Learning is something that you have to love versus just live through
“We love video games – every kid does,” says Zhonghua Liu. “They spend five to six hours a day playing games. It becomes part of their lives. Why not use it to learn?”
Liu and Eduardo Barillas, two of the three co-founders of Mindblock Games, are certain that gaming (paired with technology) can pave the way to our collective success in education.
Mindblock’s latest game, “Battle of the Spells” (“spells” = spelling) is their first step toward creating that reality. Not only did they design and program the game, but the self-proclaimed “fantasy nerds” also infused their gaming chops to make it fun. While “Battle of the Spells” is currently just a demo, the response from teachers and students has been overwhelmingly positive.
Their story wouldn’t be unique if they were based in, say, Seattle or the Silicon Valley. But Mindblock Games is headquartered in El Salvador.
“In El Salvador, we are known for our problems more than our merits, unfortunately. And one of the big ones is education,” says Barillas. “The worst problem isn’t when a teacher gets a subject wrong – the worst problem is apathy and lack of motivation.”
“Learning is something that you have to love versus just live through,” adds Liu. “Many here don’t take their education seriously. Many youngsters go to gangs. The problem is that both teachers and students lack motivation. They need to want to learn, rather than feel they must suffer through it.”
How do you do that in countries where turning to gangs and drugs instead of University is a norm?
“Make it fun,” says Barillas. “The cool thing with technology is that you can save on infrastructure costs. All you need is electricity. Electricity and five old computers can take education to places where a school cannot be built. And I don’t mean the latest computers. Five Pentium 3s would make a huge different in rural El Salvador!”
It’s not necessary to have 3D or Core i5s to make a difference in education globally. We can and should start with attainable steps. But, just as Barillas and Liu have done, we should also dare to dream big.
“Can you imagine what would happen if every teacher had access to Kinect?” said Barillas. “We’re building castles in the sky, but that’s how it starts…”