Video Games Help Engage Black Boys in STEAM

In preparation for the GA Milestone test, I used the popular video game, Fortnite, with my Black male students to engage them in argumentative writing.

Video Games Helped Engage My Black Male Students!

I learned that many of the Black boys spent most of their time after school hours playing video games. So I took the opportunity to engage them on the topic. So instead of just playing video games, we researched them and learned how to design, create and market our product.

One of the major challenges my students discovered was parental involvement opposing video games. The students gave their perspectives on why they like the game and why they believe adults want to see restrictions around it.

I see both sides. Parents have valid concerns and the students have just cause to want to play the game. But coupled with societal influences and pressures, should Black parents be concerned about violent acts?

Black Boys Argue Against Restrictions on Fortnite!

My students believe that societal pressures do have influence. The boys compare the game to over competitive activities such as sports or even organizations as JROTC. Some of the boys even compared the games to toys guns. “Why do they make toy guns or cops and robbers games?” Wouldn’t these things also encourage children to be violent is a thought left resting from their argument.

That’s a good argument. We pick and choose what or who we deem as being a threat or dangerous. Society does this too often when it comes to Black boys. Police officers can choose when they feel threatened enough to pull the trigger even when they know our Black boys are unarmed.

In a recent article, Fortnite is played by more than 200 million people around the world. Unlike Mortal Kombat in the 90’s, game rooms allow youth be accessible to many more people. Not all of them are kids, of course.

Fortnite seems to be everywhere and not going anywhere soon. It can be played on smartphones, tablets, PCs, macs and video game consoles. The accessibility is fluid so youth will find ways to play the game.

There are many reasons why parents have a particular problem with Fortnite. Parents are also worried the vivid exposure to violence, the ability to talk to strangers in the game amongst other reasons. However, my Black male students argue against restrictions on video games and the concerns of parent regarding Fortnite.

Safety vs Socialization Skills 

Talking to strangers in the game. Which is one concern of parents who have children who play the game. It’s the same concerns  parents have about chat rooms that youth use. There’s no real way to determine the age and intent of the users.

Fantasy vs Reality

Fortnite is rated “ T “ for teen mainly due to violence.Students realize that Fortnite is fantasy where parents are being over zealous to make it reality. The students argue that Fortnite is like Game of Thrones. If parents allow kids to watch shows like Game of Thrones, then why not play Fortnite?

Money Loss Vs Money Management 

Parents are concerned about all of the money spend on the game. Players can buy costumes and dances for their characters using real money. It all adds up to so much money that game maker epic games has made more than $1.2 billion.

One example is Michael McCullough who is a father of six children in Nebraska. He and his wife discovered their older son charged more than $300 on a credit card without permission.

Video games will continue to evolve. I recall the late nights staying up playing Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. The same challenges parents face with their of children spending more time on electronics than studying is the same argument over 20 years ago.

One of the downfalls from the onsite of video games is that they became a free babysitting service for parents. What parents must do different, especially with Black boys is ensure that there is a balance. Time needs to be set aside for reading, writing, playing outside and spending time with family. There are also benefits of creatively using video games for learning.

The foundation I lead recently partnered with local Black male educator, Dr. Raymont Burke to offer a free STEAM summer camp. As an award-winning Robotics and Engineering Teacher, he is masterful at engaging students. Of course, as a Black male educator, he’s especially successful in getting Black boys engaged in engineering.

From my students arguments, we should look at the ways in which we engaged youth and technology. Video games, like drones, are good ways to engage Black boys in Math, Science and Technology. We are learning through the free camp that helping more inner city kids to practice coding for video games, drones, robotics and engineering helps them find success.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.

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