Education is an interesting subject nowadays, with so many thoughts around how technology can improve the discipline - E-readers are being used in place of books within developing countries like Cambodia, language arts software is being used in Arab countries to teach children the alphabet and writing skills. My interest in the subject, with some additional thoughts of mine from the year 2000, are provided below.
In the year 2000, noticing my son's interest and enthusiasm for video games, it occurred to me that there had to be a significant integration of the education and video game worlds. This may not be a new concept nowadays, perhaps not even at that time, but the scope of which I envisioned this integration would be substantially different than anything available then - or even now, as of this post in November, 2012.
My son was interested in neither school nor education, in general, however he simply could not get enough of certain video games. One particular game that he really liked was played on the computer and the setting was in Europe during World War II. After playing the game for several hours, my son began asking questions about WWII, Adolph Hitler, and our involvement in the war, and it was at this time when I realized the opportunities being lost by manufacturers not providing more educational material in these types of video games. My son eventually graduated to console gaming, but after just a few months of playing these types of video games, he could provide a significant listing of the weapons used during WWII, ammunition needed for each, the types of land and air crafts used in the war, and quite a few more details that he learned from the gameplay itself.
History is certainly an easy subject to integrate into a video game, with the popular offerings of the Call of Duty series and other like war games, however other subjects can be integrated just as well.
My thoughts on how the history integration might occur is that the missions that must be completed each contain significantly detailed, historically accurate information, people, and battle plans executed, which, if as challenging as the current gameplay, would allow for repeated exposure to this data, as the player fails the mission and reattempts repeatedly until successful.
The level of detail that I envision include the lives of the locals during the conflict, impacts of the major stories of the day, even periodic breaks from the action that allow for the political aspects to be added to the mix. In short, every detail that would be taught in the classroom can be integrated into the gameplay and be learned through creative implementations of the missions.
To integrate other subjects into the mix, manufacturers could easily include language arts in a game like this. Immersion into virtually any language, as a player continues through the missions with different allies or through different countries, interfacing with the locals, providing significant opportunity to learn to both speak and read multiple languages simultaneously, if properly introduced and throttled.
Math and science can be integrated as well, as weaponry ballistics or reload can be part of the mix, trajectory of armaments firing calculated, even simple math with distance and enemy strength, ammunition required, etc., and these are only simplistic views of integration, not in depth immersion techniques. Manufacturers could even include building bridges and/or entire forts for the vocational-technical aspect of learning and integrate other types of math and science to this aspect as well to allow for the practical learning integration - for instance, outdoorsman skills, home economic skills, even financial skills can be learned through these missions.
There is so much potential for just this one type of game, that it can be dizzying to think of how many ways other games can be equally integrated into the educational boundary. Perhaps other games would only be able to integrate portions or singular subjects, which is fine as well, as long as the game remains fun and interesting to play with the added educational benefit as these games are today without so many educational benefits.
There certainly are challenges to such endeavors:
1. Many different types of games would have to provide an equal level of educational input, as not every person may be as interested in war games or first person shooter type offerings.
2. The rate at which people learn is different, so the missions would have to include some parameters to allow for both the quicker learners to remain challenged (but not get too far ahead) and allow the not so quick learners to not fall behind.
3. Not every school subject can be covered completely in the gameplay, so either multiple games could be involved in the process or more traditional methods can be used for both these items and to enhance those subjects that were part of the gameplay.
4. A curriculum would have to be accredited and developed around the gameplay, allowing for the testing of absorbed material.
Even with the current challenges, I see amazing benefit to such integration. Can you imagine a day when a child loves going to school because they get to play video games much of the day as part of their learning? Not to mention the fact that the students would typically absorb more material if it was presented in this fashion, provided the gameplay remained fun, interesting, and repetitive.
Even if schools do not adopt such measures, children can be put into better position in their studies with home use of similar materials. Considering how our children typically view education, we should look very forward to future research and advancement regarding this topic. Perhaps such advancements will allow our children to realize the gift they are being provided with readily available access to education and they might then better compete in standardized tests when compared to the rest of the world.