little “but you have only one chance” attached to the end of this mission statement? Let me introduce you to the concept of positive/negative reinforcement and punishment, all four of which are generally psychological concepts: the “positive/negative” part refers to adding or subtracting something to or from an individual’s environment respectively; “reinforcement/punishment” refers to the goal of encouraging or discouraging specific behavior. Or in other words:

  • Positive Reinforcement – adding something good to an individual’s environment (positive) to encourage a specific behavior (reinforcement). For example, increasing a student’s grade when they do an extra assignment they were not asked to do.
  • Negative Reinforcement – removing something bad from an individual’s environment (negative) to encourage a specific behavior (reinforcement). For example, lifting the requirement to turn homework in on time for a week when a student does an extra assignment they were not asked to do.
  • Positive Punishment – adding something bad to an individual’s environment (positive) to discourage a specific behavior (punishment). For example, giving a student’s extra homework when they don’t do their original homework.
  • Negative Punishment – removing something good from an individual’s environment (negative) to discourage a specific behavior (punishment). For example, removing a student’s privilege to retake a quiz when they sleep in class.

Now that I am done with the psychology lessons, let’s see what this means. Student works hard to complete a homework on time (behavior we’d like to promote!), turns it in, but receives a bad grade (adding something bad to the student’s environment). So we are adding something bad to the environment in order to… encourage  behavior? You, dear readers, are correct – this is not on the list. It’s not going to work, because only a few people will think “Oh, I didn’t work hard enough, here, let me work even harder and hope for a better grade!” Most students will react with something along the lines of “I worked so hard on this assignment, I showed up to class, I turned it in on time, and I get a stinking C for it?! Why study if I am going to be getting low grades anyway?” I exaggerate a little here, but only a little. The seed of the idea is there. Think about an alternative situation – one where students were given a second, and third, and fourth chance. Think of a situation where the thing that was valued was the actual acquisition of knowledge, not its perfect display under stress, while being giving only one chance to do so.

Geography and the World

Let’s start with the gaming aspect of this again. I have often joked that I know Azeroth’s geography much better than I know our own Earth’s. The sad part to this is that it’s true. You argue that Azeroth is much smaller than the Earth, but trust me, I know so little of our planet’s geography, that it would barely cover a land as big as the Barrens. Granted, I am not a geography person, and it has never attracted me, but you would think that after taking classes about it for 3 years, I would know more than the 7 continents and a handful of countries. But let’s look at Azeroth now. Wetlands you say? Sure, south of Arathi Highlands, north of Loch Modan. Lots of marshes, populated by gnolls and moss beasts for the most part. Dwarves, Dark Iron Dwarves, Humans, and Dragonmaw Orcs represent the majority of the “high” races in this zone. Grim Batol, a major historical site lies to the east; Menethil Harbor, named after the Menethil line of human kings, lies to the west, where it serves as one of the major ports for the Alliance. Stonetalon Mountains? Between Ashenvale, the Barrens, and Desolace. Contested area where orcs and night elves fight for control, all the while goblins destroy the forests. Long story short – I know Azeroth better than I should.

Surely, there must be something to take from all this. I have long thought why I know a virtual world so well, and the best answer I came up with is the following – I can travel in it. Freely. I can walk through the Barrens’ savanna, look at the landscape, stop and enjoy the view, then continue walking south. There I can see the remarkable Thousand Needles, bordering with the Shimmering Flats, and the scorching deserts of Tanaris and Silithus nearby. I can see the entire world with my own eyes, I can denote its most interesting features, I can explore at my own pace, I can interact with the world. Let me make this more visible – I can interact with the world. Azeroth does not exist just in my textbook, nor does it take me thousands of dollars to explore it. It’s right here.

