The case for integrating game-based learning into school curriculum is not new. Over the last 30 years, there has been an immense amount of research demonstrating the benefits of educational games. Here are a few studies that have uncovered a variety of advantages associated with using games to improve student performance and achievement.
I Knew a Video Game Would Help My Students Learn Art History, But I Didn’t Know it Would Also Help Them Learn These Three Important Things
One of the recurring observations I’ve made during my years of classroom teaching is the significance of active learning. Finding creative and engaging ways for students to be hands-on learners can be a challenge. It starts early on in the learning process. Let’s take tying shoes for example. Imagine if a child had to develop this skill and acquire this knowledge by passive observation. It would be nearly impossible. Yet, many traditional forms of instruction rely on this seemingly flat approach.
Like books, radio, television and movies, games are an ideal medium to captivate an audience. Yet, unlike these other mediums, games afford full interactivity. That can have big implications for education: Just ask Texas A&M University, which recently wrapped up its first ever game-based course this fall.
Many people have a hard time even considering the idea of video games as an effective educational tool. After all, video games are for entertainment; even those of us who enjoy playing don’t often think of them as a learning opportunity.
“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.
I recently returned from the annual NAEA convention where I had the opportunity to lead a workshop for teachers and give a keynote talk. Reflecting on the event, there seemed to be a general consensus that games do, in fact, play an important role in the teaching process.
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.
Think back to some of your very first educational experiences. It’s highly likely that games played a role. They not only helped you acquire basic knowledge, they simply made the learning process more fun.
Bringing change to education is a mighty challenge. No matter how effective an educational strategy proves to be, there are numerous obstacles that stand in the way of its widespread adoption in classrooms. In addition to convincing policymakers and educational leaders that video games can serve as powerful educational tools, many educators are unsure of how to integrate games into their curriculum, whether they’re teaching in primary schools, secondary schools or universities.
The idea that video games can serve an educational purpose is hardly new. In fact, some of the industry pioneers were driven to develop games because of the potential they saw in them for classroom instruction.
Gamification and game-based learning are both important educational concepts that can help students be better learners. At first glance, the two terms appear to be synonyms. It’s about making education engaging, right? Like a game?