This is an updated version of a post that was originally published on June 30, 2015.
Game-based learning is moving into the mainstream as more platforms become available and more educators recognize the benefits of increased student engagement and achievement. On top of that, research shows some interesting side benefits. For instance, surgeons who play video games are 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and make 37 percent fewer errors than colleagues who don’t play.
Educators can incorporate game elements, such as rewards and engagement, into learning in two ways: games and gamification.
Gaming. This involves using a game as a way for students to show their comprehension of a lesson and concepts. For example, Minecraft and World of Warcraft are great choices to demonstrate and use elementary school and middle school math. Many of these games have an economy in them so the game becomes part of the math lesson and provides an extra, relevant layer of understanding.
Gamification. Applying game elements and mechanics to something that is not a game. If it’s a badge, leaderboard, achievement or points, you are turning rewards into an achievement, not unlike your Starbucks loyalty card, grocery store memberships, etc. You can add it to a single assignment, an area of learning or an entire semester.
Check out our infographic below, then read on to discover how to incorporate games and gamification in your classroom.
Click the image below to download infographic file.
Savvy educators are doing a good job of looking at where content matches the game to give students more of a frame than a textbook. Take digital citizenship topics, for example. Collaboration games put students in the position of dealing with others online, rather than just talking about it. Other games submerge students into the mindset they’ll need in a professional setting later in life, but a mistake in the classroom now won’t cost someone a career.
“It’s a great way to provide virtual experiential learning — that’s exactly what game-based learning is,” says Kae Novak, chair of the ISTE Games and Simulations PLN and instructional designer for Front Range Community College in Denver.
Here are some ways you can add game elements to your classroom:
Game design and coding. You don't have to be an expert to teach coding. “The biggest mistake is thinking you have to be the game master,” says Marianne Maimstrom, cognitive architect with Knowclue. Instead, bringing a video game into your lessons is a true pedagogy shift. “We’re not the experts here. This helps change our thinking that we have to know everything,” she explains.
Game narrative and game stories (interactive fiction). Many educators are familiar with students’ opportunities to create storybooks and playact what a character will do next. But the field of imagination is wider still. Students can build their own stop-motion movies using Legos, create coordinated musical numbers using their hands on laser beams and play with a QR code system to turn T-shirts into scannable, online interaction.
To infinity and beyond. Teachers can explore machinima — videos you make from portraying game characters in action — that are then put on YouTube. Red vs. Blue is the classic in this machinima field, with students capturing winning moments on video, dubbing in sounds and music and telling entire stories. It’s definitely a good way to demonstrate knowledge in any subject area (including tech skills), but Tanya Martin, chair of the ISTE Games and Simulation Network, sees an even greater role.
“I like that there is a role for every child to write, to be creative, tell a story even if they don’t want to be front and center,” she noted. Indeed, machinima offers room for the actor who lends voiceovers, the musically inclined child who adds sound and the child with a visual sense who can oversee cinematography.