Saturday, February 11, 2006

 

Why Teach with Games and the Internet?

Many educators view the Internet and multimedia technology as factors contributing to a reduction in the amount of time children are engaged in traditional learning. I say, "Get over it!" Teaching in the Information Age requires that educators modify their view and transform their instructional practices to utilize technology’s power to improve the learning process for students. Today’s students need to be guided in developing the ability to make use of the Internet and multimedia technology to increase critical literacy skills and essential knowledge.

Marc Prensky refers to today's students as "Digital Natives." Today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently because different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures. In fact, evidence indicates that our students’ brains have physically changed. Record numbers of children are being diagnosed with attention deficient disorder, but is that a valid diagnosis? Prensky has identified several characteristics of digital natives that all educators must understand in order to be successful with today's students.

Digital Natives:
-are used to receiving information really fast
-like to parallel process and multi-task
-prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite
-prefer random access (like hypertext)
-thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards
-prefer games to “serious” work

Prensky poses the following questions:
-Is it that Digital Natives can’t pay attention, or that they choose not to?
-Should the Digital Native students learn the old ways, or should their Digital Immigrant educators learn the new?

Digital Natives are engaged by the Internet and multimedia technology. It is in the best interest of today's students that Digital Immigrant (and Digital Alien!) educators learn to teach with these tools. Gamequarium is a valuable tool for teachers who already get it and for those who are still trying to get over it.

Need help getting over it or helping other educators get over it? Consider this information:

-Even today, “practice makes perfect.” Most student don’t like to practice. The Internet and games can capture student attention, engage them in learning, and make practice happen.
-The Internet and multimedia technology deliver challenging visual and spatial tasks which serve to organize information and develop logical thinking can graphically illustrate many concepts thereby making abstract ideas concrete.
-Online educational games challenge fine motor coordination while developing logical thinking skills and mastery.
-Interactive games allow learners to construct new understandings on many different levels through seeing and hearing.
-The Internet and online technology offers tools for thinking more deeply, pursuing curiosity, and exploring and expanding intelligence as learners build "mental models" with which they can visualize connections between ideas on any topic.
-Teaching with Internet technology and online games allows educators to better meet the needs of students with diverse abilities while at the same time increasing motivation of all students.

What about teaching students to read and write? Reading and writing are more important today than ever before. With email, instant messaging, text messaging, the ease of web publishing and the like, digital communication is now standard practice. The Internet can provide authentic experiences for students to engage in digital reading and writing. How can the Internet and online games be used to teach students to read and write? Check out Readquarium, the section of Gamequarium devoted to developing literacy skills. Readquarium is arranged based on the five crucial components identified by the National Reading Panel.

As an educator of 25 years (23 years as a classroom teacher!), mother of four, and grandmother of one, I understand the many demands that are placed on teachers, parents, and schools. Teachers, parents, and schools need as much help as possible in preparing our children to be the future leaders of the world. My mission is to organize the Internet for teachers, parents, and students and to contribute to the change that must take place in the way that our students are educated. Gamequarium provides an easy to navigate portal to the world of online learning. There is no charge for using Gamequarium, and there never will be. Gamequarium is my gift to children of the world. Enjoy!

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