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October 13, 2006

Games in British Education

A recent line of British research finds that video games shocking educational tools. Guess the folks here at MIT's Education Arcade really AREN'T wasting their time after all, huh?

The story, written by Liz Lightfoot, that appeared in The London Telegraph back in May, and which was brought to my attention last week by Margaret Weigel here at the New Media Literacies program at MIT, said that the Department of Education's research into video games found them to be a "powerful learning tool." According to the statistics, one school saw a 94 percent success rate in students passing tests in what they consider "key skills" like information technology, English, and math--after implementing a game into the curriculum.

Compare this to the recent study commissioned by the U.S. Senate, in which the infamous senators Lieberman and Clinton proposed that we study the effects all screens are having on the mind of our children, of course supposing that those effects will be of the negative sort...(Guess they haven't read Everything Bad is Good for You...Then again, who am I kidding? To adapt a phrase of Jesse Ventura's, "Senators don't have time to read.")

The teachers and education officials quoted in the story are still taking a pretty cautious approach, not surprisingly. They say that games "can be very addictive, but, used sparingly as part of a lesson, games can be a useful tool." That was from Richard Cairns, the headmaster of Brighton College. It's hard to know if you have support when the people who are writing in the favor of including new media forms in education are that qualifying and apologetic. After all, we're talking about video games, not methamphetamine.

According to the story, an Electronic Arts survey found that about 3/5s of students and teachers alike thought that using games in the classroom was a good idea, although 70 percent of teachers were afraid that games would "lead to anti-social behaviour."

I know that education using games is not one of the C3 focuses in particular, but public perception of media forms is very much a C3 concern. And, while I wouldn't consider this a resounding vote of support in terms of accepting video games as an artistic and potentially beneficial media form, it has a better ring to it than the current media effects focus of our Senate.

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