Long gone are the days of students having to wait for their once-a-week trip to the computer lab to play what now seem like rudimentary computer games such as Oregon Trail. Today, game-based learning has become the norm, with educators leveraging a wide variety of educational games to help students learn every day, in every subject and from the palm of their hands.
Although some might dismiss the use of game-based learning as mere video games, noted educational technology specialist Alice Keeler observes that video games themselves have numerous benefits, from helping students learn how to strategize and perform complex actions to achieve a goal, to providing fun challenges, keeping players actively involved, and most importantly, enabling students to learn through failure. As Keeler describes, this last part is a crucial aspect missing from many classrooms today – celebrating failure by recognizing the attempt and focusing on what can be done better.
Fortunately, today’s game-based learning solutions for the classroom deliver on those imperatives and more. As technology continues to advance, the types of games used in the classroom have greatly evolved, becoming multifaceted and more group-oriented, while leveraging virtual and augmented reality to be even more immersive. But with the variety of options available, it is important to have a clear strategy, using the tools and techniques that don’t just bring gaming into the classroom, but do so in a way to improve how students learn and grow. Following are five ways to do just that:
- Use what’s familiar to students: While the impact of conventional video games on children has long been under debate, their ability to engage and sustain attention cannot be denied. Fortunately, some of the most popular video games played by students in their free time also have versions specifically for the classroom. With programs like World of Warcraft in School and Minecraft: Education Edition, educators can use these familiar games in a more educational, but just as engaging, manner.
- Find the right technology: It’s not just the major video game developers offering game-based learning solutions; a number of companies offer dynamic solutions to bring game-based learning into the platform. Vendors like BrainPOP, Breakout EDU and Second Avenue Learning all offer fun and educational games that can fit in with the classroom curricula and help educators provide a more immersive learning experience.
- Ensure access for all: Technology has unlocked new possibilities in how schools utilize game-based learning, and this is especially true for diverse learners. For instance, gaming has numerous benefits for students with autism, as these students typically thrive under the structure and feedback that gaming provides. In addition, games provide a safe environment for students to try new ideas, learn from their mistakes and get better each time they play.
- Make it collaborative: One of the main arguments detractors have about game-based learning is that it can be too isolating in the classroom environment. However, there are numerous ways to make it a group activity. Students can work on games individually and then compare outcomes together, or compete against each other individually or in teams to create a more interactive experience.
- Measure results: The goal of game-based learning is to educate students in new ways – not strictly for the purpose of playing games. Therefore, it’s important to measure the success of those efforts, to see how well students are learning and where individuals may need more attention. For instance, many solutions offer in-game reports to assess how students are learning. In cases where such functionality isn’t available, educators can encourage students to report their own progress, or hold class discussions to address challenges and accomplishments.
The use of game-based learning can transform the way students achieve new skills, retain information and apply what they learn to their studies. And as new technologies continue to emerge, the value of games in education will only continue to increase; its use has already spilled over into the aviation, military and healthcare industries, where employees can use game-based simulations to conduct activities in a safe learning environment. The schools and districts that embrace game-based learning today will be better able to prepare their students for the future.
And to learn more about how can transform education, you can attend the 38th National Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), taking place January 23 – 26, 2018 in Orlando. The event will address the topic in depth, with vendors showcasing their game-based learning solutions, and sessions exploring how educators have used such solutions effectively at their schools. Additional information can be found at: http://www.fetc.org/.