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On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, games are serious matters -- especially the ones that are curriculum-friendly, standards-based, and keep students engaged and coming back for more.
Handheld devices and small gaming consoles are often affordable and packed with features, such as audio and video recording, that are begging to find a use in the classroom. Another huge advantage: They already throne on top of many students' wish lists, so imagine their excitement when they get to play -- or rather learn -- with games in class.
The following are a few applications and ideas found in European schools.
The Longwill School for the Deaf Children in Birmingham, England, brought in PlayStation Portables -- known as PSPs -- to help its young students navigate the complexities of learning American Sign Language and British Sign Language simultaneously.
The mini gaming consoles with built-in video capabilities act as visual bridges between the classroom and the students' families. Originally introduced to the classroom so students could record lessons for their hearing siblings, the PSPs have since found many more uses.
Students can record videos of fieldtrips and share their discoveries with their family. Parents can send video messages to teachers, asking for clarification for a new sign the student is learning. They can also film their child's extracurricular activities, providing a great launching point for in-class discussion and learning new vocabulary.
In addition, students can record their signing homework via the device. Their work is then projected onto interactive whiteboards and shown to the rest of the class.
Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), a government-funded organization dedicated to the advancement of Scottish education, created the Consolarium -- a place where teachers and educators can test-drive educational games in a focused environment.
The Consolarium is equipped with the latest in gaming consoles and computer games -- including Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360 live and Nintendo Wii -- as well as with peripherals, such as mats and guitars.
According to the LTS Web site, the Consolarium's purpose is also to "provide an opportunity for teachers and educators to engage with the debate about the place of such technology in their class, school or local authority; and develop relationships with academic and industry partners to extend and refine effective and innovative practice with computer games."
In most cases, video games are created with the foremost goal of entertaining. That means teachers or educators must adapt the games to fit within standards-based curriculum. What if, however, games were specifically designed with the standards in mind? In England, that is now the case.
BUZZ! The Schools Quiz, whose development was funded by the government, features 5,000 questions based on the "Key Stage 2" area of the national curriculum. Key Stage 2 drives educational standards for children ages 7 to 11.
The game is designed for PlayStation 2 consoles and works in conjunction with four buzzers.
The subjects covered include English, math, foreign languages and much more.
*This story is from Converge magazine's Winter 2009 issue.
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