PARKERSBURG - Area educators are using electronic games both as a teaching tool and as a source of motivation for students.
Judy Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction for Wood County Schools, said educators are using more and more technology in classrooms, including video games, to better engage students academically.
"One of our focus points in raising student engagement," she said. "Children today are used to technology at home. That is what draws them in. We need to be on the cutting edge in making sure our children have those experiences."
Emerson Elementary School third-graders, from left, Devin Lusk, Ryan Atkison, Alexis Balestire and Alivia Gray use iPads during a collaborative lesson Thursday at the school. Educators are using more and more technology in classrooms, including video games, to better engage students academically. (Photo by Michael Erb)
Emerson Elementary School fifth-graders Haleigh Knox, left, and Alexis Schreckengost play educational games on school computers Thursday. Educators are using video and online games as both teaching tools and as incentives for struggling students. (Photo by Michael Erb)
Johnson said as schools compete for the attention of students with the Internet, social media, video games and other forms of entertainment, they must also use those things as incentives and opportunities for learning.
"Children enjoy playing games, and when they learn as they play, they have that incentive to continue," she said.
Penny Coleman, principal at Emerson Elementary School, said teachers make extensive use of technology, including electronic and online games.
"One thing I felt strongly about, the activities are not just for fun," she said. "Everything on there should be used as a tool to support what is going on in the classroom."
For example, students can play the online game "Study Island," which quizzes them on different topics based upon their grade level. Correct answers earn the student mini-games, which also involve areas of math, reading, science and social studies.
Fifth-grader Alexis Schreckengost said she enjoys the online program not only because it is fun, but because it sometimes covers information not presented in the classroom.
"You can learn about stuff that you didn't get in class, but it might be on the WESTEST," she said. "Sometimes you can pick what you want to study."
Other programs, such as "Math Facts in a Flash," allow students to unlock mini games by completing more and more complex equations. Coleman said literature programs help struggling students to improve their reading ability. By combining animation, read aloud software and mini-games, students are motivated to read, she said.
Emerson also has purchased iPad carts which allow students to use different education programs on iPads or even collaborate on projects. A teacher iPad can be linked to a smart board to demonstrate lessons in front of the class, and the cart itself acts as a wireless hot spot.
Some programs allow teachers to track student progress and to pinpoint weak areas. Coleman said classrooms can even use a buzz-in system where they can see in real time student answers for questions.
"You see right then and there who has it and who doesn't," she said. "The kids love it. They think they are playing a game."
Coleman said while an outsider might look at the games as a distraction or simply playtime, educators are increasingly pressured to find ways of engaging students in the classroom.
The students "are growing up on video games," she said. "Whether you like it or not, this is how the kids are going to be. We need to tap into that in order to keep them engaged."
"We are preparing children now for jobs that don't exist yet," Johnson said. "We have to prepare those children to be able to think strategically, to plan and problem solve in the workplace."