Daniel Goldman

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Should games be used as a primary teaching method in schools?

Learning should be fun. We should want to learn rather than be forced to learn. Our current method of teaching children however is very rarely fun. Indeed, it seems to push children away from wanting to learn, rather than drawing them to it.

This is why using games in learning makes sense. Whether it's video games, board games, or card games, playing a game requires a certain amount of skill. Learning a new game requires procedural memory and processing ability. Many games require strategy and use of complex logical reasoning. Many also require counting and even more complicated mathematical reasoning. Games played in groups require building social skills.

However, games aren't limited to teaching broad sweeping skills. They can be used to engage children in learning far more specific skills. An example is Robot Turtles. This game teaches children the basics of constructing computer programs. It does this in an engaging and fun way. So instead of sitting children down at desks, it seems to make far more sense to have them playing various games with each other.

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    Dec 3 2013: I agree, Daniel, that this widely used teaching practice of the last forty years continues to make good sense, though I know many a grade school parent thinks that curriculum has gone completely overboard in this direction!

    I think we should remember that there is a wide array of activities that can engage students in learning. and that offering a variety of ways of engaging with material is the best strategy for keeping things interesting, injecting an element of surprise, and reaching kids with different learning styles and preferences. Ideas do have their own appeal, even if not presented in a gaming context.

    I remember those first turtle games from forty years ago at Lawrence Hall of Science! At the time they were used in urban schools for teaching geometry. Logo, I think.
    • Dec 8 2013: Fritzie,

      It was logo or turtle but a very simple yet complex programming language.
  • Dec 5 2013: This is a good idea. As an adament board gamer i can tell you that many games encourage a social interaction that i believe fosters social intellingence, desperately needed in an age of solo play. Cooperative games, games which players work together rather than compete is an example of games fostering social intelligence.
  • Dec 15 2013: Well lets teach them - "Call of Duty - Modern warfare", lets really get that next generation of infant(ry) ready for the next century.

    Oops, the US Army is ahead of me....

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      Dec 15 2013: This does little to nothing to add to the discussion. Take your mental masturbation elsewhere.
      • Dec 16 2013: Just because you dont like what I say, DOES NOT make you opinion right. Something YOU should have LEARNED in SCHOOL. So I suggest you go back and learn it.
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          Dec 16 2013: The question: Should games be used as a primary teaching method in schools?
          Topic of your statement: Use of video games as military recruitment tools.

          It's not about whether or not I like what you are saying. It's about whether or not your remarks add anything to the discussion based on the question being asked. Your remarks did not add to the discussion, hence my statement.

          Your topic merits its own discussion, and I suggest that you post a question regarding it. It should get plenty of feedback.
      • Dec 16 2013: Daniel, I am quite legitimately pointing out that the the best selling games are Call of Duty and Battlefield each has made over a billion dollars after 3 days of being on sale.

        So Daniel who is going to be the arbiter of what games are used to teach what?

        I have heard on here TED that positive spin on using these games, some have said that increases speed of cognition, some have said that it developed multitasking abilities, some have said they aid in giving kids the ability to act as a team. Other have promoted other types too, all involve conflict as an integral part of a way to solve problems. All very positive spin as to why kids should and can learn from these.

        So yes, while I'll admit it was put bluntly, I wont admit that these games and many of their ilk can be extremely dangerous to kids, and it's clear to see that there are people actively spinning using games for kids as an 'educational' tool.

        So lets also be rational and honest here, do you think that there wont be pressure by the military and government to spin the war games, as well as vested self interest on the part of commercial entities. What role does the NSA play in this too, as it recently be said that they actively spy on kids playing games.... to what end?

        It's all to easy to say lets teach kids by using games, but in reality it's also naive statement, that's clearly open for abuse.

        Not to see that, not to be aware of that, is inherently putting those very children people want to help at risk.
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          Dec 16 2013: Your original point was the use of a few video games as attempted recruitment tools. Now you are suggesting that because some video games can be used as potential recruitment tools, that games, not just video games, but games overall, do not make useful education tools.

          "wont admit that these games and many of their ilk can be extremely dangerous to kids"

          I'm assuming you meant to say that you will admit that they are. Except that your evidence is the attempt by military to use a few examples as recruitment tools. By your logic, books don't make good education tools because certain books such as mein kampf might be "dangerous" to children.

          Note however that even games such as the ones you mentioned have a lot of benefits as mentioned by the speaker in the TED discussion. Also note that you are not using studies to base your opinions about the effects of games on children. But most importantly note that I suggested games overall, including but not limited to card games, board games, etc.

          If you have an issue with how the GOVERNMENT can use a tool to harm children well then focus on the government. The tools are just the tools. Hell, as it stands, the education system as a whole is being utilized by the government to manipulate children. So are you saying that education as a whole is a bad idea?
      • Dec 16 2013: Daniel, you're not seeing past your own vision, to assume that games, be it board games, video games, books (ie do you teach Darwin?) is clearly limiting this talk.

        Like some you only want to hear what you want to hear. There are many questions on Ted, where the poster only wants to hear and accept a reality that vilifies their original question.

        Anything beyond that seems to be out of bounds, I understand it's always a nice warm feeling to get the reinforcement of agreement. It's hard to accept and realize that, tools are NOT just tools, specifically when it comes to education, those tools can serve as bad or good, it all depends on who wields them, who funds them, who profits from them.