Geography teachers and software designers out there, read this carefully. What made my exploration of Azeroth an activity I longed and wished for was not its dynamics. No, it was the fact that I could go and see the world myself.  Think back to the days when you were still in school – or back to your geography classes, if you are still in there. Now, imagine you were given – either freely or for some ridiculously low sum – a very specific piece of software, a little similar to Google Earth. It would allow you to go anywhere around the planet. It would, in fact, allow you to travel deep beneath and high above the surface. It would give you all kinds of information about the location you are in right now, but it wouldn’t  be in form of long and excruciating lessons in a book. It would be more like little snippets. Or even better – you would be able to meet with people from all those areas, and they would have stories to tell you. Legends as well. You would always be able to inquire about a greater level of detail, and those people would gladly provide them to you. And you know what? Not only would they talk to you, but they would have accents, just to give the entire experience a more realistic feeling. Whatever team designs this might even decide to incorporate culture and history! Just imagine…

History and Character Association

My problem with history has been closely tied to the one I have with geography – all of it seems so dry. Dates, places, years, numbers, names, families, treaties, and whatnot. I could tell you more about the War of the Ancients than I could about the Hundred-Year War. I could talk about the Second War more than I could about the World War II. So we are back at the place we started at – history is detached from our immediate life, just like geography is. Or all the other subjects – but I will talk about that later on.

To bring this into context, I am actually going to refer to something other than games for just a brief moment – books. If you are a reader, you probably know that one of the most interesting elements in a book is the character building. We follow their journeys through space and time, we see with their eyes, we feel with their hearts. In a way we become their friends. I have found a similar phenomenon in good games. One only needs to look at our forums from a few months ago to see that I am correct. We had burning hate against Garrosh and Varian (hey, fictional characters, yes?); we had strong warm love for them too; we had people attack and defend Sylvanas with passion. I am sure you have some WoW characters you like, some you dislike, some you love, and maybe some you hate. Or admire. Or despise. Or loathe. In this Blizzard has succeeded, I think – it has created fictional characters strong and believable enough to make people across the globe feel for them.

So why can’t history books do that? There are few historical figures we might have emotional attachment to, but they are very few. Hitler. King Leonidas? A couple of my own nation’s heroes of the past. My list is already almost depleted. By now you should have no doubts that I can give you the names and stories of over 20 key figures in Azeroth’s history. The reason I am able to do that and still be an Earth historical failure is similar to the one that causes my inability to engage in geographical studies – it’s out there, in the books, not in here, in my mind. To me, it was a memorable moment when I help Thrall and Sylvanas retake Undercity. It felt good, I was important! Definitely didn’t feel as excited when I was reading about France reclaiming its provinces lost to England 200 years ago. If only somebody could figure out a way to make history more personal… oh, wait. I had an idea like that a little up. Remember that piece of software I asked you to think of? Well, what if we added a modification to it? Let’s say you can now travel not only through space, but time as well. You can go back thousand of years. There (or then?) you can charge side by side with Roman Legionnaires, Persian Immortals, Alexander’s Companion Cavalry, Belisarius’ Cataphracts, Aztecs’ Jaguar-warriors, Hannibal’s Carthaginians, and all the other famous military units. You could sit down and have a tea with queen Elizabeth, discuss grain costs with Caesar, debate philosophy with Aristotle, joke around with Lincoln, or bask in the glory of Attila himself. You could be a pharaoh commanding his thousands of slaves to build him a pyramid; you could be a lord living in a castle of stone, where servants would stay up day and night, ready to satisfy your smallest whim; you could be be… anyone. Anywhere. Anytime. You could live history, you could help make history!

Integrated Learning

I spoke of the general philosophy of our education system, and how I think it could be improved upon – using gaming practices. I talked about two of the less “science-y” subjects, and how learning and teaching in them could be improved upon… yep, with gaming techniques. Unfortunately I am in no position to offer advice about how to teach math and science better –  I have always been a quick learner there, and a teachers’ inability to teach has never irritated me as much. However I do have a few thoughts about how to improve the learning experience in general – it’s a method I have heard to be called integrated learning (or teaching).

The core principle of this integration is that classes in school almost always feel separated from one another. There is no apparent connection. You go to math, then you go to art, then you go physics, then biology, then psychology, then maybe some language, and you are done for the day. The point here is that if I asked you to applied whatever you learned in math to the next art lecture, you would look at me like I told you to make this bear ride a tiger to the local farmers’ market, or buy me some Saronite Bars so I can smelt them into Pygmy Oil. Even if you are in a sound school, chances are that your teachers won’t try to relate one class to another, so at the end of the semester, or year, or four years, you would leave school with a few bags full of knowledge, but have no idea what to do with it. Maybe you are a smart cookie and have already learned that out of the 8 classes you are taking, only 2 will help you with your career of choice. Awesome, you get your good grades in all the classes (so you look on resumes), but you only really know those 2 classes you found helpful. Maybe you even find the job you were looking for. But consider this for a moment: did the other 6 classes really only waste your time?

