Monday, September 21, 2009

Curriculum or Computer Game?

Whatever you do, do NOT perform an Internet search for "educational computer games". The last time I checked, Google returned in excess of 26 million results for that phrase.

"Educational" is often nothing more than a marketing term, like "New and Improved!" With no real definition, "educational" can mean whatever the person making the claim wants it to mean.

What is the difference between educational computer games and an online curriculum like Time4Learning?

Computer games can be entertaining ways to drill or review concepts to which a student has already been introduced. First, though, the student needs to have a basic understanding of the concept. Can you imagine a child trying to play a game designed to reinforce the times tables before he has learned about multiplication?

A curriculum includes several elements that are essential to learning mastery. Few computer games target more than one of the elements.

A curriculum first introduces and teaches the material to be learned. Second, it provides a means of practicing, or drilling, the concept. Third, it includes a method of evaluating the student's progress. A curriculum will do all this within the confines of a specific scope and sequence. The scope details what material is to be covered. The sequence outlines when each concept will be introduced, built upon, or reviewed.

A computer game's intended purpose is entertainment. If the game also provides some educational value, it's considered a bonus! Time4Learning includes many such games in its unique Playground feature. Students are granted access to the Playground after completing a parent-determined amount of study first.

In contrast, a curriculum developer usually designs games to fit the concept being taught, instead of the other way around. Care is taken to follow the program's intended scope and sequence. Education is the primary objective of this type of game. These kinds of games are an enjoyable part of the curriculum provided by Time4Learning.

The online Demos demonstrate that the curriculum offered by Time4Learning includes animated learning games and interactive, text-based lessons. Time4Learning offers a standards-aligned curriculum that includes teaching, practice, and assessment for the student and customizable reports for parents. Don't tell the kids, but it's more than just a computer game!

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