21st Century Learning

Gaming in the Post-Information School

With all the facts in the world constantly at their fingertips, today’s students need skills that they can learn best from … games?

Christopher PiehlerWhen I went to school — which was so far back in the evolution of technology that my teachers may as well have been velociraptors — books were for the classroom and games were for recess. In 21st century schools, those barriers are dissolving. Not only are fewer students doing their reading in hardback, but more of them are learning from games.  

According to the Project Tomorrow Speak Up 2013 survey, 32 percent of elementary school teachers reported using games in their classrooms. The top two reasons they gave for choosing game-based pedagogy were increasing student engagement and addressing different learning styles. These are both smart goals to set, and I know intellectually that kids can learn a great deal from play, but my inner old fogey still grumbles, “These kids aren’t going to school to play games!”

But education is fundamentally different now than it was even 10 years ago. With a nearly ubiquitous Internet beaming all the world’s knowledge to an expanding universe of mobile devices, the ability to learn and retain information is becoming a smaller and smaller piece of the educational pie. Why waste time memorizing facts when your phone can remember them as quickly as your brain can?

In this post-information age, forward-thinking schools are already looking beyond drill and kill to focus on 21st century skills (such as communication and collaboration) and higher-order thinking, which includes analyzing and evaluating. And if I’m being honest, a great way to teach all of those things is through playing games. My inner fogey still thinks that kids these days have it easy, though. Can’t we at least make them walk to school uphill both ways?

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About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.