Teachers use games with school students because of their value for engaging learners and lecturers use games and simulations with tertiary students in order to assist understanding concepts and causality. However, the place of digital games in education and learning attracts scarce research even though many of the educational digital resources developed for Australian school students have been produced in a games format as learning objects.
Even though games have universal appeal as entertainment, the question arises as to the extent of games usage in education. A recent report Digital Australia 12, prepared by Bond University for the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, provides an excellent context for discussing the use of games in education. Digital Australia 12 reports on a survey about the use of games in 1252 Australian households and the views of the ‘3533 women, men, girls and boys in them’ (p. 5).
There is probably no surprise in reading that most Australian households have computers (98%), TVs, mobile phones and print media but it is surprising that 95% of Australian homes have a device for playing games. The devices used to play games include PCs (62%), game consoles (63%) including handheld consoles (13%), mobile phones (43%) and tablet computers (13%). Male (53%) gamers have a higher proportion of usage than females (47%) although from 2005 to 2011 there has been an almost 10% increase in females playing digital games. ‘Most gamers [75%] are 18 years or older’ although ‘94% aged 6 to 15 are gamers’ (p. 8).
The most oft used reasons for playing digital games are fun and entertainment but also for helping to pass the time (p. 11). Most gamers play digital games almost daily and 70% enjoy playing games with others (p. 12). Parents always or most often are present when games are bought for their children. Parents play games to spend time with their children and state that they play games with their children for educational purposes (p. 13).
Parents also state that they think children learn much from games including about technology, science, maths, planning, language, other people, life and society (p. 15). ‘Parents are generally more positive than non-parents about the benefits of computer and video games for children. They are more attuned to the social and life-skills that games may impart’ (p. 15).
In an industry forecast by 2015 to be valued at $2.5 billion in Australia and $90.1 billion globally (p. 19), in which most children and adults engage with the products, it is not unreasonable to argue that digital games may be an important influence on student attitudes. There is a need for research in education to understand the impact of digital games in education, and the influence that they may have on learning and the formation of attitudes towards trust and online behaviour.
Digital Australia 12 provides information complete with graphics and diagrams for easy skimming. However, the extent of digital games use revealed in the report may cause educators and researchers to more deeply explore the effects of digital games on learning and interactions.
Gerry White is Principal Research Fellow: Teaching & Learning using Digital Technologies, Australian Council for Educational Research
This article was first published on the Digital Education Research Network (DERN)
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