In her research article titled “Defragging Computer/Videogame Implementation and Assessment in the Social Studies”, Holly McBride explores the role that computers and videogames have been playing in helping social studies educators to develop more effective and engaging lesson plans. McBride’s main goal is to determine how computer / videogames can be implemented in today’s social studies classrooms, and how educators can evaluate their students before, while and after playing videogames both in online and offline educational contexts.
Before investigating her chosen research topic, McBride mentions a number of previous studies concerning the popularity and instructive power of gameplay. After comparing and reviewing various perspectives, she concludes that gameplay “places players into unfamiliar situations where they analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and apply information” that enables them to achieve specific objectives (McBride 132). As a result of young people’s growing tendency to use computer and videogames rather than other types of media, in 2011 the overall value of the gaming industry reached $25 billion (Entertainment Software Association).
Being computer and videogames so popular, it is no surprise that academic institutions and educators have decided to exploit them in order to enhance students’ ability to work in dynamic environments, think critically, solve problems, cooperate with others and adapt to new situations (McBride 133). With regards to the implementation of computer and videogames in social studies classrooms, McBride (133) observes that there exist many different types of games, each of which stimulates specific experiences. Analyzing the numerous ways in which computer and videogames can assist social studies educators in achieving their educational goals, McBride (133) states that “According to Annetta (2008), educational computer/video games increase student motivation, engagement, and interest levels in their courses”.
Moreover, it has been found that educators who use computer and videogames as part of their lessons find it easier to interest and engage less active students (McBride 133). Besides maximizing learners’ cognitive abilities, videogames can also boost their confidence by providing them with “constant small doses of success” (Shute 507). As far as concentration is concerned, players are often capable of staying focused for several hours in a row, which clearly suggests that computer and videogames can have a positive impact on students’ ability to concentrate and pay attention to their lessons (McBride 134).
After discussing the benefits of implementing computer and videogames in social studies classrooms, McBride (135) explores possible ways of assessing students. According to some, assessments should not interfere with students’ gaming; others believe that assessments should occur during gameplay (McBride 135). These diverse perspectives encourage McBride (135) to conclude that there does not exist a universally-accepted way of assessing students; in this regard, she states that “how a teacher wishes to structure their assessment before, during, and after gameplay is ultimately their choice” (McBride 135).
In order to evaluate the impact of computer and videogames on students’ understanding of the topics being taught in class, educators may choose to assess their existing knowledge and learning needs before they start playing; another assessment can be carried out after gameplay to determine whether and the extent to which the gaming experience has actually contributed to their knowledge (McBride 136). McBride (136) concludes her study by stating that teachers’ diverse philosophies, methods and viewpoints are likely to result in different approaches to integrating videogames in their lesson plans. That being said, she believes that gameplay represents an effective additional educational tool (McBride 136).
What makes McBride’s article very interesting and useful is the fact that it explores a widespread phenomenon, i.e. gaming, from a fresh perspective. By showing educators how computer and videogames can be implemented in social studies classrooms, she highlights the practical benefits of an activity that many see as a dangerous waste of time.