Play Your Video Games!

The Economist wonders if the future of education lies in video games. The article profiles Quest to Learn, a new school in New York that will teach exclusively with video games. At Quest to Learn, “children learn by doing — and do so in a way that tears up the usual subject-based curriculum altogether.” This fall, for example, students will spend time as ancient Spartans and learn about history, geography, and public policy. Later in the day they might act as scientists devising a pathway for a light beam, learning about math, optics, creative thinking, and teamwork. No mention of the recess curriculum. [%comments]


I am skeptical about this. If we are to 'learn by doing', then we can only learn from our own mistakes. The main point of education is to learn from others mistakes and experiences, without having to do them all yourself.
Sure, once you have the information, learning to apply it requires learn by doing, which this would help, but every computer game has an initial tutorial, and if you do it after you have been playing for ages, you usually find something that would have made your life easier all along.

So this sounds like a great idea as PART of a school, but might be limited as the whole school. I guess the devil is in the implementation.


Teaching all curriculum with a single method is a bad idea. It's bound to help some and hurt others. Teachers should have a wide range of tools to engage the kids. Video games should be used to supplement the curriculum when the game is applicable.
P.S. I would like to play the Freakonomics game. I think it would be EA Sports meets Grand Theft Auto.


Why was this not present when I was a kid!?

Anyways, this seem like an ambitious project. When I started to ponder about this, though, I could not help but to be skeptical.

Of course, the kids will learn better with video games. The initial success of this will most likely provide plenty of incentives for video game companies like Naughty Dog and Ninja Theory (both very good) to start getting footholds in the educational video gaming market. However, after a while, competition is bound to build up rapidly, and these companies will have to make more applications in their games to make it more attractive so they could profit. Sure, they might go so far as to do real-life simulation (let's hope so!), but I believe that, without a doubt, they would start forgetting the part that it's about the children's education, and start to forget the educational value to focus more on the embellishment so as to make more people buy their stuff. When that happens, it is unclear if the market will keep growing due to the entertainment value, or fail because of the lack of truth in the games.

What teachers and educators are going to have to do is to find the ones that are actually worth buying. Good luck with that.



Oh ya, there's no question the future of education lies in computer games. We learn be interaction, no by listening to lectures.


What about writing?

What about crafing an argument?

Ian McKay

and the summers will be spent at fat camp.


It's really wonderful to read about a school that doesn't care about writing or the crafting of arguments. It's great to see that we have gotten to the point where learning how to communicate complex ideas with others is excised from the curriculum.

This is a great idea.

Of course, it is possible that the author simply doesn't know what s/he is talking about, and has set up a straw man against which the wonderful approach of this new school can be favorably compared. It's possible that the rule of "chalk and talk" ended decades ago, with various forms of cooperative, collaborative and/or student-centered learning having had firm footholds in our schools since at least the 1980's. It's possible that the editor make video games the focus of the piece, rather than the most important elements of this this school's pedagogy.

It's also possible that this approach smacks of progressive education, the kind of stuff that John Dewey was calling for nearly 100 years ago, but we haven't done properly in at least 60 years -- with the bastardization clearly a failure by every measure. It's possible that there really isn't anything new.

But let's hope not. I mean, what could be better than a school where students don't learn to write, but do get to play video games all day. What parents wouldn't want to send their kids there?



did anyone else think of The Simpsons "Grift of the Magi" episode when they read that a game designer was "teaching" this class?

Kitt Hirasaki

This idea was expressed in a fascinating form in "The Diamond Age or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" by Neal Stephenson, when a girl accidentally receives the gift of an amazing "teaching" book. Not only a fantastic story, but also an inspiring imagining of the power of technology to teach.

Also, I'm taking up iPhone programming so I can write more applications for my two-year-old -- there aren't enough out there, and she loves to learn by playing!


