Ramiro Velazquez and Agustin Patino, who just passed the sixth grade in school Benito Nazar, in the city of Buenos Aires, talk about fractions and immune system with an unusual enthusiasm. Not that these children are fans of science, but in recent months they learned mathematics to overcome the obstacles preventing them from leaving huge virtual pyramids. Meanwhile, Augustine had to work hard as platelet, healing the wounds of a digital persona to prevent being infected, while his teammates met other roles, for example, the microbe.
To complement the classes of some subjects in some schools of Argentina and the rest of the world use the video game Minecraft, created by Mojang Norwegian firm. This title in first person gives the player complete freedom to explore, build and destroy virtual worlds.
It is similar to traditional Lego, but in video game format for PC, consoles and mobile devices. Due to its characteristics, but it is a fun product origin, can be applied as a pedagogical tool for teaching on issues such as environment, biology and urban planning.
Of course, the dynamics of a class of games is different compared to the traditional. “When we started working with Minecraft was difficult to prevent children do different to what they had been asked, they are lost, they do not follow the instructions or complete self playing things. Why we work with the version MinecraftEdu that allows teachers to silence or paralyze students, transporting them to where they will give the lesson (in the game world) and send them messages, “says Melania Ottaviano, graduated in psychology who works as coordinator the informatics area primary and Nazar secondary school initial level.
Beyond the knowledge acquired by children, Ottaviano noted that since students use the Minecraft aspects linked to improved teamwork and listen to each other, because when this game used must achieve group goals and coordinate tasks to be performed to through the game chat. “For example, this year the seventh graders had to build a house with a tree, and from it cultivated other to build a house for 10 people. Thus, while some boys were doomed to construction, other had to explore the scene to find the water needed to water them. Moreover, in fourth grade so that students use to develop an ecosystem to live this way, children had to divide the work cultivated a garden and raised animals other for shelter” said Ottaviano.
To implement this game as an educational tool in Nazar School resorted to the help of gamers Nicholas Bernardo and Mallaina Chiari that in addition to training teachers, created universes within Minecraft according to the pedagogical goals. “Teachers showed great enthusiasm to incorporate this system in addition to the classes. Here, the songs are previously explained by the teacher. Then research and study children until a later stage put knowledge into practice in the PC” says Ottaviano, “With this system you learn more because you are very motivated, because for the next level and reach the goal within the game you have to apply what you learned”.
The playful titles to incorporate in the school for educational purposes are different. Another case Sandbox (www.thesandboxgame.com), which is a commercial video game by its characteristic open-world experimentation, is used by teachers with their students. “The game has a resolution of 120 x 80 pixels for processing a technical limitation and this feature allows systems created on it are understandable at first glance, identifiable, easily replicable and adaptable. However this limitation is also a challenge, which is to make interesting interactive works in a small space”, says Guillermo Averbuj, participating in this development as Game Designer.
He explains that the title, which is available for Apple devices, Android, BlackBerry 10 and the Mac computer, has 170 elements that react in a particular way when in contact with each other. Basically, these elements are classified in minerals and elements of nature; devices (sensors of various types, lights, explosives conveyor cables, laser, pipes, etc.); decorative (wonders of the world, dinosaurs, vehicles, trees); thinking (humans with different jobs that complement, robots, zombies, viruses, aliens, some animals, bugs) and musical instruments.
“Sandbox allows kids to create almost anything they want from experimentation. Currently there are over 400,000 shared by player’s world. In the level of education they are using it in the Arnold Gesell Institute of the Adolfo Sourdeaux city, in the province of Buenos Aires, in second, third and fourth year of secondary school students”, says Averbuj. With regard to training, the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Palermo teaches a 4 week course called GAME, so that teachers have the secondary level with alternative tools to teach basic math concepts.
“Teachers learn to use Geogebra program, a free and open application to develop similar to the popular Candy Crush games. Based on these videogames can teach in an entertaining and engaging way, while students discover the role that mathematics in a particular application, such as developing a little game. Undoubtedly, this is also a way to promote the vocation of young people studying technology careers”, says Uriel Cukierman, dean of the Faculty of Engineering of the UP.