Once upon a time, not too long ago, video games were created for fun. Atari and arcade games were tools to cure boredom of all levels in kids. Today, educational thinkers are of the belief that computer games—the classroom euphemism for video games—should be incorporated in classroom lessons early on.

The idea is that students who are tired of the traditional pencil-and-paper routine will be more phonemically aware when alphabets and numbers are presented, say, as barnyard animals dancing on a screen.

The concepts of work and play today are reversed: schoolwork is meant to be superfun; play, like homework, is meant to teach. A 2012 report by the New Media Consortium identified game-based learning as one of the major trends affecting education in the next five years.

GlassLab, also known as Games, Learning and Assessment Lab, unveiled a free version of the role-playing game SimCity created specifically for classrooms. According to its website, GlassLab’s mission, in part, is to show that “digital games with a strong simulation component may be effective learning environments.”

At the new PlayMaker school in Los Angeles, financed in part by the Gates Foundation, a gaming curriculum includes adventure quests and other educational game apps.

Many parents believe that games children play on home computers should edify children, improve their hand-eye coordination and inculcate higher math skills. The most popular apps in the Apple store for toddlers and preschoolers are educational.

There’s an underlying fear that if we don’t add interactive elements to lower school curriculums, children won’t be able to handle fractions or develop scientific hypotheses — concepts children learned quite well in school before television.

Technology firms are understandably eager to enter the lucrative school market and acquire customers at the earliest age. It looks like the day when preschoolers and kindergarteners will be carrying iPads and laptops instead of heavy schoolbook bags on their backs is not far off.

Source:  Pamela Paul | Reading, Writing and Video Games | March 2013 | New York Times

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