Don't underestimate power of video games. The arguments and writing can be part of the game. Further, when kids play in class, they are likely to have the discussions needed to understand the content well, and of course teachers will assess them. Only games let that assessment be more than multiple choice or short answer at the end- how you played can tell a lot about not just what you learned but how you learned it.

Could say a lot more, but I'll leave it at that.


We can learn tasks by doing, which is why people who play videogames can eventually become good at playing those games. And although examples and practice are valuable and necessary, learning larger concepts and memorizing facts and figures requires a more direct approach.


Well, this might be controversial given how this has never been tried before! Video games are viewed by parents as a waste of time if their kids play it too much, but it seems like video games are about to make a breakthrough. This, of course, will be determined by the success or failure of such curriculum where it is applied. If it is a success it may lead to a branch of education no one has ever explored before, and demonstrates that new technologies just keep appearing at a faster rate each time.

New and more efficient ways of doing things just keep appearing around the world!

Jonathon K.

I think the problem is that it is immediately referenced as learning through 'video games'. If it was not labeled a 'game', and instead something else that that gives the idea that it's an educational activity, it may come across differently.


Sounds like a good idea. Video games can keep children's attention for hours when nothing else can
I only worry about machines' capability to turn our children into drones to do their bidding. Keep an eye on this one . . .


Being a video game enthusiast myself, I have some faith in this new experiment. As I have told my teachers before, especially in the area of history, I have learned from video games. In this history caseI'm speaking of the game Call of Duty. It is surprisingly historically accurate. I believe this new technique will work but not for all people. One must remember everyone has different learning styles. For those people that actually learn through hands on eperience this will be great because they will be able to "live" the experience and that will be much more memorable than some random lecture here and there. It is much more engaging and grabs the student's attention in a much more efficient way. I have high expectations for this; however, brining in the economic aspect, this is a much more expensive method of schooling than the traditional one and will probably lead to an increase in taxation unless these schools are all private.



What happens when the power goes out? When the favorite and familiar interface to learning doesn't work?
Then it will literally be back to the drawing board, with brain, paper and pencil in hand, driving forward.

Technology is one VEHICLE of learning, driven by the mind of its operator; Technology is NOT the chaueffer!


How much I wish video games could be teaching me instead of an old boring professor! Although I may love this idea I don't think it can be applied for everyone. Some people learn better by having a teacher explaining concepts through a board, not virtually. However, there are still those who learn through many different ways, but the future is still unknown.

Now, let's suppose that future education will be taught through video games. The question is, which video game do I want for my child? Which video game is the best? Which video game is the most efficient in my child's learning? These question bring forth a whole new market never seen before. This market would not be your usual X-box vs PS3 or Wii, this would be an intensely competitive market because we are now talking about a child's education, which off course is valued more than your child's entertainment.

I wonder if in the future, comparative advantage is going to take role in the video game industry. Will Nintendo be the new math specialist? Will X-Box be the Science specialist? Or, will PS3 be the greatest literature device? These are questions which I am sure many have pondered upon, yet the answer lies in our future. Let's see!



While this project sounds very good and innovative, I can't help but wonder what side effects this might bring! I mean, sure, its great that educational programs are offering new incentives, most of which will receive a positive reaction from children. Some positive results might also come out of it. After all, children will feel more involved and entertained by the material being oferred to them. So, they will probably learn most of the information. However, I don't think the creators have really thought about the opportunity costs of the project. While the children are taking in extra information, they might also be losing ability to read. If we could find a way to relate chidren's ability to read and inferring extra information in what would be considered a fun way, and to make the combinatoin efficient enough to lie on the ppf, it would be great.


I learned my multiplication tables before I started kindergarten by spending hours playing Math Blaster on our MacPlus. I guess it works sometimes. And maybe the kids will want to stop playing video games all the time at home since it will start feeling like school.


The point of teaching kids facts isn't so much that they memorise the facts (for example, Spartan hygiene laws are of little value today) but so that they learn how to learn.

Unless these kids have all of their information presented in computer game format for the rest of their lives, they're just being taught a dead-end method of learning.