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The “Wikipedia problem” which means children turning to the internet for readymade answers is the new age Dba Press phenomenon baffling teachers and mentors globally. There are almost equal numbers of teachers who consider technology to be a solution as much as a problem. While a common belief is that Technology is hindering the Kids’ capacity to think and analyze, there is also a strong opinion in favor of video games and digital gadgets’ ability to engage students and enhance learning by using more than one sensory stimulators. In spite of the growing concern about the students’ deteriorating attention spans, institutions are incorporating them in the process of classroom learning.
Children are inherently inquisitive creatures. They have a curiosity to discover new things and learn by way of discovering and experimenting even before they are subjected to methods of formal education such as reading or writing. Science is a discipline of experiments and discoveries. The National Science Education Standards emphasize that “science education needs to give students three kinds of scientific skills and understandings. Students need to learn the principles and concepts of science, acquire the reasoning and procedural skills of scientists, and understand the nature of science as a particular form of human endeavor. Students, therefore, need to be able to devise and carry out investigations that test their ideas, and they need to understand why such investigations are uniquely powerful. Studies show that students are much more likely to understand and retain the concepts that they have learned this way “. Hence, it becomes imperative to engage children in science education at an early stage.
Digital games are more capable of gaining students’ interests and attention than other conventional means of imparting education in a classroom. However, some educationists also regard them as culprits of exponential decline in the attention span in children. The next sections in this article discuss the involvement of children in games in the tech age, types of games available in the market and the impact of digital gaming as learning aids in classrooms.
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Gaming and the New Age Kids
Digital technology has expanded the horizons of video gaming in the modern world. Kids are subjected to far more complex and challenging technological environment than their counterparts were from over half a century back. Involvement of kids in digital gaming is a result of many significant changes in the lifestyle and culture of the modern society. Easy accessibility of technology, dispensable income due to dual income families and lack of infrastructure for outdoor activities in many cities are some major contributors in making screen games an important part of the children’s’ lives. A study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) found that only 20 percent of the census blocks are within half a mile of a block boundary. Also, the effect of peer pressure cannot be undermined in these times of social networking.
The digital gaming market is one of the fastest-growing segments of the global entertainment industry. The US is witnessing unprecedented penetration of digital games amongst youngsters. In the US, 97% of the teens play some type of game on a regular basis. In India, the gaming market has grown manifold in the last few years. Hence, it is imperative that educationists are continuously contemplating the use of digital gaming as a learning tool in classrooms. Institutions are also employing innovative ways to leverage the digital advantage for enhancing the learning experience at schools.
What are Digital Games?
There is no concrete definition of games as it may vary with an individual’s preference and profession. Games can be defined as a “system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, which result in a quantifiable outcome”. Technology and digitization add new dimensions to games where simulations, interactivity, augmented reality, alternative reality, collective intelligence and sensory stimulators such as sound and visual effects. Digital games are also characterized by their portability and limitless accessibility.
Role-playing games, simulation games, and puzzles are some of the most popular digital games. In role-playing games, the player enacts the role of a particular character in a virtual world moving from one level to the other based on the outcome of the earlier level. RPGs can be the single players such as the dungeons and dragons from earlier days of gaming or multi-player games such as Diablo III, Xenoblade, Final Fantasy XIII-2 or Mass Effect 3. MMORPG or the Massive Multiple Online Role-Playing Games are an extension of the RPGs where a large number of players interacts in an online virtual world. Simulation games create realistic situations in virtual worlds. The outcome will depend on the player’s decision-making and responsiveness and will be closely similar to what may happen in a real world in the same situation. Widely used for training and analysis, simulation games are also popular due to their unpredictable and personalized outcomes. Flight Simulator X, Live for Speed (LFS) and Need for Speed have been extremely popular simulation games for a long time. Puzzles genre of digital games involves problem solving and analysis with varying degrees of difficulty depending on the nature of the game. Crosswords and treasure hunt games are basic forms of puzzle games in both physical and digital form.
All types of digital games involve a social involvement of players. Some need collaborative efforts to play while others may be discussed or analyzed socially. In spite of some games being accused of outright violent visual effects, a well-designed game can accelerate the thinking process by motivating, engaging, involving creativity and developing a meta-game i.e., social interactions inspired and enhanced inside or outside the game. Incorporating digital gaming in the basic education framework can lead to augmented competitiveness and multi-dimensional growth in children.
Digital Games in Science Education – Why and Why Not?
The 21st century requires the mentors and the students to integrate technology into the curriculum. Though the ultimate goal is to benefit the students in terms of learning and experience, unsupervised, unorganized or irrelevant application can lead to complete failure or have negative effects. Some of the negative impacts of digital games in general and in a context of the education are listed below:
Digital games have been facing constant rebuke for allegedly enhancing aggression amongst kids and developing a violent streak at an early stage. In a study by Anderson and Bushman (2001), Children involved in violent video games are more likely to have increased aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and decreased prosocial helping. Use of weapons and being rewarded for being violent is a cause of widespread concern.
