What Online Gaming Can Teach Us about the Value of Online School
Can online gaming be educational?
This is the question that Lewis Tachau, a 13-year-old homeschooled student, asks in a speech for TEDxStudioCityED. Through online gaming, Lewis has learned new subject matter, socialized with friends, and developed the ability to balance his responsibilities.
The surprising thing about Lewis’ speech is that he contradicts a few common assumptions about online gaming:
- You don’t learn anything
- Kids end up spending too much time on the computer, neglecting other areas of their lives, including spending time with friends
These misconceptions also apply to another important topic—online education. Many people wonder how much online students really learn at the computer instead of in a classroom. They also fear that taking their child out of a traditional brick-and-mortar setting will drastically reduce his or her social interactions. But as with Lewis’ experiences in online gaming, online schools offer a variety of very effective learning opportunities and social experiences.
Online gaming, like online education, can give students greater access to socialization through voice chat, instant messaging, and more. Lewis particularly values spending time with his friends through online gaming because he is a homeschooled student.
“Each time I log on, I hope to see my friend, another homeschooler, who lives in North Carolina. Each time we see each other online, we join up, play together, and have some genuine fun,” says Lewis. “Sitting down to this game is an experience of community that unites people across state boundaries. My personality, interests, and thoughts are connected with everyone else’s, and all I have to do is log on.”
If Lewis were an online student, he would enjoy these kinds of technology-facilitated interactions in the virtual classroom, as well as spending time with his peers through online clubs, activities, and even in-person field trips coordinated by his online school.
Communication and Collaboration
Playing the multiplayer, historical World of Tanks game requires strategy, and strategy requires good communication and cooperation with other gamers. Although Lewis and his online friends can’t communicate face-to-face, they can communicate easily through online channels.
Online communication might have a bad reputation for being isolating, but in reality online communication simply offers access to a greater variety of communication channels that are both effective and convenient. Lewis can call, email, or chat with his online gamer friends, and online students can use the same methods to stay in touch with their teachers. Keep in mind that using different communication channels doesn’t mean that people interact less than they normally would.
Additionally, many of these online communication and collaboration skills are vital to success in the 21st-century workforce, so these students are developing critical skills.
Self-regulation and Co-regulation
Picking up the terms “self-regulation” and “co-regulation” from his psychologist mother, Lewis discusses how online gaming requires impulse control—without it, he’d neglect his responsibilities and get in trouble with his parents. By learning how to juggle online gaming with cleaning the litter box and other chores, Lewis has learned to self-regulate, and his family co-regulates his responsibilities by giving him reminders. No doubt, learning to self-regulate has also helped Lewis balance his homeschool lessons with the lessons he learns from World of Tanks.
As a homeschooled student, Lewis has probably experienced the same flexibility that online students enjoy. Although online students must self-regulate to be successful, the reward is that they often have more time and flexibility to tackle a wide variety of interests and responsibilities, including sports and other hobbies.
TED, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design,” is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “Ideas Worth Spreading.” While TED hosts their own speakers through TEDTalks, Lewis’ talk was part of TEDxTalks, a program of local TED events that are independently organized by participating communities.
For a firsthand look at Lewis’ talk about online gaming, watch the full video.
TED also hosts TEDxYouthDay, which took place this year on November 17th and 18th. The theme of this year’s TEDxYouthDay was “Dream big… then do it!” and young speakers from across the world streamed their speeches, activities, and demonstrations live throughout the weekend. For example, Avi Stein, a student at Commonwealth Connections Academy, spoke about permaculture at the TEDxYouth@CampHill event.
How is technology, whether it’s online gaming or online education, helping your student develop in the areas of socialization, collaboration, and time management? Share your experiences in the comments below.