I am majoring in computer science, and am considering double-majoring it with applied mathematics. Pretty narrow field, isn’t it? Finish college, go write code, be happy. Not so. I am paying extra attention to my humanities and social science classes, because they teach me a lot about how people act. You can see how this will help me not only with finding a job, but also with maintaining it and growing in it. I am paying attention to my physics, chemistry, and biology classes, because there are a lot of applications for computers in those fields. If I was looking for a programmer to write software for my, say hospital, I would take somebody who knew not only how to code, but who knew his way around the various aspects of biology, so he could code optimally.

But I haven’t told you anything new. I told you that everything you learn is important, and kind of gave a few examples. Let’s talk about how we can take the education offered to the youths today and turn it into something useful not only for them, but for our society, nation, and world as well. Integration is what I spoke of in the beginning of this section. My good friend Google says the following:

“integration: the act or process of making whole or entire”

Make something whole. Take some chunks of stuff and make them something whole. What chunks, what whole? Chunks of knowledge, I say. Teach students how to combine them, teach them how to see the interactions between them, teach them how to apply principles from one discipline to another. Use your knowledge about geometry to do better art. Use your knowledge of psychology to explain why history happened the way it did. Use your knowledge of physics to explain internal bodily processes. It is all a single unit, and it should be thought as such – it is all knowledge. A little bit like a game. Or a character. My paladin has talents, but they are meaningless without spells. He has an experience bar, but it gathers rust without quests and NPCs. He has gear, but it helps me not at all if I keep running RFC with my Emblems epics. Singular relatively simple elements coming together to form Voltron something vast and complex. Reminds me of cells, tissues, organs, systems, organism…

“Divide and conquer.” Words said by a pretty successful man – you know his name. Kind of implies that dividing something whole to smaller pieces weakens it. I wonder if that man would have been able to accomplish all the things he did if the divided parts had come back together…

Gladiator image courtesy to adonihs.

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12 thoughts on “Games to Teach the Youth

  1. I’m sorry if I remain confused at really the second of two posts to tell me that there’s something wrong with the education system and that the obvious solution is games.

    I’m just sort of surprised that we’re throwing the idea of an engaging teacher out the window – I can’t even count how many classes that didn’t seem like they would be interesting, but with the help of an engaging teacher, were wonderful. Jewish mysticism? 19th Century Brazil? A seminar exclusively on Eisenhower’s administration?

    I think there are serious flaws with the education system (don’t get me started on the lack of free play time, or quality teaching in the inner city, or screwed up systems like LAUSD/DCPS), but I guess I’m confused at the “but it needs to be FUN” argument.

    School WAS fun for me, school was fun for my friends, school was fun for my grad school colleagues. I’m not arguing that it wasn’t difficult, that I wanted to tear my hair out, and that certain things make me write Strongly Worded Letters to departments, but the reason I kept going — and paying — for school was because I enjoyed it. That enjoyment came from engaging with the material, it came from wonderful professors, it came from producing new scholarship. Why aren’t we looking at schools that are succeeding with these models – KIPP schools come to mind — that have proven records of success with students that before them, were written off as failures.

    Anyway, more to the point, what made me comment was the idea that one can even say “There are few historical figures we might have emotional attachment to, but they are very few.” I sat back in my chair, honestly a bit flabbergasted. I’m biased, saddled as I am with both a bachelor’s and master’s in the subject, but may I be quite frank and say… excuse me?

    History is the first story – the first drama – when embraced, it tells a vivid story, and one that you do see your part in. If you’ve just looked at history as a series of dates, I beg pardon, but you’ve made a mistake. That’s like stopping with addition. History is rich, it’s evocative, and it isn’t that complicated. Why else are authors like Stephen Ambrose so popular? They tell history like the story it is – and it’s engaging.

    When I took the Undercity, I said, hey that’s great I got some XP, and this was a particularly fun quest, in that it was different than than just killing things. I didn’t pay attention to what was going on, but that’s because I usually don’t. Just because I played it in a game form doesn’t mean the lore engages me in any way. :) Cool cutscene at the end of Dragonblight — wasn’t engaged, thought it looked neat, told everyone I had seen it, moved back to Grizzly Hills. I wasn’t engaged.

