The Game Believes in You

The Game Believes in You

How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter

Book - 2015
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What if schools, from the wealthiest suburban nursery school to the grittiest urban high school, thrummed with the sounds of deep immersion? More and more people believe that can happen - with the aid of video games. Greg Toppo's The Game Believes in You presents the story of a small group of visionaries who, for the past 40 years, have been pushing to get game controllers into the hands of learners. Among the game revolutionaries you'll meet in this book:

*A game designer at the University of Southern California leading a team to design a video-game version of Thoreau's Walden Pond.

*A young neuroscientist and game designer whose research on "Math Without Words" is revolutionizing how the subject is taught, especially to students with limited English abilities.

*A Virginia Tech music instructor who is leading a group of high school-aged boys through the creation of an original opera staged totally in the online game Minecraft.

Experts argue that games do truly "believe in you." They focus, inspire and reassure people in ways that many teachers can't. Games give people a chance to learn at their own pace, take risks, cultivate deeper understanding, fail and want to try again-right away-and ultimately, succeed in ways that too often elude them in school. This book is sure to excite and inspire educators and parents, as well as provoke some passionate debate.

Publisher: New York : Palgrave Macmillan, ©2015.
ISBN: 9781137279576
Characteristics: 252 pages ;,25 cm.

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r
ryner
Sep 15, 2017

Education reporter Greg Toppo details some of the many and varied ways in which digital games, both digital and otherwise, are being used for educational purposes in school environments, for subjects such as mathematics, history, social studies, reading and vocabulary, as well as how games are being successfully used therapeutically to treat mental and developmental disorders such as ADHD, PTSD and schizophrenia.

While this title was immediately available at my local library, I was hesitant to pick it up off the shelf for some time, deterred by its cheesy, unappealing cover (I know, breaking cardinal rule of reading #1, right?). However, the overwhelmingly positive reviews at Goodreads finally convinced me to give it a go. The first third was interesting and encouraging, but somewhat slow going. The bottom line, that kids are more likely to learn/absorb when they are having fun, is both a no-brainer and potentially game-changing (no pun intended!). Anyone who has read 'The Power of Play' understands that play is the work of the child and it is important; it is how children learn to navigate the world. Toppo reminds us throughout the book that even if a game is highly educational and bursting with knowledge, if does not meet minimum criteria for "fun," kids simply won't want to play it. Mark Twain noted, "Work consists of whatever a body is _obliged_ to do, and that play consists of whatever a body a body is _not_ obliged to do." However, our K-12 public education system revolves around increasing standardized testing scores, rather than allowing genuine interest, creativity and inspiration foment understanding of the subject matter.

Toppo briefly addresses the debate surrounding violence in video games and whether it correlates to increased or reduced sensitivity to physical violence. I found the following quote, with respect to the manner in which video games are collectively vilified as (at best) worthless or (at worst) dangerous, worth noting: "Billions have been killed because of what's in books, and no one but the most spit-flecked zealot wants to ban books."

My enthusiasm peaked in the latter half, particularly when the topic turned to therapeutic use of games. I'm quite excited by the research being done in improving working memory and wonder: how can I get my hands on a copy of NeuroRacer??? All of this promise is alluring; sadly, after the Columbine tragedy, it became difficult to fund cognitive research on video games. Beyond all this, my biggest takeaways during this experience were a yearning for my "golden days" of gaming, a distinct longing to return to playing video games immediately, and a new list of games to research.

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