UNDERSTANDING WHY VIDEO GAMES AND EDUCATION ARE COMPLEMENTARY TO EACH OTHER 2/3

Getting our children’s attention, sending them a message, helping them progress and learn... all of them are noble causes! Ah, but did you think we were talking about school? No, we were actually talking about video games! Both have been seen as so opposed to each other, to the point that, most of the time, they are pitted against each other, that it’s still a surprise to be able to say that video games and education can be actually be complementary.

Surprisingly, and almost certainly bolstered by the wave of paranoia about new technology, these two spheres, rather than recognizing each other as siblings that could have grown up alongside each other, continued to drift apart, secretly jealous of one another... But couldn’t video games become a part of the educational system, once the latter realizes it has so much to gain from them? Wouldn’t video games provide a powerful tool for channelling and holding the attention of children who often have trouble concentrating in class? What are video games if not one of the best ways to apply the current educational approach of active learning? Trying to make content more fun is the logical next step in this approach.

Let’s stop pitting both of them against each other and stigmatizing them for their respective shortcomings! Instead, let’s try to focus on the ways they can be complementary to each other, to work out how these two realms can come together, learn from each other and ultimately combine for the greatest benefit of our children. With PowerZ, we firmly believe that gaming and education are mutually beneficial. Find out how through this 3-part dossier.

The chimera and Adrien rack their brains in order to develop the first pertinent educational concepts.

The chimera and Adrien rack their brains in order to develop the first pertinent educational concepts.

The principle of phase distribution or the fair allocation of resources

They are complementary because our traditional education system cannot – no matter how much the teacher cares or how determined they are – teach all the content in a way that upholds its principle of everybody having equal access to education (and this failure is obviously regrettable). The education system therefore has everything to gain from using an aid that is flexible enough to tackle different subjects and learning phases.

“In Super Mario (...), you learn how to get through the level by falling down the wrong places multiple times before you learn exactly where and when to jump.”

One of the biggest strengths of video games is also the fact that they have mastered the art of active learning. Take Super Mario for example. You learn how to get through the level by falling down the wrong places multiple times before you learn exactly where and when to jump. This empirical “trial and error” mechanic is a guaranteed learning process that is constantly threated with extinction in a mostly punitive education system. Video games enable you to learn continuously through your mistakes, and you enjoy the process too! Amazing, right?!

Trial and error very much supports the consolidation phase of picking up knowledge and skills. This mechanic has to be teamed with other brain training principles such as “close feedback loops” and “expanded rate retrieval”. If you want children to consolidate any skill properly e.g. ensure it stays in their long-term memory and becomes a reflex in their procedural memory, you have to tell the child where and why they made a mistake, where and why they were right and launch this trial-and-error session at set intervals. The whole process is part of a practical consolidation strategy. However, when we refer to phases in the plural, it’s because there is more than just a consolidation phase.

Out of our strong desire to give each child access to extracurricular lessons that often depend wholly on the parents’ social background, the game also focuses on an awakening phase. Our children therefore have the opportunity not only to improve their progress in mathmatics but their awareness of classical music, and their progress in vocabulary increases alongside their knowledge of yoga. Without any distinction being made about the importance of each of these subjects. And once the children have got to a certain point on this infinite horizontal scale, based on their own preferences, they can progress vertically as much as they want and potentially lift all academic “level barriers” for a more thorough exploration of all the fields that attract them personally.

Well, the latter point remains to be proven of course, hence the concept of phase distribution. It is up to us to interest them in as many different subjects as possible to help them find the areas that inspire them the most and then to acquire a lasting foundation of skills enabling them to progress as far as possible. And then to enable them to build on this knowledge and these emerging aspirations at school. Can you imagine how much time and energy would be saved for both parents and teachers if we could focus fully on face-to-face teaching? Can you imaging how liberating it would feel and all the potential springboards there would be for children that were finally freed from the chains of a system that is too cumbersome for them and from our restrictive beliefs?

“The Wizards’ Tower and the trials it involves are the perfect place for children to build on their newly acquired skills or those in the process of being acquired.”

Practically speaking, we’re developing these three phases for each of the learning areas covered. We started to structure the game so that the main quest – as well as progressing through the main storyline of PowerZ – mostly supports this awakening phase with introductions to all these areas of learning. With the exception, perhaps, of the basic skills/tools to progress comfortably through this world. Once we’ve piqued their curiosity, our children will be guided by their internal leanings and will naturally head (we definitely push them a bit) towards the secondary quests available – every variant of the secondary quests helps you consolidate specific skills in a particular field of learning. Of course, these are trends, as these three phases are interdependent and in places, consolidation might be similar to awakening, because the effects will be similar.

Finally, at regular intervals, the wizards of Omega will test our children. The Wizards’ Tower and the trials it involves are the perfect place for children to build on their newly acquired skills or those in the process of being acquired. However, we never forget that truly intelligent application of these skills happens in contexts other than educational settings and emphasizes the usefulness of the knowledge acquired; in the distance, something we call the juxtaposition of realms is taking shape. But we’ll come back to that later...

Interested in finding out more about how video games and education are complementary to each other? See you next week for the last issue where we’ll explain how a game like PowerZ can make your kids want to get outdoors, enjoy sports and even cook, but... in the real world.