    That engagement is key – whatever it is that sucks us in, that compels us to read further, to go further. You can be engaged in school or games, and that engagement will pull you through. It’s not a matter of the material being boring (it’s not, in either case) it’s the manner by which you tie yourself to the material (or are tied, as the case may be with teaching). I suppose what I’m saying is that by automatically categorizing learning as “dry,” you’re not even giving it a chance. Someone could say that games are dry and that they need to have a more academic bent to them instead (playing devil’s advocate here) – but that’s not the point, is it? The point is that there ARE problems, and the solutions that are being thrown out… don’t really seem like solutions to me.

    p.s. as to making subjects have fun together, that’s why liberal arts educations with general requirements are great – because you don’t know where your skill set will come from. You could learn something from Biology that you need later on in History, but you’ll never know until you take Biology and take History. You might find out that you like Biology more… who knows. Subjects talk fine. You just have to let them.

    1. It looks like we have very different views AND past experiences. You say your friends enjoyed the schooling process, and so did you. I find that hard to believe. Don’t get me wrong, I trust your word, but in the environment I went to (high) school in, things were the polar opposite. The average school in Chicago is nothing like what you describe – it’s a place where parents send their kids so they don’t run off to the streets and join one of the many gangs. I love learning new things, but the way those things were presented to me was horrible and nearly impossible to find engaging.

      History WAS all dates and names for me. So was geography. And even art. Partially because I don’t have a particularly great interest in them, but mostly because they were taught to me in a very boring manners. And the reason I know what I am saying applies to certain communities is because I have seen classmates of mine with relatively strong interest in, say, art but they did nothing worth calling “artistic” in that class. They wasted time chatting with their friends and smoking in the bathrooms. And in the few occasions when the teacher found a way to make the lesson/exercise interactive and “real world”-ish, they got to actually have fun while doing something productive and educational as well.

      There are, without a doubt, students who will find almost any type of learning interesting – I am, more or less, one of them. You and your friends are another few. But from what I have seen throughout the several schools I have visited, it looks like we are a very small minority.

      1. I think perhaps a little personal history will be illuminating, here.

        Emily went to high school, as I did, at Chaminade College Preparatory. Chaminade is an expensive private school, in one of the wealthiest parts of Southern California.

        Evgeni, posting as “aergent” above, began his school career in Bulgaria, surrounded by academics with a powerful desire to learn. Part of the way through his school career he was transplanted to the United States, where he attended a public school in inner city Chicago. The culture shock was massive.

        When I wrote earlier about the power of games to revolutionize education, I said the following: “In the whole of my life I have never found anything in the American educational system that did not come from the determined, singular effort of either myself—to make my own learning—or the handful of brilliant teachers who were willing to break free of the “educational system” and engage me.”

        So what we have here are three perspectives, all written by gifted individuals (if I may)—one (Emily) who went to a great school and found it engaging, one (Evgeni) who went to a terrible school who found it monotonous, and one (myself) who went to a great school who found it monotonous. I find the comparisons very interesting.

      2. I think one of the unspoken assumptions in both of the gaming-and-education posts so far is that the games are electronic, either in form or in substance. I’d suggest, though, that the lessons gaming has for pedagogy are mostly not from electronic games. Electronic games may have a good deal to offer the creator of educational tools, but I think they largely miss the mark when it comes to educators.

        I agree that few people find learning interesting on its own, and I agree that it’s important that our education system find ways to make both learning and the substance of the curriculum interesting. But I’d argue that what an educator needs most to be able to do that is flexibility and imagination – the ability to tailor one’s presentation to one’s audience in a way that is does not compromise the substance of the presentation. In short, an educator doesn’t need the skills of a MMORPG designer – he needs the skills of a good old fashioned pen-and-paper dungeon master.

        Plenty of people get into history through the “great man” narrative, and at least when Casey, Emily and I were getting our primary and secondary educations that was still one of the primary ways of introducing students to history. Some students find it interesting to think of history as being shaped by fabulous characters like Themistocles, Leonidas, Pericles, Agesilaus, Caesar, Saladin, Henry V, Frederick the Great, Napoleon, Washington, Lee, Churchill, Eisenhower.

