October 17, 2011

Gaming - flow? addiction?

To be honest, it’s a challenge for me to figure out how video games can be used in classrooms because I grew up in a pretty strict and conventional education environment in which video games are always treated as plague. Maybe there are some certain type of educational games can help low-grade students to reinforce what they have learned in classrooms (like the games on AcademicSkill Builders ).  I played for a little while about the Multiplication games . Kids can compete with others by answering to the multiplication questions, the more correct answers they make, the sooner their race cars run. They can either work in a team or play alone. And the names of winners will be published on the main page of the website. It’s pretty motivated. But I think this kind of game is just aimed at certain subjects and low-level studies. Like a dessert won’t make a starving people satisfied, it won’t help a lot in classrooms.

I like gaming and I was a big fan of video game when I was an undergraduate student. I quite understand how addictive video games would be, especially to those people who quickly focus on challenges. I used to play some kinds of games like MMORPG (Ragnarok Online, FF Online), SIM (The Sims 3 ), EDU (Tokimemo),AVG (Super Mario)  and various web games (Zombie VS Plants, angry birds). I liked to work together with others to complete tasks in the games, and enjoyed the sense of achievement by achieving the short-term goal and long-term goal in the games. Admittedly, I gained a lot enjoyment from gaming. I was in flow. However, I barely can tell how the games benefit me. Actually, most of time when I finished gaming, I felt guilty because I totally lost myself in games and could not control the gaming time.

I tried out the games that Dr.Z recommended, FarmVille and Mafia Wars on Facebook. I spend 3 hours on them. And I found FarmVille is similar to a game in China called 开心农场(Happy Farm) which had been extremely popular in China from 2007 to 2010. Almost everyone in China played and talked about this game from 5-year-old to 80-year-old. It’s a commercial success or even a miracle. If the flow can be turned to classroom learning, how successful our education could be!

However, children and adolescence are typically not mature enough and lack of self-control, how can we distinguish flow from addiction? If the game gives them an exaggerated idea of their own importance and ability, they may crumble when tough real life challenges appear.
Finally, I do think proper gaming time should be encouraged in classrooms. A healthy learning environment should be fun and stimulating. Including flow into teaching method is a good way to stimulate students intrinsic motivation. But to what degree and what situation games could be used in classroom, I need more real teaching experiences from veteran teachers.


  1. I agree that flow is a very tricky thing when it comes to telling the difference between that and other things related to games. I agree that gaming should be used in the classroom it is a great way for students to unwind during the boring routine of school. It can also help a struggling student make sense of the material if the game is appropriate. I have seen this happen, a student was struggling with a mathematical concept and the teacher introduced it in a new light with the computer game. The student understood the material and could move on to a new concept. I think that it is important that the games do not replace teaching but aids it.

  2. Teaching could benefit and possible reach some students that traditional methods are unable to. I would agree that there is a fine line between flow and addiction, some of the seven points that were outlined could fit the definition of addiction without much of a stretch. If there was a way for an educational software release to be as popular as FarmVille, and as beneficial as an interactive classroom experience, it would be a huge boon to education.

  3. Yes, looking for the careful balance between motivational and educational is a difficult challenge for us to address. Perhaps it is a matter of taking the hard road where you look for aspects of existing games that apply to what you are trying to teach in class.