In Praise of Video Games

in praise of video games

In Praise of Video Games

When you think of playing video games and homeschooling, you probably imagine educational video games (i.e. for math). “Non-educational” video games are fun, but are also surprisingly educational. In praise of video games, here are some ways your kids are learning with them.

Learning to Read

My husband and I are both “gamers”, and love playing video games when time permits. Years ago, my son was motivated to learn to read in large part because I started playing a video game with him. Some of the characters in the video game were aliens and their speech had English subtitles. I told him he could not play by himself until he could read and he suddenly put effort into learning to read. (If you’re curious which video game it was, we’re big Star Wars fans and it was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). There is even a book by James Gee entitled What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.

Critical Thinking

Besides reading skills, almost all video games involve critical thinking of some sort. The most obvious examples are puzzle-based games such as “Myst”. This video game first came out in 1993 and was a surprise success. Since then, many incarnations of “Myst” have been released. Today, “Myst” is also available for iPhone/iPod and various other formats, including “realMyst” for  iPad. It’s not an action-based video game – the player simply travels around stunning landscapes and uses their critical thinking skills to solve puzzles.

Physical Education

Children can increasingly get a dose of physical education through video games. Most recently, through playing the game Pokemon Go! on smartphones. Players have to walk in order to hatch those eggs. Even before Pokemon Go! game systems such as the Nintendo Wii started offering sports games, and more, that involve physical activity in order to play.

in praise of video games

Socialization

Won’t video games make children anti-social though? On the contrary – almost 60 percent of avid gamers play with friends. Another 33 percent play with siblings, and 25 percent play with spouses or parents. Many video games offer a social, online component and children have to work together in cooperation to achieve goals in the game.

For instance, “Minecraft” can be played online with others. We live in a rural area and there is no opportunity to walk to a friend’s house to play, but my kIDs do get to play with real life friends online. One November, before Remembrance Day, my son and his friends worked together and built a beautiful cenotaph inside the game in honour of our soldiers who have fought and died for us in past wars – I was so proud of them!

The Research

Research shows some benefits to playing video games. A couple of studies out of the University of Rochester came to the conclusion that video games improve vision and players develop a heightened sensitivity to what is going on around them, (improving such skills as multitasking, driving, reading small print, keeping track of friends in a crowd, and navigating around town). Contrary to popular belief, research has also found that playing video games does not cause or increase aggression, but promotes cooperation and encourages gamers to control their aggression.

So, don’t be afraid to let your children play video games in your home and/or homeschool – it might just be a learning experience!

What have you caught your child learning through video games? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love, Luck &
Laughter,

Kimberly

Learning with Angry Birds

Does your child love playing Angry Birds? If you don’t know what all the fuss is about – give Angry Birds a try now. At first it was only available for devices such as the iPod touch, iPad, smart phones, and Kindle, but now it’s also playable on your Mac or PC, Nintendo Wii, or even Facebook. There is an Angry Birds 2 available and spin-offs to choose from such as Angry Birds Star Wars I and II (our favourites), Angry Birds Transformers, Angry Birds Fight, and more.
learning with angry birds

Learning with Angry Birds

Why not make your own Angry Birds game in real life, once you and your children have played the video game? You’ll need:

• Angry birds and bad piggies – buy Angry Birds plush balls and bad piggies, knit Angry Birds with these free patterns, or sew an Angry Bird plush with this free tutorial
• Block set (an architectural set works well, or even the blocks from your Jenga game)
• A slingshot – my children made one out of a branch and some waistband elastic but have your children look around the house and see what they can use to make a slingshot

learning with angry birds

Set up the blocks with some bad piggies on them and slingshot angry birds at them. See who can get the most blocks and piggies down at one time, or work out a point system much like the one in the game. While you’re playing, discuss concepts such as arc and acceleration, where to stand to get the best knock-down results, angles at which you release the birds, and how far back you pull your slingshot before you release it. Perhaps your children would like to take it further and construct a trebuchet, a catapult, or other siege engines to launch their angry birds as well.

You can also purchase ready-made games instead of making your own, such as Angry Birds Space: Planet Block Game, Birds in Space Game, or K’NEX Angry Birds.

For more enrichment for your younger children, you can use these Angry Birds printables – two different sets of fun, free printables – one for preschoolers and one for kindergarteners.

For your older children, check out these physics articles:
• Wired Science shares The Physics of Angry Birds.
Angry Birds in the Physics Classroom presents questions with accompanying videos for physics students.

If your children are really enjoying all the Angry Birds fun, take your unit study further:
• into the kitchen for the whole family with the Bad Piggies’ Egg Recipes cookbook.
• how did this feud between the angry birds and the bad piggies start? Perhaps young children would enjoy writing a story all about it.
• if they’d like to act it out, they can make Angry Birds felt masks like these to dress up.

Do you enjoy learning with Angry Birds in your home? Please let me know in the comments below!

Love, Luck &
Laughter,

Kimberly