Last week I attended the Sandbox Summit, a conference that explores how technology affects the way kids play, learn, and connect. Fittingly, the Summit was hosted at MIT University with the support of the school’s esteemed Media Lab and the Education Arcade. An incredibly diverse group of individuals came together to share their expertise, ask questions, play, and learn from one another in panel discussions, research presentations (teddy bear robots!), and hands-on workshops … I’m still buzzing and eager to share these ideas and continue the discussion with you!
One session touched on an issue that I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time, and in sharing it here I hope to invite you, a member of our trusted family of educators, to join the conversation and help push this dialogue further.
The issue at hand is simply this… What role can games play in education?
This question emerged as part of a larger panel discussion on the resistance of educators to validate and embrace online games (i.e. Farmville, World of War Craft) as learning opportunities and invite them into schools. Knowing these are hugely popular with students in their extra-curricular life, the professors on this panel argued that incorporating game elements into the school arena could not only help more students engage, but also would call out and validate the thinking skills honed through game play.
The major roadblock, these panelists explained, is the misguided argument against the curricular value of game play. With budgets, resources, and instructional time constrained by the pressures of under-funding and state testing, it’s easy to see how these learning opportunities are quickly dismissed as “just PLAYING GAMES.”
At ThinkFun, our mission to bring games into the classroom to help build 21st century thinking and problem solving skills is often met with similar opposition… and when fun and play is stripped out of the curriculum, students are deprived of new ways to engage and stretch their thinking skills through meaningful play experiences.
I want to hear from you!
How can parents and concerned educators promote the curricular value of play? How can we find creative ways to incorporate games into the classroom? Have you had success or overcome opposition in using games as teaching tools? Please share your thoughts and experiences by commenting here!