Digital games can be addictive for children and make them physically inactive. Digital games, other than social networking, are considered for reduced physical activity leading to obesity in kids and postural and skeletal disorders.
Addiction to games is also known to make kids socially secluded. Impulsive behavior, depression and increased anxiety levels are largely attributed to excessive gaming in children. Some studies also suggest that the children playing games are unable to concentrate for a long span and have reduced attention span.
Children are prone to absorbing socially unacceptable behavior through some digital games such as using profanities and ill-treating the fairer sex. Lack of adequate knowledge about screening the material available online is a growing concern amongst the parents.
Digital games are considered a hindrance to better performance in academics. Students are often found to skip homework to play games leading to deteriorated performance at school. However, despite their reputation as promoters of violence and mayhem, digital games have in fact been shown to help children learn skills, content, and vital “21st-century” skills. From digital games children can learn: content (from rich vocabulary to science to history), skills (from literacy to math to complex problem-solving), the creation of artifacts (from videos to software code) and systems thinking (how changing one element affects relationships as a whole). Strong arguments in favor of using digital games as learning aids in secondary education are summarized below:
Digital games involve extreme hand-eye coordination and enhance motor and sensory skills. Sensory stimulation theory proposed by academician Laird (1985) validates that effective learning occurs when the senses are stimulated. While some studies show that digital gaming reduces attention span, there is strong evidence of improved concentration in short intervals of time. Digital games involve keeping an eye on every detail, follow the rules and respond proactively to the given situation. Complex digital games help is developing problem-solving and decision-making skills. Some games also involve logical analysis of the situation and pattern recognition and improve memorizing thus assisting in the cognitive process. Playing by the rules teaches children to accept and respect a certain level of discipline.
Multi-player digital games develop a sense of constructive competitive attitude. Collaborative games also improve team-building attitude. They develop time management skills in a team and train the players to cooperate for the mutually desired goal. They teach the players to accept defeat as well as strive for better results. Digital games provide an avenue for hyperactive kids to direct the energy in a constructive system based game. They also provide an outlet to release aggression and frustration, thus helping in diffusing stress. Some games also involve physical activity such as Nintendo Wii boxing helping kids to engage mentally and physically with the kids. Complex digital games involve the high level of multitasking thus improving brain’s natural learning process. Brain-based learning theory proposes that multi-tasking is an inherent activity of the brain and learning is enhanced by challenges at various levels. Digital games develop efficient situational analysis and strategy making in children. Since games have certain objectives at every level and a final objective of the game, it teaches players to devise short-term and long-term strategies such as scoring points, retaining energy and reaching the ultimate goal of the game. Simulation games and the role-playing digital games help players gain expertise or learn by experiencing in replicas of real world situations. Experiential learning and action learning theories are based on the premise that individuals learn faster when they by experiencing and actually participating in the action.
“Games require the kind of thinking that we need in the 21st Century because they use actual learning as the basis for assessment. They test not only current knowledge and skills but also preparation for future learning. They measure 21st-century skills like collaboration, innovation, production, and design by tracking many different kinds of information about a student, over time. ”
German Games for Kids
The games listed under are bound to bring in insane amounts of raucous laughter and squealing contests, of that you can be sure. But, my goodness, the kids will have so, so much fun.
Hit the Pot
This traditional game goes by the name Topfschlagen. A small pot containing chocolates is placed on the floor. A kid is chosen (via chips) and is blindfolded. He is then handed a stick and placed in the center of the room. The objective of the game is to crawl on the floor, and using the stick, find and hit the pot. Once the kid has found the pot, he can claim the contents of the same as his own. The game can be continued to be played by re-filling the pot and having others have a go at it.
This popular German game by the name Schokoladenessen is a rather fast-paced activity. As the name suggests, it does involve eating chocolates, but the way in which it is carried through is where the fun lies. A group of kids sit around a table―it has to be ensured that all the kids fit around the table. A chocolate bar is wrapped in several layers of newspapers, secured with a ribbon, and placed in the center of the table, along with other items that include a hat, scarf, mittens, fork, knife, and a dice.
The kid to roll the first round of dice is picked via hits, and he/she aims to get a 6. When a 6 is rolled, the kid has to wear the scarf, mittens, and hat and start unwrapping the layers of newspapers to get at the bar. Once he/she has reached the chocolate bar, he/she has to use the knife and fork and start eating the chocolate. While all this is happening, the other kids around the table have to continue rolling the dice in a counterclockwise motion. When any of the kids rolls a 6, he/she take over from the first kid (including donning the scarf et all) and starts eating the chocolate. The game continues till the bar is over. To make this already fast-paced game all the more interesting, you can set up teams across 3-4 tables and time them. Then give away first, second, third, and consolation prizes.
