Often times, students tell me that they don’t want to go to class or do the work because they think that the teacher is “boring” or that the course material isn’t “interesting.” A teacher or advisor like me might respond to such complaints like this:
“I’m not here to entertain you. School is work and, while work can be fun sometimes, you should not always expect it to be fun.”
I have a different response that no one in academia has probably told you before: you already know how to become an active participant in your education thanks to all of the hours that you have spent trying to entertain yourself with video games. And while the statement above is certainly true, I’d like to offer some different advice to show you how you can get more out of your learning when you become an active participant in your own education.
In case you don’t understand what I mean by “active participant,” let’s talk about what it means to be a passive participant, which is the opposite of being an active participant. Movies are, generally speaking, passive forms of entertainment. Aside from driving to the theater and paying 20 dollars for a ticket, or looking for an illegal version of the film on the internet, you don’t have to put much effort into your movie-watching entertainment. Instead, you mostly get entertainment out of the film by sitting in a comfortable chair and watching the plot unfold. This makes you a passive participant, sort of like Michael Jackson in this popular .gif:
This passive form of entertainment can become more active, though. For example, if you talk to your friend about the recurring themes you noticed in the movie, and you get enjoyment from doing this, then you become an active participant in your entertainment because you are doing something for yourself to make your movie-watching experience more enjoyable and entertaining.
Playing video games is one of the most interactive entertainment options that exist right now. Most games do not play themselves, so it is up to you the gamer to make your entertainment work. In other words, video games are fun because they demand that you become an active participant to get entertainment from the game. And let’s be honest: video games are awesome because you get to feel awesome when you finally conquer your foe in glorious battle or finally find the perfect spot to plant your victory garden in FarmVille.
Many students (including me at one point in my life) forget about all of these fun, active engagements with entertainment when they enter the classroom (or maybe students daydream about them when they should be taking notes!). They become passive agents who, for a variety of reasons, expect teachers to do the work for them and to tell them what they are supposed to get out of the class. While good teachers certainly should make sure that students understand their expected learning outcomes, it is ultimately up to you to become an active participant in your own learning. Let me say that again:
It’s up to you (the student) to become an active participant in your learning.
Just as we actively engage in our entertainment, we can actively engage in our learning endeavors and create for ourselves a more learning inclusive environment for college.
If you ask questions in class or think of something for the class as a whole to discuss, you are engaging in the some of the same active mental and behavioral processes that you would use if you were trying to overcome a difficult challenge in a video game. This means that you may already possess the skills that it takes to become an active learner thanks to the hours you have spent playing video games! You just have to apply those same mental processes to your education if you want to get the most out of it.
Of course, this is easier said than done. I will even admit that at times I have put more effort into solving a problem on a video game than I have into solving a difficult math problem in school, especially since I do not like math. For most people, it’s more fun to overcome challenges in a video game than it is to overcome challenges at school or work, and that makes sense. If you are one of these people, though, you are severely underestimating YOUR role in the learning process.
Many students want to become active learners, but they may not know how. I believe that students already possess these skills thanks to video games and other forms of entertainment that require active participation. In this blog series called Warcraft Wisdom, I will talk more in depth about how you can utilize your video game skills for real world success. My goal is to convince you that you already have what it takes to succeed because you have spent so much time playing video games.
There’s one caveat to all of this, though: don’t take these posts as advice to replace studying and hard work with more video games! If you decide to play more video games instead of working hard, you’re doing this whole college thing wrong.
Jordan Ryan is a Senior Academic Advisor at Texas Tech University. He has been playing videogames since 1993 when his dad first introduced him to Wolfenstein 3D. His favorite game is World of Warcraft, hence the title of this blog series. Jordan is also a passionate educator who recognizes that technology is a valuable tool in helping students learn and realize their full potential. While video games are fun, do not use his advice to justify not studying or skipping class to play more video games.