Designing video games, but integration isn’t everything

Here’s a (semi) interesting article and video from Edutopia about Gamestar Mechanic, a site that allows anyone to design their own video games. I think designing games is an awesome skill for kids to have, and an equally great hobby to baseball (which the video goes out of its way to show that the kid also plays. No mom, he’s not only inside staring at a screen!). However, I am a little wary of some of the suggestions from Edutopia about how to integrate GM into class:

 

  • After reading a book in class, have your students recreate major scenes in the form of a video game.
  • Ask students to design a game that teaches other students a specific scientific concept you’ve been studying.
  • After studying ratios, ask students to create a game that contains a certain ratio of coins (for the player to collect) to enemies.

 

I think this is where we see that integration isn’t always the answer. Each of these three suggestions seems tangentially related at best to the task and not the most effective or efficient¬†way for students to practice or show their learning. I’m all for integration, but when we talk¬†it up too much, we weaken the argument of tech for tech’s sake. Technology is a beautiful (yes!) thing that has its own merits, not just when it is integrated into something else.

This is also why I am a little concerned about the increased talk in schools of getting rid of computer labs and integrating all tech into the classroom. If this happens, where then is the space for rich technology projects that celebrate the amazing things that technology does, but which may not fit into the other subject areas?

It reminds me of these great words by Jimmy Pai (via Dy/Dan) when he was describing the use of ‘real world problems’ in math:

Have I been focusing too much on applying mathematics and expanding the concept of “relevance?” Have I been expending too much energy on looking for relevance when I should play off of the interesting and awesome world that is mathematics?

 

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