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The Oregon Trail

Video games and education have had a complex relationship, and I asked the Bitmob community to write about them for last month’s Bitmob Writing Challenge. These five entries cover a range of topics such as the true success of a classic “edutainment” title, what we can learn from playing puzzle games, what kids can learn from playing first-person shooters, and more. While you won’t be quizzed on these stories, they are still required reading.

The Oregon Trail and educational video games done right
By Nathanial Dziomba

The Oregon Trail had a lot more foresight than I realized. As Nathanial writes, the champion of middle-school computer labs stands above its contemporaries by giving the player little information about what you should do or the best way to reach the end. This way, students understand the hard decisions and unforeseen consequences that the real-life travelers had to make.

Shooting bots helped my students think
By Jim Campbell

I write about video games and regularly play titles about two people beating the crud out of each other, but even I get squeamish about the idea of schoolkids playing first-person shooters. Jim, an elementary-school teacher, doesn’t agree with the notion as he allowed a group of students a chance to play the T-rated Day of Defeat after class. By only allowing students to play against AI opponents, he was able to teach them about teamwork and communication.


Professor Layton can teach us logic
By Edward Varnell

Edward demonstrates how the puzzle genre is an example of how games make learning fun. The Professor Layton series requires using logic, math, and other mind-bending skills, and similar titles like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney have succeeded in both promoting critical thinking and being entertaining for all ages.

Bill Gates and Salman Khan

Are video games really ruining men?
By Steven Sukkau

Steven’s piece centers on the CNN article 'The Demise of Guys': How video games and porn are ruining a generation by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, mastermind of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and Nikita Duncan. While the op-ed is guilty of highlighting extreme examples of violence and addiction instead of using statistics from the e-book it promotes, Steven does have a point when it comes to the charge that men are not performing as well in class because of games. If video games really are re-wiring how our brains work, then why are we demonizing the medium instead of changing our teaching methods to complement it?

The Logo drawing program brought me closer to my soulmate
By Jonathon Oyama

Finally, Jonathon treats us to a tale of third-grade bonding over an Apple II computer. The Logo software had a less-than-elegant interface that taught basic programming through trial and error. The memory of the girl he learned the program with lingers on to this day.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this prompt, and please be sure to check out this month’s intro-writing challenge. Before you post your next article, try writing five different openings and pick the one that’s best.