Most kids want educational video games in school, survey shows. ... So?

File under easier said than done

Of course they do, I hear you saying, eyes rolling. Most any parent who has struggled to tear a child away from a video game will cringe and/or guffaw at the notion of schools actually using such games to teach serious academics.

Either reaction is a perfectly understandable, although perhaps shortsighted.

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The survey, which covers a swath of issues relating to technology and K-12 education, was conducted over the course of 2007 by Project Tomorrow.

Among the survey findings:

  • More than half of students in grades 3 through 12 believe educational gaming would help them learn;
  • Only 16% of teachers, 15% of administrators and 19% of parents are on board today -- although there was significantly more support for further exploration of the potential;
  • And, 11% of teachers say they're already using video games in class, no matter how much you roll your eyes.

Then there was this little nugget, which may explain better than any other data point why this topic is even being discussed: Only 3% of elementary school students say they do not play video games of any kind.

Students surveyed say learning via video games would help them better understand difficult concepts, become more engaged in the subject matter and practice skills.

There's no mention of the games being fun, but that goes without saying.

This story in eSchool News provides a largely positive look at the trend, including the use by three Florida counties of video games from Tabula Digita -- called DimensionM -- that are designed to assist in the learning of algebra.

DimensionM embeds pre-algebra lessons within a three-dimensional virtual setting, so students can learn mathematical concepts by completing missions, or lessons, in a game-based environment.

Students can play in a single-player format or a tournament-style format with students in their class, district, or around the world. The software also correlates with both NCTM and state standards.

"When I first saw the DimensionM product, I thought the graphics were incredible and the idea of making math practice a part of a video-game format was brilliant," said Melissa Young, district mathematics specialist for Orange County Public Schools. "As I've been working with the math teachers and students in recent weeks, I've realized why it works - because it gives kids a reason to want to learn math."

She continued, "We are witnessing a metamorphosis of sorts. Within the first few weeks, we saw students seeking assistance from their teachers before the scheduled time for math, so they could beat their friends. ... It's driving up math scores. When our students are experiencing success on the game, it transfers to success in the classroom."

Personally, I've never used a gaming console and have spent maybe an hour or two playing the games online that so engage my three 6-year-olds. I'm 50; enough said.

Nevertheless, I can see the potential value here. My 6-year-old son Max has autism. Getting him to concentrate on any task for so much as a minute can be a challenge. But Max will play online video games -- with a remarkable level of concentration and skill -- for as long as his parents allow.

There's little doubt in my mind that educational video games could be an important part of Max's learning.

As for typical children, let's just say I'm wide open to the idea ... and hope the professional educators in my town will be so, too.

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