_Binary Blackboards

Video games aren’t just for recreation; when brought into the classroom they can help students discover their destiny.

_Aroutis N. Foster

Foster is an assistant professor of learning technologies in the School of Education.

How do kids learn about what they might want to be? About what they might expect to do? How do they put on different hats and try out different roles to see possibilities of a future self without worrying that they’re going to fail?

Through something they’ve been doing outside the classroom for centuries: gaming.

School of Education Associate Professor Aroutis Foster wants to bring games into the classroom, and show teachers how to make them work systematically.

“Teachers are able to use those same things kids are already interested in and capture their interest in things they wouldn’t otherwise think about,” he says. This can be especially powerful in introducing students to careers in STEM, he adds, especially for students who don’t have role models showing them otherwise.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, Foster, along with then-graduate student Mamta Shah ’15, assessed teacher knowledge on using game-based technology in the classroom, and found it’s not a style regularly taught in education courses. “In a classroom,” Foster explains, “teachers can’t afford the luxury of trial and error when their jobs are at stake.”

He saw the need to give teachers preparation with systematic ways to teach with games and other immersive digital environments.

Foster developed a model by working with in-service teachers and students — over the course of a year at a high school and during another six months at a middle school — to study teaching game analysis, game integration and ecological conditions impacting game use in schools. He also tested the model with 14 pre-service teachers at Drexel. The resulting model supports a systematic process for designing games and teaching with games.

His research has shown that using games in the classroom can trigger identity exploration and self-relevance in a safe environment.

“Kids have a sense of learning in schools that failure means ‘I’m in big trouble.’ Games provide a safe space where you can fail and try again,” he says.