GLLS2007: Stephen Abrams' Teen Panel

At the end of the day at GLLS, Stephen Abram moderated a panel of about 10 students. There comments were insightful into their use and creation of media and information. The topics discussed ranged from video games and social software to using the library's website and checking out books. The reactions to the students' comments from the audience were as interesting as the comments themselves. The librarians groaned, laughed, and cheered (my isolated cheering for Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest included) to many of the students responses.

I asked a question about if they used video games in their class (they hadn't) and if they think they would enjoy video games for learning in their classes. Stephen Abrams added the question if they would rather have video games or traditional work for homework.

All the students were stuck in a mindset of "hiding the pill in the marshmallow" or as educational game designer Matthew Weise said when I interviewed him, "medicine in the applesauce."

The students kept talking about being turned off and annoyed by games that make the player "click here and learn a fact."
They thought of educational games in a very stuffy traditional edutainment sense.They could only see learning games as tedious, boring and rote. Games like Reader Rabbit and other "educational games" give serious educational games a bad name.

[It is not that these games are bad... they have their place and I use them with my sons, but they are both under 5 years old. The usefulness of traditional edutainment games is short lived.]

One student did acknowledge that they could see how a game could teach about Aztec history and another said:
If they were fun, I would play them.
And this is really the key for us as educators. We need to think about educational games, as games that help educate our students. Games and gameplay coming first and foremost before the content. We need to focus on games that can be engaging or fun or at least interesting. Even then, slipping in content or facts that take the player out of the experience will be less successful than those that integrate the content into the experience of the game. James Paul Gee discussed this morning about how players are constantly learning throughout a game. Gaming in education is most successful when students are learning through the experience of playing, not just because they can "click here and learn a fact."