Games are more than simply "chocolate-covered broccoli"

I came across the quote quite recently from Habgood (2009) in his paper “Wii don’t do Edutainment”. What is interesting is that more often than not we tend to start from identifying a buzz word and then doing our utmost to fit in the context to apply to that buzz word. So what happens is that we start perceiving that games are becoming quite a trend in education and we want to fit them in somewhere in the hope that whoever plays these digital educational games gets the full benefit of them. Don’t get me wrong here… I am all in favor of games… but sometimes I wonder the extent to which this in reality would provide a solution… and having said that I want to clarify what in my opinion the problem is in the first place.

The way I see it, is that people in a school environment are living two parallel lives… one is the life within the classroom and one is the life outside the classroom….outside the classroom people, of all ages, young and older and oldest are becoming virtual reflections of themselves. We have the Facebook and other social media phenomenon, we have the online game phenomenon, and we have the e-commerce phenomenon. I would say that out of these three categories, many people would definitely fall under the first two phenomena. People here communicate, they interact, they act and they do something which their brains perceive as enjoyable.
In the other parallel life, which is the classroom a number of them live a life which is mostly sedentary, passive and doing forced activities – so the problem comes out quite clearly now… we have people complaining… complaining that education and learning is a forced activity which is most frequent quite boring.
So a number of people have taken on the task to try and solve this problem, by giving people a number of resources to work with, by developing new tools, by using digital education games.
Recently I went to a school and I actually had a number of students playing a simple game during class. Most interestingly after the session I asked them whether they would really like to have more of these “fun” activities during class…guess what the majority answered… games shouldn’t be used in the classroom… now I really wonder if their responses were to impress me, (which isn’t the case) or else we might be getting something wrong.
In my opinion we need to change the mentality  of the people inside the classroom… and please note I haven’t mentioned the key players in the classroom… we need to create an environment which is stimulating both for us as teachers and learners and both for the learners in their roles as teachers as well. Maybe games as more than “chocolate-covered broccoli” and they might provide an answer to how to create a stimulating environment, and then again maybe not and not always.


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