Panel examines gaming and education

Apr. 24, 2014 @ 09:40 PM

What about possible negative effects of using serious games to educate children, such as sparking violence in schools?

That was one of the questions asked Thursday at a panel discussion focused on serious games that was held as part of the two-day East Coast Game Conference at the Raleigh Convention Center.
The panel included former Gov. Beverly Perdue, who founded of a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating digital learning called DigiLearn. It also included a strategist for IBM Corp.’s Serious Games and Gamification group and an assistant professor of computer science at N.C. State University.
Pat Stevenson, a parent of two and the president of Pervisim, a three-dimensional graphics company, said he’s optimistic about serious games, but also had concerns about negative aspects of some games that he might not want his children to learn.
“Recently within the last few years we’ve seen what has happened at some of our schools with the kids who have grown up with (violence in video games) they go in and terrorize the school in some form or fashion,” Stevenson said. “You have to be concerned about what they are learning. Lots of D.C. politicians left and right (say) games are bad, the violence is too much.”
Perdue said she thinks serious games and entertainment games should be in separate categories. She spoke positively about “well-thought-out cognitively rich academic learning games” that are not entertainment. 
Another member of the panel, Tim Farley, the superintendent of Granville County Schools, said he can see serious games in which students get to experience Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” or the Bible through a game.
“I think that’s sort of the future,” he said.
Duke University’s Elizabeth Evans told the panel that she worries about accessibility in games for the blind, deaf and disabled, although she said she’s committed to the use of games in education, especially in higher education.
In response, David Roberts, an assistant professor in N.C. State University’s computer science department, said there are other ways of thinking about serious games. He pointed to a Pender County Schools teacher who used the “World of Warcraft” as a teaching tool to help get students excited about education.