Making Games To Learn...
Children love anything that they can touch and manipulate because it appeals to their developing tactile sense and motor skills. Video games can provide children with the kind of creative and educational outlet that they inherently crave.
In this day and age when impersonal standardized testing and state standards emphasize uniformity over uniqueness and creativity, creating a common platform that nourishes student-teacher relationships is more crucial than ever before. And while all educators must adhere to these standards, there are ways to break out of the mold.
My way is to have my class create its own video game. Games have become a common platform for my students and me, bridging the gap between the formalities of the education system and the fun and excitement of learning.
Putting video games into a classroom is an unsettling topic for many parents, teachers, and administrators, given the violent or mindless and frivolous reputation of games in mainstream society. For many, the question is simply, "Why take something that is considered only a fun pastime in our society and integrate it into an educational setting?"
Yet why wouldn't the concept work? It's been successful with mediums such as documentary films so why not video games? Games are, after all, quickly becoming the number one industry in entertainment -- which leads me to the question, "Can video games become a successful part of our educational system?"Our year-long classroom project is an entirely original, student-created video game currently titled Earthquake Terror: After Shock. It's an unofficial sequel to Peg Kehret's story "Earthquake Terror," in which the main characters Jonathan, Abby, and Moose are stranded on the fictional Magpie Island when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake strikes San Francisco. In the current version of After Shock, students must guide Jonathan through a ravaged Magpie Island in search of his sister Abby.
The game's development is divided into numerous aspects. We use RPG Maker XP for its simplicity. I want my students to focus on the creative and educational aspects of game development without being bogged down by complex programming routines.
The actual in-game work consists of a small group of two or three students working together on the game engine, planning and populating the virtual world. While those students are working on the game, other students also in small groups write scripts, draw artwork, design maps, and create music.
The project has several objectives that adhere to the educational guidelines that all teachers must follow, but my primary objective is to supplement everyday lessons in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies through video game development.
Ultimately, I want this game to be a culmination of everything the students have learned throughout the school year. For example, using the story "Earthquake Terror" as a base for the game's story allows me to integrate my social studies and earth science lessons into the actual plot of the game, which further enhances what my students have learned in class.
With this project I hope the students improve their reading, writing, analytical thinking, social studies, computer science, team building, multi-tasking, and problem-solving skills.