I have fond memories growing up with educational computer games back in the ’90s and early 2000s. There were a variety of games and series I would entertain myself with for hours: Reader Rabbit, ClueFinders, JumpStart, and FisherPrice, just to name a few. At my school there were even more games that my classmates and I had the opportunity to play during our computer class time: Schoolhouse Rock! Exploration Station, the Super Seekers games, Math Blaster, and many others.
I was grateful to have played various educational computer games while growing up, but as a teenager I began to notice that the quality and quantity of these games were slowly decreasing. I was also dismayed to find that there weren’t many options, if any, for older children after completing the sixth grade. Supplemental materials to aid older children’s educational growth isn’t something new; the same observation can be made for educational aids of any kind as students move into their middle school years. It’s assumed that these children have mastered the basics and are able to be weaned off of what’s seen as ‘kid’s stuff,’ and move on to more serious, less entertaining challenges.
Fast forward to the present day, and I work with middle and high school students who are dyslexic. These are students who, to some degree, struggle with decoding words when reading and comprehending written information, and expressing themselves through writing. For many of these students, conventional learning is often a struggle for them. They need intense intervention and extra help from their teachers to comprehend what they are answering, remember the strategies taught to them of how to solve problems, or recall pieces of information they need to use to answer a question. This along some guide like this one about how to fix error code [pii_email_e6685ca0de00abf1e4d5] can be useful to get them started in the working tech industry.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and many students switching to remote learning in the past year, those struggles have exacerbated for many if not all of my students. Not only that, but those gaps have extended to most students across all grade levels, regardless of whether they were already struggling academically or not. It’s obvious to anyone that the pandemic has taken a lot from our students, and it’s become a rapid catch-up game for educators to get students to continue their education, while also keeping in mind that these students are academically and emotionally at least a year and a half behind.
Bearing in mind that so many of us who work with students, not to mention the students themselves, are exhausted this year, I keep going back to the idea that video games can help give educators a helping hand in mending some of those gaps. When we’re playing a video game, whether they are educational or not, we immerse ourselves in the game to the point where we forget we are playing a game. We are actually there in that moment and absorbing the environment around us. This immersion element can be powerful and can help students who struggle with focusing work on building their observation and attention skills. I strongly feel that games can also help build literacy and comprehension skills that so many of my students grapple with. One of my eighth-grade students, who I have worked with for several years now and who struggles more with decoding than many of my other students, recognized some of the sight words I was working with him on from his time playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. When I prompted him how we recognized the word from the game, he mentioned that he saw the word come across from the caption time and time again, to the point where he’s memorized and can remember it easily now.
The types of educational video games that I’ve played and were available are not the same kind that today’s students have access to. In fact, I struggled when finding what games my middle and high school students used in their classroom, aside from the ones they would sneak on when they would pass the time. The internet and modern technology have opened up a whole slew of possibilities of how they can be utilized for today’s students and today’s classroom, yet I don’t see a lot of classrooms taking advantage of it. Maybe it’s a lack of education on the part of educators, or maybe there is a genuine lack of good quality games to choose from. I believe, though, that we owe it to our children and for future generations to dismiss the notion that video games are simply for entertainment uses and have no place in the classroom or for a child’s education. Doing so is denying a possible tool that can enhance learning and help it come alive for students. They can use the skills they’ve learned from their instructors and hone them in these games to gain a better understanding of them than they would than by just studying their notes over and over again. I don’t believe educational games should replace note-taking and traditional learning, but they can be used as exercises and further practice to build on those developing skills and help students’ comprehension of a subject.
There are already a great many games that are available for students that teachers and parents can use in their students’ learning. One of my recent favorites that I’ve found is Mission US, a multi-episodic interactive social studies game where students play through a period of American history through the eyes of the episode’s main character, and make their own choices of what they decide will help them. I used this as a way to help my own students with their reading and decoding skills, as they need to carefully read the choices instead of randomly choosing any selection. Minecraft is a game also often found in schools, which allows student creativity, expression, and problem solving.
Gaming is a passion of mine, and is a passion that I know many of my students share as well. As an educator, I hope to continue to research and continue to search for educational video games that will help our students develop the skills that they need in the classroom. With the academic and social gaps we now face, gaming is also something I believe will significantly help in healing those gaps and assisting these students to become successful even in this period of uncertainty and hardship that they continue to face.