When Pokemon Go took over children’s screens last year and most teachers were struggling to keep it out of the classroom, a school on the NSW central coast decided to incorporate the popular game into their science lessons.
After students at the International Football School in Kariong have “caught” the pokemon in the botanical garden using the augmented reality app on their phone, their science teacher will talk about the plants around them.
Students at the sports-focused school, which runs from kindergarten to year 12, are also encouraged to play other popular video games including Clash of the Clans and Ingress in the classroom to build their communication and teamwork skills.
“We’re using what the kids already like to do to get to our outcomes, the games are a conduit for discussions about other things,” the school’s head of curriculum Dean Groom said.
About half of Australian students are now using video games in the classroom, up from one-third in 2015, according to new national survey findings in the 2018 Digital Australia report.
About 70 per cent of parents believe video games can be effective for teaching and motivating students at school, 64 per cent believe they can help students pay attention and 62 per cent believe they can help schools remain relevant.
The report’s lead author, Jeff Brand, said the growing acceptance of video games in schools is linked to a broader demographic of Australians playing games at home.
About 93 per cent of households have gaming devices and 67 per cent of Australians play video games. Of these, 77 per cent are aged 18 or over and the average age of a video game player is now 34, up from 24 in 2005.
“Kids and teachers in schools both play video games and 87 per cent of parents play games themselves,” Dr Brand said. “It makes them aware of [the potential of video games] and more conversations exist around game playing.”
Dr Brand said there is potential for games to be used “substantially” in the classroom.
“Ultimately, many things we learn through textbooks we will ultimately learn through video games,” he said.
“Most major textbook publishers now have in-house game developers. Some of the stuff that works best is what compels students and attracts their attention.”
Michelle Blight, a year 12 physics teacher at St George Christian School in Sydney’s south, is now using a video game while teaching the space component of the HSC curriculum.
“There’s a game called Kerbal Space Program that helps then understand the different aspects of rocket launch and re-entry,” Mrs Blight said.
Mrs Blight said she also uses video games in physics lessons for years 9, 10 and 11.
“Where [games] match curriculum objectives they can be quite useful because of the motivational aspect,” she said.
“Kids don’t realise they’re learning things while they’re playing.”
Mrs Blight said teachers and parents have become more accepting of video games in the classroom in recent years.
“It’s about us becoming more familiar with these opportunities. But I’ve spoken to people with all different opinions.
“Some are really keen about games and think they help equip students with not only content material but computer and IT skills as well, while others are concerned more about how much screen time students are engaging with.”