Set Students Up for Success with Engaging, Educational Games
Parents and teachers don’t always approve of online games for kids. In fact, many believe games to be a distraction from what’s important—namely, education. But gaming and learning don’t have to be at odds with each other. Over the past few years, a rising number of educators have begun to recognize gamified teaching methods’ potential for boosting student engagement and performance, particularly in an age when technology plays a larger part in daily life than ever before.
“Games are … uniquely suited to fostering the skills necessary for navigating a complex, interconnected, rapidly changing 21st century,” observed Alan Gershenfeld of the Arizona State University’s Center for Games and Impact, as quoted by Scientific American.
Why integrate online educational games into the curriculum?
Gaming can benefit kids by cultivating several different types of skills that prove useful in the classroom and beyond:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving: Traditional teaching methods sometimes fall short in terms of driving students to face challenges head-on and identify potential solutions. Seventh-grade English teacher John Fallon, who created an alternate reality game to teach his students about “The Odyssey,” observed that some of the most engaged players were individuals who weren’t usually motivated in his class, MindShift reported.
- Literacy: A study by the Education Development Center and SRI International found preschoolers taught using a curriculum that included video games had superior literacy skills to their more traditionally educated peers.
- Socialization: According to the Pew Research Center’s recently released “Teens, Technology and Friendships” report, more than half (52 percent) of all teens play video games with their friends, and of those teen gamers, 83 percent play together in person.
Breaking down the numbers
A 2014 report by the Games and Learning Publishing Council took a look at how nearly 700 K-8 teachers are using free online educational games and other types of digital learning tools in the classroom. It turns out that tech-based teaching methods are more common—and more successful—than people might think. Here are just a few of the findings from the report:
- More than half of students (55 percent) use digital games in the classroom on at least a weekly basis.
- Online educational games for kids can be played alone, in pairs, in small groups, collaboratively as a class and even as homework. In short, they facilitate both individualized and social learning.
- Almost half of teachers (47 percent) reported that integrating digital games into the curriculum had benefited low-performing students the most. What’s more, 55 percent said offering motivational incentives for students who typically struggle in the classroom was gaming’s most valuable quality.
- Teachers are most likely to choose games to use in the classroom based on other teachers’ recommendations. Many educators are also drawn to games that come with a performance-tracking component to monitor students’ progress.
Gamified teaching methods are being used by schools to hone critical skills, motivate disengaged learners and improve overall educational performance. Teachers and parents eager to get students interested in learning often try to direct them away from gaming and toward studying, but blending the two may actually be a more successful approach.