Game-ready computers for the classroomCain Chen
Computer games might be a sore point for school teachers wanting to draw their students’ attention to more scholarly matters. But educators should think carefully about what they wish for. Teachers eager to ditch the game-ready computer might be missing out on the power and capability of a new level of graphics, speed and visualization that bring their subject matters to life – whether it is in science, history or engineering.
In fact, for many educational purposes, the game-ready computer can be the best and most cost-effective system for bringing computing power to the classroom.
Do game-ready computers have a place in the classroom?
Rendering high-definition graphics at a blistering frame rate is one of the hallmarks of a solid gaming system. After all, it’s the visuals that have made the computer a great gaming platform for students. But it is not just visuals that make game-ready computers.
The game capable system has three main features to deliver power.
- The CPU power to provide direction to the GPU
- Memory enough for the massive code base that can underlie the best games
- Enough fast storage to keep the digital assets paging in and out of the game as soon as you meet (and defeat) the next boss
Or we can look at this from an entirely different angle. The qualities of the machine described above are also the qualities needed in an engineering workstation. And an engineering workstation is precisely the sort of computer that has long been an educational asset. Its two biggest assets are speed and graphics.
All that power in the classroom?
The first basis on which to justify the game and engineering workstation is visualization.
The datasets being used in a growing number of disciplines, from chemistry and physics to history and anthropology, are growing and becoming more difficult to analyze in a purely tabular form. And let’s face it. Presenting data in a colorful and interesting way is more interesting for your presentation.
Data visualization is now an important part of most scientific disciplines and a critical skill in its own right. In fact, the argument can be made that data visualization should now be taught in at least advanced academic classes alongside the use of other tools.
In addition to data visualization as a discipline, games and simulations are being used as teaching tools in a variety of pursuits, including those in which simulation is either:
- The only affordable option
- The only option that is feasible from a safety or technological point of view
Think about the ability to take students on a virtual tour through Pompeii or the Battlefields of World War I?
In these areas, the quality of instruction could be tightly tied to the quality of the video seen on a computer monitor—quality that is supported by the hardware configuration of the overall system.
Game-capable workstations are not cheap and there are many modern classroom tasks that don’t require the graphics or processing power of a game-ready computer. But it’s possible to make the argument that there should be a group of game-capable systems in the mix for every school preparing students for higher education and the modern workforce.