There have been various suggestions circulating around the education sector on giving pupils the opportunity to learn via video games such as Angry Birds for life skills, and Doctor Who’s new web game for programming. The most recent suggestion has been to use Football Manager as homework for physical education (PE) classes. We asked an experienced professional football coach for his opinion on the matter.
“The creep of technology into our lives is ever increasing, and in most cases welcomed, although it does need to be harnessed in the right way. I was surprised to read that schools are thinking about setting video games as homework for PE lessons. As a professional football coach, and before that a multi-sports coach for five-to fourteen-year-old children, I found this a worrying suggestion, despite the fact that I myself am an avid player of the Football Manager series.
It is reasonable to have proposals to make school more exciting for children who do not get engrossed by typical lessons; however video games surely seem a far stretch to be called homework, when their primary purpose is entertainment.
Football Manager has been created to fulfil dreams of football management in a simulation game. While this undoubtedly has many benefits for children to learn in terms of tactics, finances and long term planning, to set it for PE homework sends out the wrong message. In an increasingly sedentary society we should be looking to inspire children to take part in physical activity so they gain the positive physical and mental health benefits it brings. It is important that schools use PE lessons to stimulate students through a variety of sports and games. Beyond the health benefits, this will give schools inspired, creative and happy pupils. As a sports coach, I struggle to understand why it has been considered as PE homework to get pupils to sit down on a computer.
I can see the premise for using other mediums to get children interested in sports, but without proper exercise and outdoor activity, it leaves children without the motivation and energy to actually take part in games away from the computer.
I think the solution is to make PE lessons more engaging for pupils. Setting problems for pupils to solve, or allowing them to lead activities that challenge them mentally as well as physically, is an excellent way of engaging pupils. Most pupils who feel demotivated by sports feel this way due to feeling inferior to teammates who they consider to be superior at sports compared to themselves.
It is the role of the teacher to make sure that lessons are therefore inclusive for all levels of sporting ability. Other games such as Just Dance/Wii Fit get players moving, but are they really the solution to our PE lessons? To come up with a basic few step dance routine gives the same outcome. Even better, let the children come up with their own routine, I’m sure it would be impressive to see what they would come up with given the chance and the right environment! Let pupils get creative in what is taught during these lessons. What games do our children want to play is a question that is probably not asked enough. Some of the best PE classes that I remember taking part in during my school days were not the traditional sports. Dodgeball and Ultimate (Frisbee) were a lot more enjoyable than the usual football or rounders lessons because they were new. We all started on a similar ability level and had to think about the game, and what skills and tactics would help our teams to win.
If we can only be inspired by playing computer games, is that not going to further increase young peoples’ desire to play computer games? We cannot fight against the desire for children and young people to play video games. All people involved in sport in any capacity seek to inspire, in the same way that we seek to make maths or science lessons exciting. Teachers are not expected to coach children to the stage where they are competing at national/international level in whatever sport they are coaching. The aim should be to inspire children. An inspired child will practice their sport or activity away from the school setting on their own, with friends, or as part of a sports club. If this is the outcome from a few hours of PE a week then anyone taking a sports class has done a fantastic job.”