For a 100-billion-dollar industry, video gaming is surprisingly underrated in educational contexts. More often than not, games are relegated to the role of extracurricular babysitters – something with which students can pass the time when not actively learning something new. At their worst, they are multiple-choice worksheets wearing superficially attractive disguises, actively disengaging for students, and poor examples of entertainment.
There are exceptions, of course. A select few genuinely-successful, well-crafted learning games have shown the world that there is hope for games in the classroom. Games like Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program break rank and ditch the dreadful pop quiz formula, letting students explore, experiment, and apply the knowledge they accumulate without fear of failure.
To be clear: we at TeacherGaming are inclined to tell you they’re great games, because we have been involved in both – alongside more than 40 other brilliantly creative titles over the last seven years. Our formula is simple: we take mainstream games with awesome pedagogical potential and high-production values to the classroom, and provide teaching tools, materials and pedagogical support to go with them.
In our time in the business, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes video games truly work in an educational setting, and why it is so hard for teachers to see their full potential as a learning medium.
Here’s a secret for you: a lot of the time, it’s not the game itself that’s at the heart of the problem.