Table of Contents |A-J Barber| Adobe Acrobat 

Xbox MAGIC:  MAKING LEARNING FUN


by Faith Breen
(Professor, Business Management)

“[World of Warcraft]1 a game world so insidiously addictive, so rich in imagination, so fun and beautiful and funny and charming that we have no desire to ever log out and resume our real lives.”2

Educating the MTV3 generation will be a piece of cake compared to the next generation of students who have grown up with Xbox and Playstation. As the table at the end of the article shows, 42 percent of 14-18 year-olds already have a video game player in their room. And, with the advent of on-demand TV projected to provide access to Internet gamers, this could easily exceed the current 65 percent of 14-18 year-olds who have televisions in their rooms.

Sex and violence aside, the interactivity, fast pace, high-powered graphics, and complexity of today’s videos could make our multi-media class lectures appear to be like a slooow-motion video.4 For example, I recently showed a three-year old management video that I thought was insightful and engaging. Imagine my disappointment when student’s feedback was that it was “old” – the people spoke slowly and the action was also too slow. To keep my students’ interest, I am now incorporating references to Donald Trump’s The Apprentice as a teaching device.

Based upon my unscientific observations, the Xbox/Playstation generation offers a different set of challenges for educators – particularly those at the post-secondary level. More specifically, among the challenges are:

·        Control – They are used to being in control of the pace of the game. If they did not like how they were doing, they just hit “reset.” Or, if they did not like the game, they just turned it off, or hit “pause” if something better came along.

·        High-powered graphics – The positive reinforcement for beating an opponent or mastering a task that the graphic artists integrate into the games manifests itself as the “Wow Factor!”5 And, the virtual world is so fantastic that both the right and left sides of the brain are simultaneously engaged.

·        Competition – A recent article in the New York Times, titled “When Every Child Is Good Enough,”6 focused attention upon the social issue “…about child-rearing and society: competition versus coddling, excellence versus egalitarianism.” It also referenced Christina Hoff Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, and her position that boys are bored at school because of educators’ emphasis upon cooperative education rather than competition. According to Sommers, “…males are wired for competition, and if you take it away there’s little to interest them in school.” Clearly, these videogames have on-demand competition and multi-sensory rewards!

·        Time – When they are fully engaged in the video, time has no meaning. They are in a flow-state. And, because many parents appreciated this “electronic babysitter,” the students are used to determining how much time they allocate an activity.

·        Flow – Because they know how it feels to be “in the flow,” it is easier for them to know when they are less than engaged. This—less than engaged—may be their definition of “boring.”

·        Wizards – They have grown up with “wizards,” or hints designed to get them through the game. They may expect to have a wizard who is willing to give assistance as we test their skills. For some of us, the “wizards” may be at odds with our Code of Ethics.

·        Social Interaction – These interactive videos can be played alone or with other people. The social dynamics are different in that players have more say over the other players with whom they play, when they play, and what they play.

·        Expertise - Players of all ages and backgrounds can acquire expertise regardless of academic attainment “The only real way to determine status on the message boards is the level of your character. If you’re Level 60, what you say immediately has weight. But if you’re only like Level 5, you could make a perfectly valid point on something and everyone will be like, ‘Shut up, what do you know?’ And if you’re a doctor or lawyer or something in real life, you’re probably not used to that…”7

Many of the video games have multiple levels of complexity that can be used to develop critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, we need to find a way to get our students out of this virtual world and into the real world.8  I have concluded that Xbox and Playstation are no longer just for playing games; they have legitimate educational value, and we should harness them now!9

In My Room
Media availability in children’s bedrooms by age

Medium

2-4 yrs

5-7

8-13

14-18

Television

26%

39%

65%

65%

VCR

14

18

34

38

Radio

32

53

81

94

Video-game player*

7

18

47

42

Cable/satellite TV

10

18

28

32

Computer

4

9

23

19

Source: “Kids and Media @the new millennium,” a Kaiser Family Foundation Report, November 1999, from an article in the Washington Post by Ann Hulbert, entitled “Tweens ‘R’ Us.  * Emphasis added.

Sources
1 World of Warcraft is a video game that costs $49.99 for the software and that players pay $14.99 a month to play.  This amounts to at least $200 million in subscriptions revenue and over $50 million in retail sales. On the first day of their most recent release, over 240,000 copies were sold in their target markets, and current sales exceed 7000,000 copies. At peak times, about 250,000 people from around the world may be simultaneously playing this game.
S Seth Schiesel, “The Game is a Hit, But the Work isn’t Done,” New York Times, February 10, 2005; p. E1 or http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/10/technology/circuits/102arr.html?
3 Music Television.
4 Freshmen-faculty Cultural Gap that Eldon Baldwin shared is a timely wake-up call reminding us that knowing our student customers is not always easy.
5 For example, I am always amazed to see how many hours students are willing to invest just to master a video game. A piece on National Public Radio said that part of the attraction derives from players’ ability to acquire “expert” status among their peers by playing these videogames.
6 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/11/21/weekinreview/21tier.html?oref=login
7 Ibid, Schiesel, p. E6.
8 The military is actively using interactive videos as a training device.
9 To help you get started, you may wish to go to this site devoted to digital game-based learning: http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/news.html.

 

The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 20, No. 2 

Spring 2005