October 14, 2016 — My son begs me to play Pizza Parlor on Roblox. Occasionally, I give in, though the game fails to excite me like it does him. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the skills needed to play the game.
First, he coordinates play time with himself, his sister, and a friend at another house. We have been able to discuss phone etiquette, communication skills and computer skills.
He and his sister learn spelling and typing, as they use the game chat to decide on a game, and a world within that game. Without this coordination, they could end up playing on separate servers.
Then, inside the game, they play a complex, team building set of tasks. From taking orders, making pizzas, delivering pizzas and ordering pizza supplies, they each take a roll.
For the cashier’s role, they must read the customer’s order on a screen and choose an appropriate response from a list of four. Without carefully reading the choices, they could offend the customer and lose profits. They then follow the order into the kitchen, where they build the pizzas. Finally, another team member delivers the pizzas.
This experience caused me to wonder what other ways video games can be used in an educational setting, and I didn’t want to know about “educational tech” or “edutainment,” but off the shelf, popular games, as is discussed in the podcast, Ed Got Game.
Minecraft is the buzzword in educational gaming right now. It has caused an explosion in the “sandbox” style of games. It incorporates role playing, teamwork, coding and creativity in a never ending game. My children have constructed worlds from fiction books and complex machines. We have even discovered how to download worlds. They explored Arendelle and Jurassic Park.
Other games, though, hold the possibility to teach students important skills that many educators think can only happen in a world of classrooms and books.
First Person shooter games often have an element of history to them, that a parent or teacher could use as a springboard for important study. They also provide players with a platform that is both unique and familiar, which aids in developing a brain with strong problem solving skills.
Complex role playing games can lend themselves to avid fan fiction sites. Players invent backstories and plot lines to go along with their characters.
All these games have a solid presence online, and even young players could create a blog or vlog to share their knowledge with other players. This type of planning, even monetizing, of their work can show them not just the skills of writing, but the value in providing a quality product. They could compare various blogs out there and work to avoid the pitfalls and copy the successes.
Technology continues to grow in our culture. Doubtless, today’s children will need computer skills in nearly every profession, when they grow up. Attempting to limit their exposure puts them at a disadvantage in their prospective fields. Instead, they need a safe place to learn technical skills, for their success and, most importantly, their enjoyment.