Educational games: Getting to what's worth knowing

Inviting parents to be a part of the process, the New York Times reports on how online collaborative games are being introduced in schools to go beyond "skills and drills" to teach concepts and solve problems in context. "Educational Video Games Mix Cool With Purpose":

After years of watching technology transform the way children play, socialize and learn, a range of academics, foundations and now start-ups are working on games that will put the passion children have for the genre to good use....

The difference in many of today’s educational games is that they are online and social, allowing children to interact and collaborate to achieve common goals. Unlike the stand-alone boxed games of the 1980s and 1990s, the newest educational games are set up like services where children can enter a virtual world, try on a character and solve problems that may relate to the real world.

Newer games work concepts of math, science or language into the actual game mechanics, rather than stopping for something that feels to the player like schoolwork, experts say.

While undoubtedly a pedagogical shift, using virtual environments lowers the cost of failure, encourages cooperative and creative problem solving, and leads to the summit of academic achievement: the penetrating question.

Saying that the most important question in a changing world is "what's worth knowing?" game scientist David Shaffer was blunt in response to "Five Questions" from the IdeaFestival:

We have to move away from thinking about education in terms of the traditional organization of schools. Schools as we know them developed in a particular place and time to meet a specific set of social and economic needs. But times have changed, and the way we need to think about education has changed too. The academic disciplines of history, English, math, and science are not the only way to divide up the world of things worth knowing, the forty-minute blocks of time in which they are currently taught using lecture and recitation are not the only way to learn, and standardized tests of facts and basic skills are not the only way to decide who has learned what they were supposed to learn.

Hat tip: MacArthur Foundation's Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning