Video Games in the Classroom

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By Todd Marks
Think about the age-old model of putting students in rows for learning. In many of today’s classrooms, not much has changed, despite the fact that this generation of students is extremely tech-savvy and technology is currently available to facilitate innovative improvements in schools.

What is preventing schools from adapting with the times? Students have adapted to technology, so why haven’t the teachers jumped on board?

Statistics from Flurry Analytics show that the ages 45-65 only take up 5% of the gaming demographic. Often, leaders directing the curriculum fall within this range.  In today’s classroom, most students have a smartphone in their pocket, and they use them to text, tweet and post.  What would happen if they used that smartphone for something more positive and productive?

“Gamifying” today’s education system is the answer. It has been proven to work in other Asian countries, but we need the buy-in from the older generation to embrace technology to help change the system, and keep on top of technology adoption.

On the other side of the gaming demographic, almost half of gamers are between the ages of 13-25. These individuals, many of which who are students, are accustomed to gaming. Including educational games in curriculum would be a step in the right direction to better engage our students.

What is holding us back from creating a modern classroom?  Almost all teachers who have been in the same role for several years teach the same thing, the same way, year after year. Incentives would help teachers keep lessons interactive and encourage them to reinvent, rather than lecture the same old material. Learning could incorporate location-based services, augmented reality, natural language processing and so many more technology-enabled tools.

Other countries are adapting more quickly, and they are surpassing us. Infrastructure is keeping us from being on the cutting edge of education delivery.  The good news is this change is happening, just at glacial speed.

“Video Games in the Classroom” was the topic of Todd Marks’ recent presentation at the Baltimore Washington Tech Meetup. See  presentation, above. Todd Marks is an adjunct faculty member in UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development Master’s Program, and the President and CEO of Mindgrub Technologies.

Viewpoint: mLearning and Today’s Schooling

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Written by: Zane L. Berge, Ph.D.

Over the past two decades, mobile devices have transformed not only the way we communicate, but also the social and business landscapes generally. It is difficult to pick up an educational journal or read a blog on education without reading something about mobile devices. There are many case studies described mobile technology used for educational purposes. From elementary grades to graduate school, these cases strike a similar note: they demonstrate a possible transformation in education compared with the business-as-usual-schooling experience. Let me hasten to add that many educational technology projects have been tried over the past three-quarters of a century, but very few have shown the systematic or cultural changes necessary to be considered sustained efforts.

Shifting gears for a moment, historically, one of the roots of the current mobile learning phenomenon, in its broadest sense, is distance education. In their book, Moore and Kearsley (2012) define distance education and go on to point out a problem with the terminology commonly used in the field. Many people use the term distance learning or now elearning,synonymously with the term distance education. But there is a clear distinction: what students do at a distance is distance learning; distance education is the context provided to them by their teachers within many different flavors of educational establishments. The terms are not synonymous.

I contend there is a disconnection with the potential of using mobile devices for schooling. In the case of mlearning, the common usage is probably much more accurate than if we were to say mobile education. The use of mobile devices that is so prevalent in transforming communication, business, and society is also transforming everyone’s learning, but not schooling. Why? Mobile devices are most useful for performance support or for solving just-in-time problems, in context, that are driven by personal curiosity or need. Does that sound much like schooling?  Education is, for the most part, built on the notions of just-in-case knowledge acquisition, that is driven by standardized curriculum for a classroom full of students (i.e., not individualized situations nor motivated tasks driven by personal curiosity).

My sense is that, as time moves on, the mobile devices we have (phones and tablets of all shapes and sizes) and that will be developed will become more widespread throughout the world, so affecting everyone’s learning very significantly. Yet, unless the core structures and philosophies driving schooling change, mlearning will be just one more of the long list of educational, technological innovation that failed to help our schools. Formal schooling will continue on its path to total irrelevancy with regard to learning; while actual learning will take place more and more in the world outside of school.

Dr. Berge is a Professor of Education at UMBC. His chief research interests are related to distance education and online learning. He is a prolific and widely published author of books and journal articles on these topics.