Gaming is an amazing strategy to use in the classroom, yet few teachers use it to increase their students’ learning. Generally it is used a ‘reward’ or dismissed as purely fun, with no learning purpose. Gaming, however, is a wonderful way to re-engage students with learning and make learning relevant to their lives. This is not to say that it should be the only teaching strategy that you should use, or that all topics would be best taught through gaming. Many learning situations, however, can be dramatically improved through introducing gaming to your classroom.
1. Improve Engagement
When students know that gaming is going to be introduced into a unit, they automatically become a lot more interested in what is happening. Even students who are not ‘gamers’ are interested in the change in the status quo. Something new is happening in their classroom, and they want to be a part of it. For those students who are gamers, the lesson suddenly becomes something that is relevant to them and their lives. It also provides opportunities for students who may not achieve success easily at school to become successful, and even become mentors to other students who are not comfortable in a gaming environment.
2. Personalise Instruction
All good teachers ultimate goal is to differentiate instruction, giving all students the support they need at their individual level. This, however, is time consuming to achieve. Good games are open-ended, giving all students opportunities to work at their own level. They also allow students to see how to achieve success at the next level, providing them with clear goals. Many games can also be personalised, so that students can connect with the game. Avatars and other similar personalisations allow the students to portray who they are while staying within the safe constraints of the game. This connection is not often possible in schools with strict rules about personal appearance or in children who have little control over their environment.
3. Provide an entry point to content
Games provide a way for all students to access content that may seem inaccessible when presented in an alternative way. Many games, particularly role playing games, allow students who are not confident to watch others who are more confident attempt the task first. Gaming also allows them to try new tasks without having to worry about getting it ‘wrong’. If they do make a mistake, it is not visible, but they can take that learning and try again. They could also attempt a slightly easier task as a way in to the original task without being seen to ‘fall behind’ by their peers.
4. Clear rules and objectives
Games have clear rules and objectives and when teaching with games this makes the learning significantly clearer for students. Having clear learning objectives takes the mystery away from learning for students, allowing them to achieve success. They also know exactly what will happen if they do or do not follow the rules of the game. This clarity assists students to take control of their own learning and understand exactly how they can improve.
5. Increase Learning
Ultimately, all of the above points means that students will improve their learning. When students are engaged, know how to achieve success and have an entry point to all of the content, they will learn the content. Add to this the opportunity to practice and trial new thinking, students can master the content quickly and confidently. Provided that you have a specific purpose for introducing gaming and know what learning you want your students to achieve, then gaming is the perfect opportunity to given students ownership over their own learning.
What games have you introduced successfully in the classroom? Leave a comment below and let us know how your class is embracing gaming.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, kennymatic.