The Number Game
In German, it’s called the ‘Ein, Zwei, Drei … Halt!’ (1, 2, 3… Halt!) game. A person who has tagged ‘it’ stands at a distance backing the others. Then he/she says ‘Ein, Zwei, Drei … in which time the kids have to run towards him. When he says ‘Halt’, he turns around and all the kids have to stop in the statue mode―they aren’t to move at all. If ‘it’ finds any of them moving, they’re out. The game continues till either all have been dismissed or one of the kids crosses the finish line.
This German game is called ‘Sardine’. A kid is chosen to hide while the others have to find him. They have to count, up to 30, in which time the kid hides. When anyone finds the kid, they have to hide with him. One by one the others join the first kid in the hiding place. This continues till the last one finds the hiding place. It’s a whole lot of fun if it is combined with dim lights so that the hide and seek game becomes even more challenging.
The Cat and Mouse
In Germany, this game is called ‘Katz (cat) and Maus'(mouse). Here, one of the players is the cat while the other the mouse, and the rest form a circle. The objective is that the cat has to catch the mouse. The mouse can run anywhere―into and out of the circle. There is an added element of fun introduced because the circle sometimes allows the mouse to enter and at other times blocks him. When the mouse is caught, there are chits drawn to decide who the next cat and mouse will be.
Packing a Suitcase
This game is known as Koffer packed in German. Get the kids to sit in a circle. The first kid starts by saying―I packed a suitcase and I put a muffler in it’. The next kid continues with―I packed a suitcase and I put a muffler and a shirt in it’. This continues with each kid repeating the previous items on the list and adding one of his own. Those who mess the sequence or omit any item are disqualified and the game continues till there is one kid remaining, he is declared the winner.
Traditional German Drinking Games
Beer and Germany are quite synonymous. And there is the concept of beer boots that is very popular in Germany. Beer boots are exactly how they sound―the glasses are in the shape of boots. Here are some traditional games that you can enjoy with this concept in mind and a few others without.
Beer Boot Pass
A very, very popular game played in Germany is the beer boot pass (Bier Boot). It is usually played to pin the next round of beers on a person. In this, a beer glass is filled to the brim and passed around in the group―there are some rules for this―it has to be tipped every time before it is passed and not a drop of beer must be spilled. The objective of the game is that the second-to-last person who finishes the beer must pay for the next round (or do an errand). The game then becomes all about judgment because either you drink the entire beer or have a sip and pass it on. You never know who the second to last person will be, so the suspense and excitement are quite rife.
This is a traditional game that is extremely popular in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, more popularly referred to as Kastenlauf. The game is similar to running a race, where a route is marked, ranging from anywhere between 5-12 km. Each participant brings a crate of beer (the size and quantity will be specified). The objective of the game is to finish the entire crate of beer before getting to the finish line. The first person who successfully completes this feat wins.
This outdoor game is played with one team being pitted against another, with equal numbers in both. The objective of the game is for the teams to finish all their beers. The teams stand on opposite sides of the ground in a file, with their beers lined before them. An empty bottle (filled with water so that it does not tumble with the wind) or a tin can is placed in the center and another object (used as an aim) is brought in, something like a tennis ball. Chips are drawn to determine which team will go first. The first team (A) hits the ball onto the target to tumble it. Once the bottle has tumbled, team A will start drinking their beers. Meanwhile, team B must run to the center, place the bottle upright, find the ball, and cross back into the line before yelling ‘Stop’. Team A then stops drinking and team B commences to throw the ball at the bottle and carrying forward the game. The game continues till one team has finished all their beer and they are declared winners.
One can make things a little harder by introducing rules in the game, like, if a team does not manage to hit the target in the first go, they have to forfeit the round or no team member can hit the target twice.
Divide the group into two teams and get them to stand in a line with beer boots placed in front of each member. At the blow of the whistle, the first person lifts the glass and starts drinking the beer. After he is done, he has to turn the glass over to show that there is no more beer in the glass. Then, the next person starts drinking and so on. The next in line can only drink when the first person has emptied his glass. The team whose last member empties the glass ahead of others wins.
Herman the German
Even though this game seems simple, it is a lot of fun because of the antics that being drunk makes you do. It runs on the lines of ‘Who stole the cookie’. A person is chosen as ‘Herman the German’ (HTG) and he has to get the game running. The other members sit in a random manner and are given names, better if they are confusing names like China Port No.1, Rum Master Blaster, Roundy Dundy etc. The game starts with HTG saying―”HTG dropped a missile on China Port No. 1, sir’ and China Port No. 1 has to reply with―”It wasn’t me, sir”. Then HTG replies―”Who then, sir” and it goes on. The sentence has to end with ‘sir’ and if it doesn’t, then the player has to down a shot or a beer boot. Similarly, if at any point the player’s fumble, they have to do the same. The tension makes the players forget things and there’s a whole lot of beer flowing as a result.
With these games, there’s not a single party that won’t be just bursting with fun and enthusiasm. That’s for sure. So choose a good one and get that German-themed party rolling.