Educational games: Five videogames to learn while playing
Students who talk non-stop during classes, short naps while they learn fractions in mathematics, children drawing outside of the subject of plastic ... These are some of the scenes in danger of extinction in the classrooms of teachers who try to revolutionize education by introducing the use of video games as a method of support for their training programmes.
Today we visit a classroom of the third cycle of primary school. The teacher is trying to instil habits of individual and team work respecting the other classmates, one of the compulsory curricular activities of this academic year. Far from using books, to do this in the computer room they are all playing Super Mario, the mythical character from Nintendo. The teacher says that the class has decided to follow the advice of Arias and Revuelta published in 2014 in which video games are analysed and didactic sequence proposals are drawn up on how to take them to the classroom.
Commercial or adapted version?
Surely many are familiar with the image of pilots making tests with simulators, which are also called serious games. They are not the only ones. Firemen, engineers, scientists or members of the defence corps also perform tests with them. They are a practical learning methodology. The main mission of serious games is not entertainment, but the learning or practice of skills. Teaching mathematics, learning languages, knowing environmental concepts or gaining linguistic skills is all possible through games.
La Casa is in favour of using them in their commercial version, since it believes they have greater potential when it comes to emotionally and inversely learning not only the skills of the curriculum, but also other aspects such as decision-making or creative thinking. However, Francesc Esteve, professor of the Department of Education of the Castellón’s Jaume I University and specialist in Educational Technology, views serious games as excellent help in taking the first steps in teaching with video games.
"We have to be realistic. Teaching with commercial video games has a lot of potential in education, but using them in the classroom can scare you at first. It is true that an effort must be made to get over these barriers, because far from what many think, it is not necessary to be an expert player to teach students concepts. But meanwhile, serious games can be very helpful when it comes to taking the first steps," argues Francesc Esteve.
Here is a sample of some of the "serious" videogames on the market:
Animal Hero Universe: This project rewarded its creators, Yolanda Peregrín and Silvia Quera, with first place in the Santander Explorer entrepreneurship programme. It is a therapeutic video game designed to reinforce and improve certain cognitive abilities in children with Down’s syndrome and encourage a more creative and fun way to learn. Animal Hero is about a world where the majority of the population has migrated to another planet because of a deadly virus that only affects humans. Hero is a boy who returns to earth with his spaceship to retrieve his pet, Axel, who was left behind when they all left.
Digital Compass: The game begins with the choice of a character from eight possible. Throughout the story, the children and adolescents are free to explore how the decisions they take in their digital lives can affect their relationships and their future. Videos, photos, tweets, applications, text messages, blogs ... the digital world is increasingly complex. Conceived for students of intermediate cycles, the youngsters learn important lessons for their digital lives while they have fun.
Concordia Bloggers: Signed by the Fernando Buesa Foundation, this video game suggests discovering the content of the articles of Human Rights closest to the vital development of young people in order to incorporate them into their personal knowledge and experience. The need to preserve our freedom, defend justice and to act with respect and solidarity are raised from proximity, with possible conflicts they can experience, but from the comfort of a virtual environment.
Contra Viento y Marea: This video game developed by the UN Agency for Refugees, UNHCR, suggests we put ourselves in the shoes of the refugees. Available in 10 languages, a single game gives access to a full description of the reality of the asylum seekers. The player experiences virtually, in the first person, how hard it is to be a refugee and the innumerable barriers that must be overcome to achieve this status.
Amazing Food Detective: The player becomes a detective who must solve cases related to bad nutritional states: sedentary lifestyle, lack of calcium, junk food ... Detractors might ask how a video game is capable of teaching about sedentary lifestyle. In answer, the designers only allow play for 20 minutes and do not let players return until after a full hour. Although in principle it is a game designed for children, adults can see that, although they know the answers to the questions, they do not really apply them in their lives. It is available in English and Spanish.