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“Edutainment”: Using Video Games for Education

“Edutainment”: Using Video Games for Education

Ever since the inception of the personal computer, teachers and video game developers have recognized educational video games as a useful way to deliver content to engage and teach students of all ages. From games like The Learning Company’s Super Solver’s series, which teaches children about reading and math, to the ubiquitous and notorious Carmen Sandiego series, children have been learning about the world and the sciences through the use of educational video games. These games are often termed “edutainment” games, a hybrid of education and entertainment.

Educational video games can teach a variety of different skills, from spelling and reading to history and biology. The Oregon Trail, a game enjoyed by many children throughout the United States and the world, teaches players about the history of the Oregon Trail and the voyage to settling in the West. There are also games developed for older audiences, like Mavis Beacon’s typing software, developed to teach adults typing skills. There are many games for devices like the Nintendo DS that let players of all ages practice their memory and sharpen their math skills. In many foreign language software sets, games are incorporated to help foreign language learners acquire new vocabulary through matching and other activities to mask rote, repetitive tasks as fun experiences.

PC and console games are not the only area where video games are used for educational purposes. Handheld devices like the Leapfrog, with large, child-friendly buttons, allow children to learn math and reading on the go. These video games, much like the Gameboy of the past, can be taken anywhere and are useful for busy parents who would like their children to engage in educational entertainment to keep busy. With their simple interfaces, they are easy for children to start up and play themselves, with many different activities available on one cartridge.

Video games used for education can also reach beyond borders. One of the most famed devices for educational technology is related to the One Laptop Per Child organization. For the purchase of a laptop, another laptop is provided to a child in a developing nation. The pre-installed games help children learn fundamentals of education, as well as specific skills that will help them learn about and thrive in their current environment. Another organization advancing the use of educational games is The Education Arcade, established by industry leaders in both video games and education. Their mission statement is as follows:

The Education Arcade explores games that promote learning through authentic and engaging play. TEA’s research and development projects focus both on the learning that naturally occurs in popular commercial games, and on the design of games that more vigorously address the educational needs of players. Our mission is to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts, and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education.

The use of games as a teaching tool has gained enough research and support to develop an experimental and controversial school, Quest to Learn, based entirely around educational games and other 21st century literacies for students grade 6 to 12.

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