By Anita Streich
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.
Looking for more active learning opportunities, I decided to incorporate technology, and specifically game-based learning. Knowing how much my students gravitated towards technology and games in their free time, I figured it could work in the classroom too. Today’s students not only reach for technology spontaneously, but they operate it intuitively. I saw the potential of game-based learning to meet their needs for interaction, involvement, freedom of expression, and entertainment.
I participated in a pilot of Triseum’s art history video game, ARTé: Mecenas, in two of my classes. The pilot project, which was in partnership with European Schoolnet, was designed to test the game’s influence on students, as well as students’ commitment to each lesson and their motivation to learn.
It worked. My students learned art history and they had quite a bit of fun in the process. The game elicited positive emotions. But beyond this, I was amazed to find that my students also learned 1) social skills, 2) decision making skills and, 3) most surprisingly, even English language skills.
Socially, ARTé: Mecenas taught my students the importance of collaboration, a great example of active learning. Students were willingly working in pairs and in groups. They were having a dialog with each other not only about the game’s content, but also its strategy. What’s more, the game fostered decision making skills. Students had to weigh their options, asses the best move, and understand that each move they made had a consequence.
By far the most astonishing feat to come out of this was the fact that my students’ English language skills improved by playing the game. Before entering the pilot project, I was worried my students, whose native language is Polish, wouldn’t get over the language barrier. Yet the game got them even more interested in the English language. In fact, I am convinced that the game was an effective tool in helping them improve their English vocabulary and proficiency.
Going into the pilot, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the game’s impact beyond the subject matter, especially when it came to foreign language competency. ARTé: Mecenas empowered my students to act on multiple curiosities.
Like learning to tie their shoes through hands-on practice, my students acquired knowledge and developed skills in a very active way. And let’s face it, when students are active and excited learners, they are more productive and fulfilled. In this case, they were more productive and fulfilled than I ever thought possible.
About Anita Streich
Anita teaches Polish language and Ethics Education, as well as serves as the coordinator of International Cooperation at the Technical School of Hotel Management and Catering Industry in Toruń, Poland. She is involved in the acquisition and management of EU projects, primarily the Erasmus + program in the sectors of school education and vocational training. She holds an MA in Polish Philosophy and a BA in Sociology, and also has completed post-graduate studies in Ethics. Additionally, she earned the coveted Award of the President of the City of Toruń for special achievements in teaching, education and care.