I think games have an important part in the learning experience, because they provide us with a hands-on opportunity for us to interact with information either as an individual or in a team. We are hardwired to interact with technology, so why not have the content and material presented to us in a way that is native?
As an educator, one of the biggest challenges we face is finding ways to instill creative thinking and problem solving into our students so they can go into the future ready to reach new heights. Richardson points out, “They’re developing problem-solving and ‘tinkering’ skills,learning how to use trial and error effectively, and learning some basic physics principles,’ she says. ‘They spontaneously collaborate with and coach each other, and I have them write strategies for different levels to share with others, so they’re also developing their ability to reduce a series of complicated steps into a concise strategy and to communicate that clearly for an authentic audience” (Richardson, pp. 44).
As a teacher, and as a student I have interacted with games that review materials or concepts, in preparation for a test or quiz of some sorts. These are a great way for students to interact with one another, and participate in a game that supports learning. However, games like this do not require students to problem solve or actively rethink their strategies for achieving success.
Ironically enough, when I taught my digital design courses, the introduction level course had a final at the end of the year. As a teacher, I had no interest in giving them a test to complete, or a short two-hour project. I wanted to give them a project that provided them with guided creative freedom and required them to demonstrate all of the skills they have acquired over the year. The final project required each intro student to develop and design a new board game that was to be played by their peers on the final exam day. This project was perfect for a few reasons:
- The students had to develop all of the components for the game: the logo, the rule book, the board, the cards, the player pieces, and anything else their game required that I couldn’t provide (I provided dice, player pieces, chips, etc.). This component forced them to use all three software programs that were covered over the course of the year, and they had to dig deep to achieve results that were aesthetically pleasing…because we all know that looks are important when it comes to advertising, sales and playability.
- The students had to play their peers games. This forced the students to problem solve. They had to figure out how to create a game that actually worked. They had to take into consideration numerous factors and potential outcomes and find ways to make sure the game was playable.
- Their final was self and peer evaluated. I supervised their final period, and guided them through the expectations of the 2-hours. They had to complete evaluations of the games after they played them. And, who doesn’t like to play board games? Board games instead of a multiple choice final….I think yes!
While this wasn’t any type of digitized game, the idea of playing games was still incorporated along with the added element of developing and designing a game from scratch. I felt that this particular project really highlighted what the students took away from the course. As the article stated before, the students were coaching each other, and I saw the same effect in the classroom when my students were completing their final projects in the 5 or 6 weeks prior to the final exam period.
When I think of gaming in the classroom, I think of board games or video games. Some of the software platforms that are available to us to make our own are not as adaptive as I wish. Many of them act like an interactive quiz, as opposed to a game like Angry Birds. There are many apps on mobile devices that teach core academic principles. For example, Angry Birds allows for students to apply their knowledge of physics in order to beat each level. I strongly believe that over the next few years, we will see games and apps that allow for us to connect core academic areas to gaming in an educational setting.
In the meantime, here are some websites that highlight some learning games for kids. I think they are geared towards elementary levels, but there are no reasons why games like The Sims, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, etc. couldn’t be worked into a higher level educational setting.
Richardson, W. (2012). Gaming GAINS Respect. District Administration, 48(7), 44.