This is a very important point for teachers and parents. When does a computer game become education, and when is it just entertainment?

Are those games really worth spending our hard earned money, time and energy on?

In my area of music there are all sorts of games: Some of the music games which are available today are nothing more than an evolution of the toy guitar that you’d give a toddler to play with. Some are almost like playing a real instrument, with real instrument sizes and materials used.

So what is educational when it comes to games? Music teachers are definitely split on this issue. Most teachers probably won’t be spending much money on music games, they’ll be teaching just like they always have. However there is real educational value in some aspects of the game.

This is the question we need to ask before engaging in any game activity: “What is this teaching me (or them, if thinking about your children or your students) that I didn’t know before?”

When you take something that you didn’t know before and you make it known you are learning something. it really is that simple Are you making anything known that wasn’t already when you are playing that computer game? If you are simply playing one level of one game over and over again nothing will happen except that you’ll be good at that one thing. You’ll really know that one thing, but nothing else.

The music game can be a great educational experience if you constantly introduce new songs and use the game as a vehicle to move forward with your skills.

Music game developers should consult instrument specialists when building games about specific instruments, so that playing the game does not negatively impact students technique when playing the real thing. Most do, but as usual when there is a big market there will always be cheap imitations who cut down the price and also cut down the educational value by not investing in this quality researched advice.

So always ask that question – What is this activity teaching me that I didn’t know before? Then you’ll find that besides being very enjoyable that time spent on music games will actually build musical skills.

Kevin Tuck, the author of this article is a musician and music teacher of wide experience. Kevin is currently developing educational music games for school students at the Fun Music Company.