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Immersive Gameplay: The Future Of Education?

January 28, 2009 | Chris Payatagool
whyville.jpgby Chris Riedel

Referring to Nintendo's Wii platform, Brazell proposed that games have reached the point where the lines become blurred between the game system and the user. We have become an integrated, integral part of the operation of the system. And that, he argued, has taken the educational possibilities to an entirely new level. "This is not 'edutainment' or 'edugaming'," he said, "but play and learning at their best."

In support of his arguments, Brazell pointed to a significant number of educational games that are being used around the world to teach users everything from health management and personal heath care to military operations to emergency management procedures to the more traditional subjects like math, science, and social studies.

According to Brazell, the market is filled with a range of options. including learning games, game for social change, games for health, and games that replicate a variety of real occurrences--referred to as "docu-games." Some examples include, developed by the Sandra Day O'Connor Center for Justice to teach civics in an online format; Mass Casualty Triage, developed to teach Iraqi medical professionals how to deal with mass injury situations; and, a virtual world (pictured below) designed to teach tweens a number skills, from commerce and economics, to law and social justice.

Addressing some of the challenges educators face when considering the ways to implement gaming in the classroom environment, Brazell stressed that the application is the key. "Never start with the idea that you're going to use a video game," he said. "Start with what you want to teach and then find the right application.... It just doesn't work the other way around."

Brazell closed with a quote from 20th century educator Marshall McLuhan, famous for insisting that "the medium is the message." "So what is the message?" Brazell asked. Turning toward the large screen positioned in the corner of the room, he pointed to an image of three-dimensional figures from the online world Second Life. "This," he said, motioning to the virtual world represented on the screen, "is a 21st century teacher. Can you make the shift?"

About the author: Chris Riedel is a freelance writer based in Illinois. He can be reached via e-mail here: [email protected]

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at [email protected].


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