Video Games in the Classroom, Really?

Recently published by UnBoxed – Educational Video Games And Transdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning by Heather McCreery-Kellert and Sheli O. Smith

Classroom teacher modeling volume in Minecraft with na one meter cube.

A sixth grade student sits staring intensely in front of his laptop, fervently clicking his mouse to place sandstone blocks in the popular video game Minecraft. As the teacher moves behind him to view his screen, he tells her that after scaling his pyramid to half size, the structure was still way too big, but scaling to quarter size was too small and wouldn’t “look cool.” Should he scale the model to one-third size? He would have to round to a nearest whole number, but that was okay, right? The teacher asks him to explain how he would divide and round the various dimensions of the pyramid, and the student responds by quickly typing on his calculator and scribbling a few numbers on a sheet of paper, before reporting his idea. The above scene occurred in a recent session of the Minecraft Mathematics Middle School program at The PAST Foundation, but the scene is a common one in the program, both in regards to the structure of the student-centered dialogue with the teacher as well as to the seamless application of mathematics and other subjects within the game. At The PAST Foundation, we are seeking out ways to use educational video games like Minecraft as a tool and application for learning. Specifically, we are exploring how Minecraft might be used with Transdisciplinary Problem-Based Learning (TPBL) to enhance student engagement and critical thinking through differentiation and collaboration. The aim of this article is to depict (1) why video games can be an effective tool in education, (2) how we are using video games as an effective tool, and (3) how teachers might use Minecraft or a similar educational video game to enact student-centered learning. Defining TPBL, Minecraft, and Video Games as Effective Educational Tools Some argue, “but why video games? Aren’t they just games?” Video games naturally teach us to play the game itself better, and affect how we process information—so what if we could take what students are already learning through a game and integrate the game’s objectives with core content concepts? For example, rather than pausing an engaging scene with a pirate ship to ask the player to solve for x in the equation, the game might involve a fictional sea battle, and challenge the player to calculate the necessary elevation of the cannon needed to decimate a rival ship, given certain facts on hand. The same mathematics content is addressed, but the content is relevant to the student because it connects to a context within the game’s objectives, a more tangible application. Read the rest of this UnBoxed article HERE.