Game-based learning is a popular term in education right now. It’s only natural given our society in which the majority of kids (and even most adults) enjoy playing video games that this would make its way into education. After all, if we are seeking to engage students in the classroom, why not use the things they are most engaged in outside the classroom, right? According to Alice Keeler, “Game Based Learning is a style of instruction where students are immersed in a game for their learning. The games do not need to be digital, however the learning needs to be embedded within the game.” The appeal of this is clear – students play games with learning embedded – sounds like the perfect match! The Serious Games Association, a website dedicated to cultivating high-quality educational games, says that games in the classroom “drive not only exploration and discovery but new kinds of challenges and introduce risk taking.” Game based learning encourages students to take risks and take on challenges in a non-threatening way because they aren’t in real life. They give students freedom and choice in how to proceed through experiences, something that’s not common in traditional classroom lessons. Additionally, games promote 21st century skill such as problem solving, critical thinking, and systems thinking. MIT’s Education Arcade, a respected institution, says “Games play an important role in the learning process: they provide a safe, creative environment in which children learn to experiment, collaborate and problem-solve.” Particular to the history classroom, games can allow students to experience historical eras, people, and situations in first person. Students can assume roles of historical figures and take on the challenges that those figures had to deal with in their time. They can practice making decisions, ruling empires, running battles, and conquering lands all from their own classroom using game-based learning.
One of the challenges lies in finding high quality games that teach content in meaningful ways. There are several good resources available: MIT’s Education Arcade and the Serious Games Association both have lists of games sorted by grade level and content area. Educators can expect more and more quality games in the future. The New Media Consortium’s 2014 Horizon Report lists games and gamification as one of the educational trends likely to go mainstream within the next two to three years, saying, “Gamified learning environments in practice can motivate learners to engage with subjects in an emotionally stimulating way.”
Have you tried game-based learning in your classroom? I’d love to hear your favorite games.
Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V. & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC Horizon Report: 2014 K-12 Edition. Austin, TX: New Media Consortium. Retrieved on October 18, 2015 from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2014-nmc-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf
Keeler, Alice. (2014). Gaming in learning: a tutorial for new players. On CUE. Vol. 36. Retrieved on October 18, 2015 from http://www.cue.org/sites/cue.org/files/images/2.20.15_CUE_Winter15.pdf