News and Notes

A Newsletter for Faculty and Staff of Idaho State University

October 18, 2010 — Vol. 26 No. 35

Using Games for Education

Undergraduate teacher education students in the Idaho State University College of Education are learning how to use digital games such as the Wii, to make a difference in the lives of the students they will teach.

Students are exploring the instructional benefits of digital games as knowledge, skill, and dispositional learning tools for K-12 learners. Not only are students playing the games, they are considering how to write lesson plans and how to implement appropriate games into their teaching. The students using the games are in EDUC 311, "Integration of Technology," a core class in the teacher education program, along with students in the nationally recognized undergraduate business education program and in ISU's Department of Sport Science and Physical Education.

College of Education students are playing and experimenting with video and online games that teach problem solving, collaboration, civic engagement, physics content, and basic mathematical skills.

"It is our goal to motivate and educate this generation of 21st century teachers to lead with technology," said Beverly Ray, an instructional technology researcher in the college and a professor and chair in the Department of Educational Foundations. "One way we do that is by assuring that our students are aware of the evolving role of technology in supporting 21st century learning."

Ray said the college allows its students to explore new technologies, such as serious games, podcasts, video editing, and other Web 2.0 applications that have the capacity to change the way they teach and the way their students learn.

"Their task is to then innovate with those technologies in ways that will allow them to harness the power of technology within their own teaching," Ray said. "We have moved way beyond technology as a productivity tool for teachers to technology as a problem-solving tool for learning."

Caroline Faure, assistant professor in the Department of Sport Science and Physical Education, agreed with her colleague.

"The opportunities for integrating games like 'Wii Fit' in our disciplines are endless. Our faculty use it to provide practical teaching moments in areas ranging from injury rehabilitation to sport psychology to teaching," Faure said.

Faure teaches future physical educators in her "Methods of Secondary Physical Education" class how to integrate games like "Dance, Dance Revolution" and "Wii Fit" into mainstream physical education classes.

"With the emphasis on core curriculum, physical education in Idaho's schools is becoming more and more scarce," Faure said. "If we're going to justify keeping P.E., we need to change the way we're teaching it. We can't cater to traditional sports. We've got to step up to the modern era. This is what kids are doing these days - they're playing interactive video games. We want our future teachers to be able to harness students' interest in gaming and spark the students' curiosity about how they can use it to benefit their own physical self."

Because of the built in flexibility that many games contain, faculty are also exploring the use of digital games for ESL instruction and with students with disabilities.

"Wii games in the elementary physical education classroom are particularly beneficial to students with disabilities in that it allows them to participate in sports and other activities that they would otherwise be unlikely to have access," said John Fitzpatrick, associate professor of sports science and physical education.

"Our focus is on the right game for the right learning. We're not just playing games for fun in our classes, but we are having fun and we are seeing that these games can support learning," added Ray.

Faculty in the two departments are involved in multiple research studies examining the efficacy of online and video games as knowledge, skill, and dispositional learning tools. Results have been presented at the EDUCAUSE Learning Inititative Conference and at other national, international, and state conferences, including the Idaho Athletic Trainers Association Conference, the Idaho Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Conference, and the Hawaii International Conference on Education.

A manuscript was published recently in the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education. Others are in review at several journals, including the Journal of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

"The theory is firmly in place to support the use of these games as learning tools. We are part of the effort to contribute to the growing research base testing that theory, but we also need to examine whether K-12 educators will embrace digital games as serious learning tools," Ray said. "We believe they will."