        Those are all historical “characters” to me – men whom you can convincingly tell a “great man” story around, and who really did have out-sized impacts on their worlds, most of whom also happen to have had larger-than-life personalities. But you notice that all of them are soldiers? That’s because I find soldiers interesting. The tales of great statesmen don’t grab my interest. Nor do the tales of great reformers, or great inventors, or great merchants.

        The “character” histories that I grab my interest will not predictably grab the interests of my fellow students. And just as I may not be interested in political developments from a social history point of view but not from a character point of view, one of my fellow students may be ready to learn how wars are [i]not[/i] fought and won by great men while I am still salivating over the juicy personal history of General Lee.

        A successful teacher of history, at least at the level of education where we are still trying to get students interested in subjects, has to have all those approaches in his grab bag of tricks. In that he is not unlike an MMORPG, which strives to have something for everybody while still adhering more or less to a consistent narrative. But unlike an MMORPG, the player-students cannot simply play-learn in the style that bets suits them. One player-student cannot solo the trend-based history while another raids the character-based history, because the game-teacher doesn’t have the bandwidth to present all that content at once. Which means that [i]unlike[/i] an MMORPG, the game-teacher needs to have the social acumen and the mental agility to juggle multiple approaches in series, weighting the overall mix of approaches according to the interests and personalities of his player-students.

      1. KIPP = Knowledge is Power Program. In their words, a “national network of free, open-enrollment, college preparatory public schools dedicated to preparing students in undeserved communities for success in college and in life.” They’re amazing. They have a wonderful system and a fabulous record of alumni going to college.

        Numbers: http://www.kipp.org/about-kipp/results

        Other thoughts:

        One point of fact, actually is that I think there are serious problems with the Great (White) Man narrative. I think it makes it hard to relate to the characters of history, who are, usually, pretty relatable. There is, of course, a bigger discussion to happen that has to do with incorporating minority/women voices into the bigger picture narrative in a way that reflects their presence in history. I think that’s part of the reason that there’s some disconnect with history, but I think above all that disconnect comes from a desire to tell a grand narrative (I use this in the postmodern sense). History shouldn’t be teleological – it loses sight of people on the sidelines.

        History is people, and people don’t change – they have the same foibles we do. George Washington was completely anal about the running of his farm, skint as ever, and got offended easily. That’s much easier to relate to than a Conquering Hero, and it offers that entree into his psyche that makes you invested in further learning. We just need to refine these hooks.

        Eric, you make a good point here, but I think it’s a quality that any teacher needs: “the game-teacher needs to have the social acumen and the mental agility to juggle multiple approaches in series, weighting the overall mix of approaches according to the interests and personalities of his player-students”

        I mean, did you guys have Mr. Gwaltney? I thought he was fantastic at telling a compelling narrative AND getting us to think about issues that were bigger than us… I mean, honestly, I still talk to / am Facebook friends with these teachers because of the impact they made on my life. That might just be my personal experience, but teachers like Gwaltney, Crossley, and Simonsen changed the way I thought about things, period.

      2. Interesting to note is the fact that one of the biggest differences between KIPP and most other school programs is the workload—students in a KIPP school have a higher workload than most working adults, by a pretty wide margin.

  2. I agree with all of Emily’s points. I’m also a history teacher and do have to deal with students who are not warmed up to the topic. I’m sorry, but I can’t immerse all of my sections in a virtual reality where they can participate in the past. But what I try to do is give them certain tools, so that that they can approach the original sources with a degree of confidence, and use them to bring the people who wrote them back to life for themselves. The people who wrote the games you praise must have learned some of those techniques–they found enough of an emotional connection with historical accounts of individuals like Alexander, Hannibal, and Caesar to want to write a piece of software to put themselves right in the middle of their milieux! I’m sure they all took quite a bit of creative license, but the ones who put any heart into it did some research and gave the characters the right sort of armor, weapons, enemies, etc. Everybody knows that Aristotle was a philosopher, but a historian could also tell you that he was arrogant, touchy, and spoke with a stutter. What I’m saying is, without people behind the scenes hitting the books and doing the “boring” research, the worlds gamers inhabit would be only fantasy. I think it’s more worthwhile to keep teaching students the basics, so that some of them can make that connection and keep going out there and making fascinating games on historical backgrounds, rather than to let research stop and every student onward only experience history as depicted in a VR.

