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Gaming In Schools.
The kids like the technology. It’s their medium. They get engaged. They are good at multi-tasking, especially talking while they compute. They become much better at keyboarding skills. They read a lot, especially cracks or cheats. Computer kids certainly understand computer logic better and become much more able to use shortcuts and diagnose and fix computer related issues which stump casual users. Casual users constantly require help fixing problems which they inadvertently cause by not really paying attention as they push keys that become an entangled and complex backtracking map to reach the place they started. Restarting the application might help unless they have altered the environment like removing the ribbon in Word and are unable to display it again. Mind you, I have had to Google many a problem to find the solution myself. Computer kids do not expect everything to work straight out of the box, and are willing to modify the application environment to suit their working habits. Students certainly prefer to word process rather than try to edit with traditional tree-ware.
Gaming is an interesting issue. Most of the educational apps look like an educational app, walk like an educational app and talk like an educational app. Although, some of the Informational sites, like National Geographic offer some very entertaining and interactive (almost game like) activities. I have found it difficult to find ways to incorporate games except incorporating traditional tasks like publishing, or graphing, around the outside of the application. Simulation games, with some type of real world written activity have worked on a limited basis. I used a game called Myst (a window into a very interesting otherworld) to stimulate and develop narrative text. But these games together with teacher made activities, do not compare to the excitement of a full on Lan multi-player combat game like Halo.
Typing, spelling and grammar applications come equipped with interesting game options. These applications are best run from a server, as keeping track of individual records in very difficult if you have to check each and every CPU. You need to have control of a server to deploy the application to each workstation and print-out the groups records. Not very practical with departmental management of school servers.
Some of the Ipad apps such as the AbiTalk Educational Apps allow you to manage individual accounts so that one Ipad can serve many. Six Ipads could allow 24 students to circulate every 80 minutes based on 20 minutes per story. Once again you have to access each Ipad to discover the results. No convenient group profiling. However, with the style of non-fiction applications rolling out, such as National Geographic For Kids and Time for Families, which combine beautiful graphics, interesting text and multimedia, better educational apps must surely be just around the corner. Teachers have been able to use hyperlinking to achieve similar results, but never approaching the slickness of current Ipad nonfiction presentations which allow the user the power to manipulate the program.
More and more schools are supplying technological tools and expecting innovations in technological use by teachers. Today, teachers can select a range of more easily managed applications (low cost apps combined with quick learning curves) to the end that a somewhat larger market now exists for educational programs, especially orientated towards tablet usage. This growing educational market will hopefully provide an incentive for programmers to develop more gaming apps which specifically target educationally orientated goals without losing the motivational component expected by school-age consumers of technology.
Until then, teachers interested in using gaming will have to work out a myriad of ways of incorporating gaming into their programs with the probable result that their students, in most cases, will have to put up with the educational style tasks in order to play the more enjoyable game tasks. In the end, do we really have the time to use non-educational materials that do not target educational goals to perhaps entice students to “clean their plate before they eat their dessert”. With the spurt of new and interesting educationally orientated tablet apps it might just be possible for us teachers to “get our cake and eat it too.”