“When or where am I going to actually use this?” My guess is that every teacher has heard a student utter these words somewhere along the way. As teachers, it is our responsibility to capture students’ imagination to help them connect what they do in the classroom with the world around them. Yet, how can we, as teachers, help them not only acquire the educational content we are teaching, but also the ability to use content to solve real world problems?
In recent years the European Union has aggressively invested in research on innovative approaches to education, including game-based learning and gamification. Europe’s openness to new learning strategies is encouraging. Their many successful game-based learning efforts serve as a model for games playing a critical role in improving education.
The positive role games play in the learning process has attracted significant attention from prominent thinkers. A large number of TED talks, for instance, have focused on various intellectual and emotional benefits that games offer people of all ages. A few have explicitly focused on game-based learning.
I recently was asked why I use games in the classroom. Simply put, games motivate my students, which in turn motivates me. I’ve used a variety of games over the years, from simplistic and rudimentary to highly interactive and digitally advanced. While most are excellent tools for practice, I believe that immersive and sophisticated video games go beyond the ritual of practice, captivating students’ attention and empowering them to learn new and complex concepts.
Remember the days of Oregon Trail? How about Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? While learning games have been around for decades, technological advancements are creating an entirely more modern gaming experience – one where quality mirrors the digital literacy expectations of today’s student, one that entices the student to play and play again, and one that aligns a game’s outcomes with the goals of the course.