    1. I am not talking about a complete VR revamp of the school system. You need somebody doing the research, but a more “fun” approach to teaching the material to students should increase your chances of getting somebody who will become so interested in the subject, that they would like to pursue a career in that area and go do the research so they can find out even more about the subject.

      The purpose of this blog is not to teach teachers how to teach (most redundant phrase ever!), but to propose a (mostly incomplete) model of a new educational system. Destroy and start from scratch in a way. Wouldn’t you find your job more interesting if, all of a sudden, you had access to all those tools to make your lessons, lectures, exercises, labs, and activities more interactive and engaging? This is what I am talking about.

  3. I think that both Arguments her are valid. Certainly the teacher is a crucial part of learning if the students spend all of their time asleep, they’re not going to learn. I’m one of those people who loves to learn new things, but most of the learning i have done since maybe, the eighth grade came from me on my own time, not from class. The classes i took in highschool didn’t engage me. Most of the history i learned was from fifth grade, where we played games about history on a giant corkboard, with maps hand-drawn by the teacher. That’s how i did most of my history and geography learning, and i took two A.P. history classes in highschool. So, in my mind, games are a very effective teacher but the gamemaster needs to be damn good too.

  4. Greetings,
    Having been a person who both enjoyed and disliked hours of school and gaming, I believe that I will go with Aergent’s last reply and Brad right above. There have been inspiring teachers and professors at school and university, but they were very few, compared to the total of the academic society. Those very few would make the course vivid enough to almost succeed a 100% attachment with the students, and it would either involve digital media, a walk to places like this, or live activities in class, where there would be no marks and failures. Later on, at university, our java professor made it fun for us with a set of exercises on the computer that give you as many tries as you wish to make the program work, and the program would apply in everyday life and would make you feel so cool for having managed to make something like that work.

    Why is almost every kid happy at arts hour? Because they actually create something, whatever that may be, because there isn’t a huge load of plain data to remember, things go lively and usually no one cares for the marks. Any course can approach creativity, and creativity always gives the feeling of success. I believe that very important courses like history, math, geography and proper usage of our maternal language can be carried out with more creativity. For example, you can get your students to organize a play on the main historical timeline they are currently taught, or to create an interactive map of that timeline with pictures, videos, sounds.

    Brad said something very true: most people learn better when they research the matter by themselves. No, I don’t mean to imply that teachers should disappear. On the contrary, I believe that in modern times like ours, a teacher should be responsible for monitoring the activities and progress of the student, suggesting sources of education and aiding by explaining what is not clarified and providing discussions on the matter to make sure the right point was made. Directed self-education would not only help the students learn how to search and judge the quality of information they receive, but it will certainly make them feel like achieving a goal and it will give a higher possibility that the students will register more of that data in their memory.

    E-courses are a great idea to succeed that. Having worked on accessible e-course interfacing, i can tell that you can really create a course with simple html as a structure that would be accessible to all sorts of computers, even the very old ones. You can get it to be filled with images and colors, or have it simplified in case someone wants to work on it even via cell phone interface. Teachers can add flash or java activities (you can accomplish that with the aid of a programming/computers teacher, and it is quite simple, requires but a medium knowledge of programming and a good searching skill online for open-source mats), links online, auto-correction tests with multiple choice, word filling etc that point towards telling the student what went wrong and where they should focus more. The e-course lets the student go on their own rhythm in a scheduled amount of time, search online for solutions, try activities as many times as needed, and get directed and advised by the teacher. The teacher’s role transforms from the major source of information and the mark (pass-fail) tyrant to the advisor and guide through knowledge.

    If the gaming industry would ever be interested in aiding the educational system worldwide, they could design games of the same effect and style as WoW including true data instead of fantasy story. Kongregate made a game called which is pretty successful in teaching people or refreshing their knowledge on basic aspects of biology. However when I showed it to my boyfriend, he wasn’t very excited, cause he would prefer a better design (not anything major, just a little more refined graphic art). What if companies like Blizzard would get their hands into designing some stuff like that? I think students would love it.

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