I ran across this blog today by Carmen Dukes in the Project Interaction Website called ” Developing 21st Century Skills Through Gaming“ . It highlights the fact that the University of Florida (UF) is introducing a course this fall called “21st Century Skills in Starcraft“.  Apparently, the University of Florida is getting a lot of national attention for offering the course.  See this UF Blog written by Peter Zimmerman that talks about the course and why the College of Education decided to offer it. For those of you who may not know, Starcraft is a video game.  Technically, according to Peter Zimmerman, Starcraft is a  “real-time strategy” video game. 

I think it’s awesome that UF is being innovative and strategic in how it teaches 21st Century students.  In all of the speeches I give throughout the country, I always refer to the 5 ingredients that make Millennials unfamiliar to the rest of us, especially, the Baby Boomers.  The 5 ingredients are:

  1. How they see & view technology.  It’s not technology to them but a way of life. They have never known life without it.
  2. They seek diversity.  This is the group that will be the most ethnically and racially diverse. They will be the key contributors in making the US become a minority-majority by 2050.
  3. They are natural collaborators or team players. 
  4. They are empowered.  Their Baby Boomer parents focused a lot of time and attention on them thus making them feel empowered throughout their young lives.
  5. They are experiential.  This is where their fascination with video games comes in.

In my speeches I try to educate the attendees about video games.  Everyone has such a bad impression of them and think they are all violent.  Although there are violent video games, there are many others like Starcraft and Sim City and Revolution and Civilization that are wonderful vehicles to teach such important skills as critical thinking and problem solving in a 21st Century format. I think that teachers, like corporate leaders today, are in a renaissance period when it comes to education.  The techniques and ways schools and universities have taught in the past are not effective and have not kept up with the pace of change and rapid integration of technology.  Teachers today must learn to experiment with different techniques to teach these critical and necessary skills in a way that prepares the students  to live and work in the 21st Century and NOT the 20th or even the 19th Century.

Schools like UF are taking the lead in experimenting with different teaching techniques.  They are modifying their old approach to teaching recognizing that students today will need to work in a very dynamic, global and ever changing world.  Video games, like Starcraft, expose them to that. According to Peter Zimmerman, the students using Starcraft are  ”constantly forced to gather, analyze, and synthesize information from a wide variety of sources and act in a high-pressured fast-paced environment”.  Doesn’t that sound like the corporate environment these future leaders will be leading in?  Isn’t it better to teach critical thinking skills in that environment rather than the more structured one from the past?

I’m sure other progressive and innovative universities are adopting the same practices as UF and we’ll see more experiential type learning in the years to come.  So for those high school teachers preparing students for university courses, this is a sign of what is to come.  It might be a good idea to start experimenting with video games in the high school classrooms to get the students ready for college.

I applaud UF for it’s courage to let go of the status quo and try something new.  They are a good example for all of us, both teachers and leaders, to challenge our existing way of doing things and take a baby step into the unknown.  More than any generation before them, Millennials will be faced with navigating uncharted waters.  It is up to us to furnish them with a roadmap that will help them chart a course into this fast paced, ever changing  future. 

So what about you?  Have you tried your hand at a video game and no, I don’t mean PacMan?  Get your son or daughter to teach you and see a whole new world appear before your eyes.  Who knows?  It might give you some good ideas that you can apply at work.