        I know you'd rather not be forced out of a comfort zone to actually look at eduction, not just as a process, a thing that happens, where the majority of us kids in particular are not doing well. But in the end, being forced to look beyond your own knowledge, your own perspective, IS what education is about.

        American education, the ability of the current school system to deliver is really a non-issue, because it's less and less a reality, as "ford' factory methodology (restrictive common curriculum - with no respect nor reward for individuality) has been applied to nearly every industry, from food to media - now edu. With trite questions & answers put forward, games, ipads, whatever - as a solution. Another knee-jerk response.

        Unfortunately the people that always pay for that are the students.

        Yes I have worked in education, seen 1st hand the reality, of business, federal, state and local government interfering with education, each with it's own agenda, "education" being the least.

        Look over the last 20-30 years at certain countries have not adopted these practices, see how those societies are paying dividends, a skilled work force, low unemployment and prosperity that continues to this day.

        Unless your a Rhee fan only interested in (fake) numbers. Suffer the children.
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          Dec 16 2013: "Daniel, you're not seeing past your own vision, to assume that games, be it board games, video games, books (ie do you teach Darwin?) is clearly limiting this talk." This is not even a complete sentence or even a complete thought.

          The problem with this whole post, and pretty much every post you've written before is that it does not actually answer the question asked, except maybe, that games should not be used within education because certain games could be used by certain groups to produce negative outcomes. Your view of the topic is for the most part narrow and tangential to the actual question being asked.

          So do you really think that all games should be avoided and that none could be useful in education because of the effects that a few games could have on children?
  • Dec 11 2013: Yes It will. Children can easily connect with it and learn and explore more. More Speedily They can learn everything.
  • Dec 10 2013: The problem with this would be two. One it would blur the line between reality and games. Right now that line is clearly defined as games are very obviously not meant to be used in real life. Building a game specifically intended to be used as a real life "substitute" even as a teaching method could possibly be disastrous to those who are using, not everyone will be effected but percentage will be enough to take notice. The other problem would be the actual development of such a game. Learning isnt fun because of the long and tedious process. Games are fun because they have instant gratification. Even for someone just beginning. To make a game that gives "learning an instant gratification would be to make a game to try and simulate life itself... Only sped up. Which brings me back to my original problem.
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      Dec 10 2013: "One it would blur the line between reality and games."

      I'm curious, does encouraging reading as a means of learning blue the line between reality and books? Don't confuse the inability to distinguish reality from fiction, common place in today's society thanks to the destruction of logical reasoning caused by our corrupt public education system, with the skills of distinguishing reality nurtured by a correctly designed program.

      "The other problem would be the actual development of such a game." There already are plenty of games from which one could choose.

      "Learning isnt fun because of the long and tedious process."

      Well, let's start with the idea that "learning isn't fun". Learning is indeed quite fun. However, what we do in school is no longer learning. Why do you think so many children graduate high school without basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills intact?

      "Games are fun because they have instant gratification. Even for someone just beginning."

      Again, it seems that you haven't played the correct types of games. Instant gratification? Sure, there are plenty of games that give instant gratification. There are others that take weeks to prepare and weeks more to play.
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    Dec 6 2013: "often, the games have very little application to any real skill set beyond playing and participating in games."

    Counting, problem solving and strategy building, social skills, reading, writing and storytelling, and a lot of other skills are needed depending on the game played.

    "generally, things that are 'fun' or 'easy' have less reward attached to them than mastering a skill or a task that requires perseverance and application."

    Well, I wouldn't say that games are necessarily easy nor would I say that games do not requiring mastering a skill or involve tasks that require perseverance and application. They are generally fun, but I think that whether or not we perceive rewarding activities as fun has a lot to do with our outlook.
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    Dec 5 2013: in my experience, teaching via games sounds like the perfect solution to the much maligned modern classroom but in reality, delivers far below expectations.

    i guess this may have something to do with the lack of planning and preparation around games.

    for starters, using games in order to motivate students to learn or to have fun while learning is not a good way to approach motivating learners.

    often, the games have very little application to any real skill set beyond playing and participating in games.

    generally, things that are 'fun' or 'easy' have less reward attached to them than mastering a skill or a task that requires perseverance and application.

    ultimately, games have their place in terms of their social aspects and their usefulness as a tool to encourage repetition and consolidation of learned skills and information.
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    Dec 4 2013: Not only learning in a funny way. Learning with games would also provide a considerable and valuable amount of knowledge: For example, how to loose, an important skill whose absence may cause frustration, anxiety and irritability, very bad feelings for everybody and more for kids.
    About teaching and learning all the improvements must be welcome. Good idea, Daniel.
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    Dec 4 2013: I agree too, I think it's the best for the pupils to learn things through interesting games with a lot fun and interactive communications. In the games, they won't feel they are forced to learn something but enjoy their new knowledge or skills. It can help them develop themselves both on mental and physical.
  • Dec 3 2013: It would probably out preform the current system of "cram everything you need to know before the exam and forget it two days later".

    It'll never replace the more traditional methods entirely, but its certainly got its role, especially with younger children (with the older ones, teaching them to overcome hardship is one of the goals, so there are some things you want not to be fun--or at least fun while also easy).