Teach with video games, schools told

Edtech boss urges schools to replace traditional teaching methods because pupils today 'don't have the attention span'
25th July 2018, 12:07pm


Teach with video games, schools told


Today's young people should be taught using video games because they have "much lower attention spans" than in the past, an edtech boss has said.

Mohit Midha, the chief executive of Mangahigh, which develops maths games, said young people cannot focus for more than five minutes and that the traditional "instructional phase" in teaching is unnecessary. 

Explaining his theory, he said children can learn to play video games like FIFA football without first being taught how.

Mr Midha co-founded Mangahigh with one of the men who set up the company that invented the Candy Crush Saga video game. 

Speaking at a debate on artificial intelligence and education organised by the charity Nesta, Mr Midha claimed that "people are obsessed with video games" but are "totally out of love" with "traditional forms of instruction" involving "pen and paper".

When it came to using technology to improve learning, he said it was important to understand what teachers are trying to achieve in the classroom, but "if we're always listening to the teachers and trying to innovate around that, then we just end up with a faster horse".

He continued: "If you look at kids now, and give a video game to a child - give them FIFA 2016 - and give them that for two days, you come back after two days and they'll be scoring goals, they'll be doing headers, they'll be working as teams with other people on the internet, they'll figure it out.

"But if you ask the teachers, 'How do kids learn?', most often we would get a response, 'They have to go through an instructional phase, which means they have to listen to me talk to them for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and then they're going to be assessed on what I've just been telling them.'"

Pupils' 'attention span is shrinking'

Mr Midha said this instructional form of learning was no longer effective because of young people's shrinking attention spans. 

"Kids have much lower attention spans now," he said. "I think we have to look at outside of education, we have to look at the video game industry, we have to look at personalisation that exists on Facebook, Instagram, where kids are spending time. We have to look at what has disrupted the way these kids operate.

"These kids do not have the attention span of listening to someone for 15 minutes. They don't have five minutes that they can focus on.

"So I think we have to rethink how we present content to students. They always have to be doing something, interacting with media, they have to be engaged with it. They're not passive consumers of media."

Mr Midha said that teachers were sometimes bemused by how there was no instruction phase in Mangahigh. =

"When we at Mangahigh go through the educator process, people say, 'Where is the instruction phase?'

"I'm like, 'There is no instruction phase with playing video games.' You don't watch a video or you don't read a book on playing Fifa, you just figure it out because the content is designed in a way - in a constructive way - that you will get the meaning of Level One, you'll figure it out - just think of Candy Crush - and before you know it you'll get to Level 300 because it's been graded in a way to make sure you never stumble and there's help provided as you get stuck."

He said the use of games in the classroom would remove administrative "grunt work", such as marking, allowing teachers to focus on developing "higher order thinking skills" and "problem solving" in their students. 

"Instead of teaching someone what 8 x 7 is, you would talk about, 'OK, we have this room. We need to tile this area. We have a client. What materials can we use to tile this area? How much will it cost?'

Teachers could work on these "interesting" problems with pupils, he said, rather than "spending all this time learning times tables, because the knowledge-based curriculum can be done well by the computers".

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