Video games have long been considered a bad influence on children, triggering aggressive behaviour and exposure to violence. But if designed right, video games have the potential to become a great tool for learning. “The combination of active learning pedagogies and video games makes it a powerful mix,” says Zigor Hernandorena Juarros, Senior Project Manager – Fun Learning Department, Ubisoft, who spoke to indianexpress.com on the sidelines of a seventh distinguished lecture hosted by UNESCO MGIEP (Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development).
According to Juarros, playing games and learning at the same time should not be a problem. A video game offers a powerful learning mechanism. For example, most video games are structured into a series of missions, he explains.
In the early stages of a game, one has to clear a tutorial level that teaches the player the basic mechanics of the game. As you clear each mission, the difficulty level increases, and you require to use the strategy to complete missions.
“This process in neuroscience and pedagogy is called spaced learning.”
“The idea behind spaced learning is that if you have a learning session of four hours, your brain is very active in the first hour, the concentration falls in the second hour and the last two hours, there will no brain activity. If you take the same four hours but you put 10-15 minutes recess in between and when you monitor the brain activity of a learner, you will find that it’s active all the time. You do exactly the same in video games,” says Juarros.
Modern video games help players develop problem — solving techniques and encourage them to clear the task in a desired amount of time. Juarros says the current classroom environment doesn’t allow critical thinking, or the free flow of ideas. The learning does not have to be too easy or too difficult, rather it should be more evolved and fun to learn, he adds.
However, Juarros agrees that there are not many videos games available with educational value.
One game that has attracted educators globally is MinecraftEdu, which is used in over 7,000 classrooms in more than 40 countries. It’s a modified version of Minecraft tailored for classroom use. French video game publisher Ubisoft is currently working with researchers, scientists, and developers to create games with a focus on education, but has yet to make an announcement.
An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world play video games in some form. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that educators and developers are trying so hard to make digital games for schools. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Pearson, Electronic Arts (EA), Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and UNESCO are some of the companies and foundations that fully back the benefits of game-based learning in schools.