Although this module involved a large amount of challenging reading, I enjoyed the opportunity to research material on an area of interest, games and education. I am making more connections now to the constructivist theories behind games and their attraction to so many. I recall my first game system, the NES and Super Mario Bros. Although this was not the first video game, it was perhaps what made the video game industry take off.
The designers started things of easy, within the Zone of Proximal Development, simple movements to the left and right and jumping up and down. Soon little mushroom guys come along and you quickly learn that running into them kills you. You then learn to jump over them. Then, maybe by accident you learn that if you land on top of one it kills it. This can be used with later enemies as well but not will all enemies. Then there are pipes, some of which you can do through to enter secret areas but in later levels those pipes become dangerous when fire spitting plants pop out. It is a constant cycle of using what is known, being given new tasks or challenges within ones current ability range, and gaining new skills and knowledge based on a cycle of problem solving and failure.
It’s been almost 30 years since Super Mario Bros. and games continue to evolve, yet our education system has remained nearly unchanged. I continue to hear of the need for individualized education but I see very little change.
Games are not the answer to all of the problems but they have the potential to make a difference when used as an environment for student learning. Not only could students engage in content within the game, but perhaps more importantly, the skills of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, etc. gained in playing are essential to their success in the 21st century.
In my classroom I continue to encourage student exploration and communication with one another. Rather than come to me for an answer I ask students to talk to a classmate first. This gives the classmate the opportunity to reinforce their knowledge while learning to help others. I also encourage students to try things out either by reading the tooltips or trial and error. There is no need to fear failure or mistakes because we have the magic combination of CTRL+Z to undo mistakes. I strive to make my students independent learners. After all, what do they need me for? The answers to the questions are right at their fingertips.