Friday, February 20, 2015

Gamebased Learning: What is it?

When I was a kid ( a loooong time ago) there was no such thing as video games--because there were no in-home computers yet. I know, showing my "age". Our games were those we made up, learned at recess, or the board games we received as birthday and Christmas presents.

Even when I was a new teacher, computer technology had not yet become a classroom tool. Today, many students in our classrooms have more powerful technology in their hands/pockets/backpacks, than ever. They are hardly ever disconnected from the Internet. It is hard to compete with this ever-evolving mass of multimedia. So, how do we compete with that as classroom teachers? One answer to that is game-based learning. When you really think about it, video games are essentially learning engines.

You start out not knowing anything about how to play the game and gradually you learn the rules and through repeated practice, trial and error, repeat the process over and over until you have mastered the first level. The program waits for you to master it before it will let you move on--unlike in our classrooms, where the teacher moves the students forward whether the student is ready or not--there is a curriculum to be covered and we only have 180 days to get it done.

You are allowed to fail in a video game and learn from your mistakes. Failure is rarely seen as an insurmountable block that cannot be overcome. It is a challenge to get to the next level. As a gamer, you aren't going to start at the highest level--you would quit the game before you had ever finished.

Of course if you do a search on "game-based learning" you will find a slew of resources that may spark some ideas for you to try in your classroom. In a post, A Guide to Game-Based Learning by Vicki Davis@coolcatteacher, she shares tools to analyze game-base learning along with the characteristics of various types of games. The Gamifi-ed wiki, compiled by her ninth graders and Master's program students from the Univeristy of Alaska Southeast, lists some recommended games for classroom use that are great for learning. Other sites like Common Sense Media and Free Technology for Teachers also frequently feature new games and simulations that are great for classroom use.

Are you a gamer? What games do you play on your smart phone--Candy Crush? Trivia Crack? Minecraft? Words with Friends? If you play any of these types of games, then you are a gamer. How can you take gaming experiences and make them classroom worthy? Think about that and we will talk about it in the next Friday Feature.

Shall we play a game?

Peggy Steinbronn, Ed.D.

AEA PD Online Instructional Designer

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