Wednesday, February 4, 2009

EXP Podcast #11: Interactive Edutainment

Be they breaking a sweat playing a mean game of Wii Tennis or squeezing their "mind grapes" learning a foreign language, many students from around the world are incorporating videogames into their educational curriculum. This week on the EXP Podcast, Scott and I take out our chalkboard, calculators and pen protectors to talk about videogames in the classroom. We branch off of two Kotaku articles available for your perusal in the show notes. As always we love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments section and feel free to answer the questions available below.

Questions of Interest:
- How have you used videogames as learning devices, if at all?
- What do you think are the limitations of videogames in the classroom?
- Is there anything you learned from videogames you still use, or could use, today?

To listen to the podcast:
- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show Notes:

-Run time: 26 min 18 sec
-Kotaku article: Wii in PE
-Kotaku article: Learning English on the DS
-Music provided by Brad Sucks


  1. I'm all about osmosis. I can't even begin to discuss how many lessons I have learned, and how much larger my vocabulary is because of games like Final Fantasy.

    I recently purchased Personal Trainer: Cooking for the DS on the cheap from teh internets (waiting for it to arrive), so I will soon be able to attest to the effectiveness of video games in learning without personal interaction. Since I never really learned how to cook, I figured that this would be the easiest way for me to learn, with step by step video instructions and hundreds of recipes. What better way to learn than with a tool that I have used to learn many things my entire life? I'm excited to try it, I'll report back on my findings.

  2. I second the time problem. Most video games are really to long for a class. While they give a very nice in-depth look, they are quite time-inefficient. It is mostly much simpler to read a text on the same subject. It would be a waste of time to spend 10+ hours only to get one simple point across.

    What about serious games like for example Oiligarchy or Aitit: The Cost of Life? They are mostly much shorter than AAA Titles and they run on school computers.

    But there is another problem: Books can be read aloud, movies also can be watched together. But tt is difficult to experience games in large groups.

    The osmosis you mentioned is important, especially the allocating resources part. However, the math classes get more complicated than the math required in games fairly quickly. You don't need vectors and integrals in JRPGs. One thing that made me stay ahead of the math classes was programming my own games. It's like it this XKCD comic. But that's an entirely different subject.

    There is another approach you haven't quite mentioned. Games can be used in class as an artistic experience in itself, not as a means for different goal. The teacher Tim Rylands from UK uses Myst in his class like it was a piece of literature. Look at the footage.

    Great podcast guys, as always!

  3. Last thing first: I think your idea of a history of the United States using video games as reflections of the culture of the times sounds like a great URAP, actually it would make a normal full credit class.
    Anyways, I was excited to hear about the video games teaching English idea since it hits close to home with me. On the plane ride over to Korea, I played a really basic game on the in-flight gaming thing that taught you some basic korean words by having you control a little knight. In order to save a princess from being eaten by a snake, you had to match a color-coded key linked to an English word with the correct color-coded lock linked to a Korean word. The game mechanics were super easy, and pretty soon I could easily remember all the vocabulary the game was trying to get me to learn. However, an hour later I could barely remember a single word. There are a few flaws in this sort of gaming experience:

    1: There was no auditory or spoken content. All that the user has to work with is written examples of the vocabulary.
    When I teach vocabulary in class to my students, the written part is the last part that I teach. Generally I introduce the word verbally, try to describe the meaning to the students, then after I am sure that the majority of the class understands the meaning (students who "get it" quicker will usually help in explaining to the other students, and I think they often learn more from each other than they do from me) I then practice pronunciation and listening. After all that, I then introduce the written form. Actually, this is what I would do in an ideal situation, but due to the curriculum it doesn't always work out like this.

    2: The words were not used in a contextually meaningful way.
    I love learning languages and a substantial part of language learning involves vocabulary memorization. I can see a word, I can listen to it, repeat it, write it down over and over, but it often isn't until I am in a situation that requires me to actually use that word that I can suddenly call it to mind. For example, one of the vocabulary words I was learning was "yeolsuie" which means "key." If I saw the word in writing, I would know it. If I heard someone say the word, I usually could remember "ah, that means 'key.'" But if you asked me "How do you say 'key' in Korean?" I would go "umm, Yeo... yeol.... it definitely started with 'y'" It wasn't until I went on a trip with my friends last week that I really learned the word. The owner at the hotel we stayed at was sorta yelling at me when we came back from walking around and I was trying to figure out why. Then I heard the word "yeolsuie" and I realized that I had taken the room key with me when we had gone out when I was supposed to leave it with the owners. I had to actually use the word in a meaningful situation, and since then it has become much more solid in my mind and I am able to consciously recall it if needed.

    I am not saying that video games can't be used to teach English, even my cell phone here has English vocabulary games on it, I am just saying that it does not replace meaningful situational education. That being said, much of the teaching that goes on in schools resembles that game with the little knight and the princess, though far less entertaining. I would be really excited to see a game that required students to use their knowledge meaningfully in a variety of situations.

    So the lesson is, don't mention English teaching in your podcast or I will start ranting, cause I can go on and on. See you guys on Skype =).

    PS: Did you learn to type using Mario Type? I learned playing text-based adventure games like Gemstone 3 way before typing class. Having to type "/attack rat" as quick as possible will definitely teach you how to type.

  4. @ Eric
    I'd really like to try Personal Trainer and I have to give it credit for targeting the gamer market with what is essentially an electronic cook book. Genius.


    That Myst in the classroom is pretty awesome. Using videogames like a piece of literature makes the most sense to me, even if not everyone can play the game, because hopefully the teacher can explain adequately the intricacies of what it is like to play and the experience that unfolds. But this is best done by a teacher who is also a gamer (or developer).

    @ Will

    An excellent comment, and exactly what I meant by missing the human element. We should have had you on the podcast. :)

  5. I tried out the games Krystian referenced, and I think they reinforce the concepts that Will discussed in his comment.

    In order to ensure that students are able to contextualize the games, teachers are needed to help bridge the games to real-world events. I can imagine having kids play the Oiligarchy game and then showing them news stories that mirror the actions they took while playing the game.