It made them think about how to achieve their goal of winning the game, but I digress.
I'm an elementary school teacher and a gamer. My students know I'm a gamer because I drop references in class all the time. I also tell them, “You can get a job making video games. No, really, you can.”
I've only used video games as rewards for good behavior. I'll fire up my old Xbox and GameCube and the students, especially the boys, love it. In my second year teaching 5th grade, I decided to use the original Day of Defeat as an after-school reward for a group of 5th grade students. I didn't want them shooting at each other, so I set them against the lowest level bots in the control point/flag levels.
They each sat silently at their computer and got slaughtered by the bots. Game after game, I encouraged them to work together and talk to each other. Still, each student behaved as though he or she (there were a couple of girls) could win the game as a lone ranger. Finally, after three days of not controlling the first flag for more than a minute or so, one boy started to tell the others what he planned to do.
Within 10 minutes, all the kids were talking. And by the end of the hour, the students were cheering every time they beat the bots. It was actually quite wonderful to see the evolution of their teamwork, communication, and strategy. They were engaged, thinking, talking, and listening.
Right now, effective and engaging games that assist learning do not exist. I'd like to see educational games activate students' communication and planning skills (like Day of Defeat did with my students) and give students information relevant to their grade-level content standards. I applied for and received access to the Teach with Portals beta. I can't wait to get to school and see if I can use it to engage my students.
All that Day of Defeat teamwork ended when I had to move to a lower grade. Now I'm teaching 4th grade. I've got a DRM-free copy of Unreal Tournament '04 and a lab full of computers. Once I turn off the gore and the cursing, I'm going to throw some students into Onslaught mode and watch what blooms.