The biggest problem we have in our child-directed learning program is that my kids want to play video games all day. Well, that’s not true. They’ll choose eating over video games if they’re hungry. And they’ll choose to turn off their games to participate in activities they’ve chosen, like swimming or skateboarding.

But the way to deal with any moment of boredom is to turn on the video games. And in our lives, that means anything from a two-minute drive to the wood pile to a 90-minute drive into Madison. I have made a compromise with them: they turn down the volume on their DS’s and I play whatever violin or cello piece they are learning, or Bach, or, sometimes I take special requests like Willow Smith.

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This is a guest post by Lisa Nielsen. She’s in charge of technology and teacher training for the New York City public schools, and she is the author of  the book Teaching Generation Text. None of the opinions in this post reflect the views, opinions, or endorsement of her employer. 

At their most basic level video games are similar to books. Books can be anything—trashy novels, historical fiction, non-fiction, classic literature—each type with varying potential for learning. Likewise, video games offer different purposes and varying levels of usefulness when it comes to learning. Adults should focus on the type of learning they want to support in young people, and then consider if games are a good tool for that.

Here are some of the more popular types of games students use for learning today: Read more