What can we learn from Video Games?

This is a screenshot from my iPhone of my daughter’s favourite game, Pocket Chef. She was begging me to let her play it today while I was trying to read Collins and Halverson’s Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology for our www.edbookclub.com. As I fended off her pleas while ironically reading the book’s section on the potential of video games in education, I wondered about a couple of things.

What is it about video games that seemingly make kids more resilient to challenges and adversity than in real life classroom problem solving situations?

What makes them persevere through tasks even though it can be as difficult not to burn the virtual burgers as it is to figure out ‘how much money was left in Sabrina’s wallet after going to the store at the mall’?

Why don’t we necessarily see the same resolve and self-efficacy when solving a math story problem as we do when needing to conquer, say, a virtual WWII setting?

If there are any answers to these questions, I have a feeling they are connected to Dan Meyer’s awesome TED talk on 21st Century Math Educational Reform:

As it stands right now, I am less interested in the potential for video games to deliver curriculum than I am in the secrets to motivation, feedback, and intellectual rigour they seem to conceal.

So, a couple of weeks after writing this post, I ran into Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on this very subject! Check it out:



  1. The chapter on video gaming has me contiplating my views. As a parent of tweens I struggle with the type of video games I allow in our home. The chapter has me reconsidering my views on what my 14 year old receives from video games. My son needs intellectual challenges and he seems very engaged and interested in history and war. I reluctantly agreed to a rental of Call of Duty. He is home more and seems much more pleasant now that he is receiving stimulation through this game. There is much less bothering of his siblings and a sense of calm in the household. Through the video game he is receiving immediate feedback on his choices, he’s problem solving, connecting to real life situations and has a sense of accomplishment. It’s too bad this isn’t happening in the context of his current schooling. I too wonder how we can harness this in real classroom experiences.

    1. That’s what I want to do in my classroom… just gotta figure out how. P.S. My husband is an avid gamer, and my 2.5 year old is obsessed with Banjo Kazooie… a future gamer as well, no doubt. 🙂

  2. Try looking at Gee or de Castell & Jenson. Both have very interesting things to say about video gaming and engagement.

  3. Check out Jane McGonagal’s TED talk. It’s all about motivating change through gaming. There’s also an interesting talk by a game designer from N4G (linked to from TED). I think both talks are on my blog, too.

    I’m trying to figure out some gaming principles in my classroom next year to try to increase motivation and participation.

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