Given the undoubted popularity of games on Facebook such as Farmville, Dragons of Atlantis or Glory of Rome, a question which fascinated me is whether any of these games could have any educational applications.
I have seen suggestions that Farmville could be used in teaching Maths, by getting kids to calculate how many crops they’d need to sow, how long it would take to harvest, etc. I’m not sure I quite buy this. The interface itself allows you pretty much to predict these factors, and I’m not convinced that subliminally you’d be learning any Maths. I’m also convinced that if you asked anyone to do the Maths, they’d drop out of the game as soon as possible.
Does the collaborative environment of most of these games lend itself to educational experiences then? Probably, and I have no doubt that they could be used to foster and develop social skills, but in a very limited way. There is not sufficient need to collaborate in the games to foreground it’s use. I’m sure there are better exercises if this is the aim. I have to say that I enjoyed researching this question. The games are certainly addictive. The guilt one feels if one’s crops wither! But ultimately I cannot see Farmville, popular and engaging as it might be, rocking the educational world.
I’ve stopped playing Farmville, just too much guilt! But I am still playing Dragons of Atlantis, and I’d love to be able to promote it as an educational tool. Sadly, though, I cannot. It’s fun, but I don’t think you learn a great deal.