Monday, November 20, 2017

This week’s assignment was to play around in and create a screencast within Minecraft. When I first saw this week’s task, I was so excited, because it looks like something I would really enjoy (especially as a math teacher! There is so much math involved in Minecraft!). However, I wasn’t able to get the program up and running and don’t have the right set of troubleshooting skills to figure out what I was missing on our home computer. Disappointed is definitely not the right word for this!

I think this is a perfect example, though, of the limitations of gaming in education, and specifically, using games as a part of assessment. I used to be at a 1:1 iPad school, so was constantly searching for ways to seamlessly build technology into my curriculum. Every time I thought I had an excellent activity planned, technology got in the way for at least one student and prevented them from being able to complete the assignment. Either their iPad/device/computer stopped working for some unknown reason, the internet connection was too slow, or too busy, or non-existent, the game wasn’t available on that particular device, or a myriad of other possibilities. I had to have regular alternate assignments available in case the planned activity was impossible for some students. This created twice the work for me, to have to create two assignments for each activity and then have to grade the different versions, as well. It was frustrating to students who wanted to participate but couldn’t, and frustrating to me because I wanted all of my students to have the same experiences.

I think using games in education definitely has its merits, and I was pumped after watching Jane McGonigal talk about the effect that games can have on society, but I think we also have to be cautious about throwing all of our eggs into one basket. Not only do video games have a negative connotation, especially in regards to education (likely because of their addictive characteristics and thus, students spend hours playing games instead of studying, reading, or practicing skills), but access to them isn’t something we can provide to all students. We would have to make a conscious effort to provide equal alternates for students who don’t have access or who are overwhelmed by bright, busy screens.

I know we are at the beginning of an era of “gameducation,” so I am so curious to see where this goes in the next decade or so. I bet that when computers were new in schools, many people were resistant at first because of the lack of access and the new-ness of it all, but now you are hard-pressed to find a school without them!