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Angry Birds, Pacman in classrooms



Should South African schools be introducing video games into the curriculum? Giving children experience points instead of traditional marks for projects? NTOMBEZINHLE MODISELLE of Intel thinks so.

Today’s learners are the gamer generation. They have grown up with technology and social networking. That’s why it’s only natural that today’s more tech-savvy educators are recognising the potential of using games as a teaching device in their classrooms.

Fact is, whether we like it or not, technology and video games are ubiquitous in our children’s lives. To ignore the role of technology means that instead of preparing our children for the real world, the opposite is happening: the relevance gap between school and the real world grows wider and wider.

At a small school in Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal, teachers are using a popular hands-free gaming console to get children more involved with each other and their lessons through creative gaming exercises. Shy children are shedding their inhibitions through a variety of sport, edutainment and instructive games using body movements and voice.

Further afield, in Atlanta, Georgia, a grade nine physics teacher in Atlanta is using the addictive Angry Birds game to teach students the laws of projectile motion. In his blog, teacher John Burk said the teens were able to thoroughly understand, within 30 minutes, ‚the two big ideas of projectile motion: the horizontal component of motion is constant velocity, while the vertical component is constant acceleration.‚

In fact, there are now entire schools based on the concept of game-based learning. Funded largely by grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Quest to Learn in New York City is the United States’ first public school grounded in principles of game design. The idea is to allow young people to construct their own learning environments, which will teach them to develop the skills necessary to compete and thrive in the 21st century economy.

A study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education involving three classrooms in Boston, found that students who played games were more motivated to work, performed better in tests, and tended to look to their teachers to facilitate rather than give direction.

But before you think Ms Modiselle is on a campaign to rid classrooms of blackboards and chalk, think again. She is adamant that technology is a supplement, and not a replacement, for good, old-fashioned teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for a moment suggesting we should stop reading to our children. But my point is this: technology offers parents and teachers a new way to enrich our children’s skill sets and help prepare them for a global economy.

I don’t want technology to take over the classroom. But there is no doubt that it can provide our teachers with a useful tool to be used to enhance learning and benefit the students who need it most. And if everyone has a little fun along the way, that’s fine too!

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