STEMpower

Video Games and STEM

Video games have been traditionally thought of as being “time wasters” or “energy suckers”.  However, research has proven that these games have tremendous promise in helping to create the next wave of innovators.  As they have the capacity to hold a child’s attention for long periods of time, perhaps there is something more to learn from these carefully crafted games.  Not to mention, learning with technology has been an ongoing effort for several thousand years.

On a typical school day, most students sit in classrooms learning about math and science in a conventional textbook fashion.  While some may be able to grapple with abstract concepts successfully without further explanation, there are some that still may require some sort of hands on learning or personal experience before they truly begin to understand the subject matter.  For the latter students, video games may provide the perfect context for learning and practical application (Titre, 2014).

The game “Angry Birds” has become a hallmark leading this trend. 

Many are familiar with this popular video game, given that it has garnered a massive following of both children and adults.  While playing this game may be out of leisure for many, teachers have used “Angry Birds” as a powerful tool in helping students understand physics dynamics, and they have even found ways to align the activities relevant to the game to language arts standards (STEM Fuse, 2014).

In an effort to provide a more robust understanding of the objectives set forth by Common Core, one teacher allows to students to play the game, while having them take note of the “birds’ arc through the air, and their decent and collision in terms of Newton’s law of motion, force, mass, speed and velocity” (STEM Fuse).  From that, students are then asked to provide blog entries related to their experiences and ways in which the game had informed their understanding of physics.

Not only can actually playing the game be helpful, but practicing new ideas in developing video games can prove beneficial as well; it allows students to become the innovators of the game, not merely the users.

PCS Edventures is constantly reimagining and reshaping how students can think about STEM.  Most recently, PCS has been involved with developing “Discover Unity” LABCards.  Unity is a development platform for creating 2D and 3D games, and is versatile game engine and editor that “publishes almost anywhere” (Pietro, 2013).  Students using Unity have the opportunity to apply their coding abilities within the classroom, and the curriculum PCS provides will help to supplement this process.

While some parents may be reluctant in supporting teachers’ use of video games within the classroom (citing the primary issue of perhaps promoting violence), there is most assuredly undeniable evidence that proper use of video games has the potential to improve both “speed and quality of mental processing abilities” (Chow, 2013).  That said, the ongoing test of incorporating video games to meet STEM standards will prove worthy.

Titre, L. (2014, May 12). Use the games they love to teach stem skills they need. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/12/10/math-and-science-for-more-than-just-geeks/use-the-games-they-love-to-teach-stem-skills-they-need

STEM Fuse. (2014, July 15). Why you should be using video games in the classroom. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://stemfuse.com/blog/why-you-should-be-using-video-games-classroom

Chow, D. (2013, May 2). Brain teaser games may slow aging mind. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://stem-works.com/external/article/1120

Pietro. (2013, December 5). Why is unity so popular for videogame development? Retrieved September 30, 2015, from http://designagame.eu/2013/12/unity-popular-videogame-development/

 

By: Lindsay Reeves

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