I realize this is a bit late, but here’s the second half of the interview with Daniel about the place of video games in school. Interesting young man! Looking forward to seeing what he decides to do next!
What advice would you give to other students who want their teachers to start using Portal 2 or other video games?
Make sure you know ahead of time what you want to say to your teacher and the tech department. When you go talk to them, try to have a demonstration ready if you have one or both of the games on your laptop. If you don’t have them, then you can always pull up some of the demonstration videos on this blog and show them the Teach With Portals website; you can also go to the Universe Sandbox website to show them the screenshots and videos there.
I’ve already talked about a lot of the advantages of using these programs in the first part of this interview, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but the most important thing is that these programs will allow the teacher to easily demonstrate concepts that could not be replicated on something like a blackboard, and the students will receive the benefit of dynamic, interactive examples that actually display the things they’re learning. Having your teacher tell you that the planets would all move in lines tangential to their orbits if the Sun disappeared is one thing; having your teacher open a 3D simulation of the Solar System and actually show you what would happen if he or she simply ‘deleted’ the Sun is something else altogether. There’s simply no comparison.
Now, remember that there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll have to do a lot of work here. Even if your teacher and IT department are fine with your idea, they probably won’t have the time to do all of the testing and setup. So when you’re talking to your teacher and the tech department, be sure to emphasize that you are willing to help with the installation. Once you’ve got the firewall set up and you know the programs are working as intended, installing the programs on the computers will be a relatively straightforward process.
And remember: if you get stuck, there are always people who will be willing to help you! I’ll leave my email address at the end of this post, and you are absolutely welcome to contact me if you have any questions or need any help. I might not be able to visit you in person (unless your school is very close to mine), but I can do quite a lot of research and testing remotely.
Should people care about video games in education? If so, why?
Absolutely! Video games are, of course, intended to be fun, but they can also have educational benefits. And one of the reasons that games such as Portal 2 and Universe Sandbox 2 can be more effective teaching tools than dedicated educational programs and simulations is that they make things interesting, and they make learning fun. One of the biggest challenges for teachers (especially high school teachers) is simply getting students to care about the material. Sure, there’s the fact that some material just isn’t at all interesting, but in many cases, the problem is the way in which that material is being taught. Something like Portal 2 or Universe Sandbox 2 will allow teachers to solve this problem due to the simple fact that students will be having fun. Video games have the potential to make a massive difference in our educational system; all they need are a little push from students and teachers alike.
What are your career goals?
I’m a high school senior now, so I’ve still got a bit of time ahead of me to work everything out. My interests are, of course, technology and science, and I also like engineering quite a lot. I could see myself in a whole range of careers, although I must confess that I do have a certain love for Valve’s rolling desks!
I can be contacted at dverlaque14(at)students(dot)hopkins(dot)edu with any questions, comments, requests for help, etc..