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An interwebz mate asked me for my thoughts on video games and education.

More specifically, he wanted to know whether video games really work in the classroom, from a pedagogical point of view. I responded very pedagogically that HELLYEAH!!

See, I specialize in ESL, and the video games I use in class are RPGs of the "kill-destroy-maim" variety (Halo 3, Fable, GTA, Zelda etc...)

Now, you may be thinking: That's just stupid! The ratio of "learning x carnage" in violent RPGs isn't even close to being proportional!

And you're right, so I encourage my students to play them at home. They're gonna play them anyway, so I might as well teach them to focus on the multiplayer aspect of the games, which does provide some practice in authentic language.
But, there are also RPGs inclined towards strategy (Sims, Civilization, Age of Empires, World of Warcraft etc...)
These are another story. I can hook the PS/X-Box up to the projector in class, and we can discuss the strategy as a group, then write about the outcomes, focusing on whatever grammar topic I'm teaching that week.

Gaming in class also provides a good foundation for project-based lessons. This is especially useful in ESL because projects will frequently extend over more than a day's work, and if you can get the students to integrate what they're doing at school with their lives out of the school, it just oomphs their learning curve.

So, the strategy ones work well, but still, they aren't reeeally about teaching school subjects. We just use them to decorate the process. Games from the Carmen Sandiego series are a lot closer to traditional ESL practice because of their focus on reading skills and travel, which I can then use to develop listening, writing, speaking, and grammar activities.

In the end, how useful the games are in class boils down to how the teacher uses them. They're just tools that we adapt. They weren't designed to teach.

But, I believe they should be.

So much so, that I developed the prototype of an RPG that teaches ESL specifically. You can watch my TEDx talk on how it works here.

It's all about injecting fun into education... funnifying it, as it were.

So, how do you funnify your surroundings?

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