The #CLMOOC theme this past week was “games.” Board games, electronic apps, word games, photo games… The reflection challenge participants received was: “What did you decide this week about yourself, about games, about learning, and about play?”
I love games. As a child, growing up in a large family, it was common for Monopoly, Risk, Yahtzee, etc. to be dragged out, since there were always other people to play with. We also played a lot of outdoor games – tag, hide-and-seek, softball, fox-and-geese (winter game in the snow – illustrated here).
My children have grown up in a much smaller nuclear family (fewer game-mates) and in a different time. Instead of board or card games, many of today’s children turn to video games, whether online multi-player games, or stand-alone games. I sometimes try to coax them into playing an “old school” game, but am often unsuccessful.
Games serve many interests, “winning” being only one of them. Through game play, young children learn concepts such as taking turns, their colors, and being a gracious loser (that is so hard when you are 4, or 5, or for some, 45!). Older children, when faced with strategy games, chess being a classic example, develop deeper thinking skills, as they have to identify and execute moves that build their advantage.
In the current age, “games” often refer to video games. The debate as to their relative worth for kids’ development is ongoing, and probably will never be definitively agreed upon. Via one of Kevin Hodgson’s posts, I found this MindShift article entitled The Literacy of Gaming: What Kids Learn From Playing. The author states categorically that we adults need to enter the video gaming world. He says “Not learning how to play games would be akin to talking about ‘The Lord of the Flies’ without having learned to read.” He further states we need to connect these games to books, movies, TV and the real world inhabited by our students. Furthermore, when we encourage students to discuss and analyze games with their peers, we help them enlarge their perspective and ideas.
Many of us are aware of Minecraft, an open world sandbox game that has taken the tween world by storm. Over the past couple of years, it has also entered the education world, seen as a tool that helps develop problem-solving and collaboration skills. The education version also provides the teacher with a lot of control over the game play and the worlds the students use. I found this description of a teacher’s experience enlightening.
As I reflect on games in general, I realize my attitude is that games and play are for kids. Games may emulate the adult world, but once we move into the adult world, we need to put games and play away and be “responsible adults.” I think this attitude has been detrimental to my effectiveness as a parent, teacher, person, and has also robbed me of much enjoyment! Although I do need to be a “responsible adult,” it does not follow that I need to put all fun needs aside. Helpguide.org informs me that “Playing… is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and improve your mental health.”
My participation in the “game” theme of this week’s #CLMOOC activities also reinforced a fact that took me many years to understand about myself, which is I love word games! I happily engaged in both the folding story activity Kevin Hodgson sparked, and the #15wordstory inspired by Scott Glass. Both activities required me to use creative thinking, and were a lot of fun! I’m liking learning to play games again.