Teaching Games: Faculty member promotes using gaming, technology

August 16, 2012

When representatives from the technology company Apple visited Megan Farnsworth's school in June, the Indiana State University graduate student was excited when she realized she knew what they were teaching.

Just weeks earlier, Farnsworth likely would've been meandering the digital wilderness trying to navigate a non-PowerPoint computer program.

Farnsworth, who is enrolled in the instructional technology and library media master's program at Indiana State, learned about a variety of computer programs and technology in a course taught by Yadi Ziaeehezarjeribi, a faculty member in the department of curriculum, instruction and media technology. Before she enrolled in classes at ISU, Farnsworth was unaware of many different programs she could use as a school librarian for grades ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade. After the class taught by Ziaeehezarjeribi, her familiarity with technology, which includes the Internet digital world Second Life, left several of her colleagues "ready to fall over."

"They were just surprised that I knew some of the things they were discovering," Farnsworth said of the training session. "They think I could help them with some of the technology in the classroom this fall."

While Ziaeehezarjeribi uses a wide variety of technologies in his coursework, his interest in the evolving digital instruction field extends beyond that. In his research, he focuses on how video games help students develop, and the lessons that gaming enthusiasts can learn.

"Video gaming has this storyline, and it has sets of levels that creates competition and also allows students to become more socially oriented and have dialogue and discussion among themselves," he said. "We are trying to build a bridge between what video games teach us and how a student can apply them to their teaching and learning environment."

He has approached gaming technology in several ways. He co-wrote a book chapter in 2010 that analyzed the advantages and challenges of incorporating commercial off the shelf video games into classroom curriculum. He cited the example of using the game Sonic the Hedgehog to help teach students to write, as they studied the game's storyline and consequences that occur through the game.

"All gaming may not be suited for educational purposes," Ziaeehezarjeribi said, "but what we find is that games can teach certain activities, allow students to interact, and become full participants in their environment, and propel students toward inquiry and discovery through appropriate level of challenges."

He also has introduced students to Second Life, a three-dimensional virtual world on the Internet where people create avatars and interact in a variety of ways. People can even engage in commercial enterprises in Second Life.

Ziaeehezarjeribi has used Second Life in his summer courses. He schedules a time and a particular location in Second Life for students to meet and discuss class projects and share their innovative ideas with other students. Once there, students can see their classmates' avatars and either talk to each other or communicate via instant messaging.

"Rural areas may not have access to high-quality interactive media of learning facilities within their community," Ziaeehezarjeribi said. "Second Life is a great way to invite a diverse group of learners who don't normally have access to classrooms or have difficulty traveling, and I think it becomes a 21st century learning environment."

He said people with disabilities can use technology and sites such as Second Life, simulations, tablet computers, mobile technology, and nano technology to interact with others. These technologies provide teachers with creative tools for enhancing student-centered learning for both online and in the classroom. Such platforms are becoming more accepted by educators and students, as gaming becomes more common, he said.

"We have to also change our way of teaching our students so they can become well-skilled individuals who can then transfer their knowledge and skills to their new learning environments or future job market," he added. "The whole idea is we want to expose our students to as many of elements of the new literacies" as we can.

He has continued to do research on the ways in which gaming can provide benefits. When players make mistakes while playing video games, they often just start over, without criticism they may receive in a more public setting, Ziaeehezarjeribi noted.

This fall at the International Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) conference in Louisville, Ky., he will present two emerging theoretical pieces a co-developed: a teaching model called the CAIR model, and Video Games as Social Tools for Teaching and Learning, which "allows students to go one step at a time by ‘leveling up' instead of overwhelming students with sets of actions that they cannot accomplish."

"What we are trying to do is make sure our students are prepared and build their confidence using collaborative skills, and that they are able to transfer their knowledge and skills to their future endeavor in a global economy," he said.

Contact: Yadi Ziaeehezarjeribi, faculty member, department of curriculum, instruction and media technology, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-2957 or yadi-z@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu