Technology Games in the Classroom

Instructor: Andrew Diamond

Andrew has worked as an instructional designer and adjunct instructor. He has a doctorate in higher education and a master's degree in educational psychology.

In this lesson, we'll cover some valuable resources for implementing gaming into your classroom. From research that supports the benefits of games to some popular educational games, you'll know it all!

Technology Games in the Classroom

The modern teacher will be hard pressed to find a student who hasn't at least played a video game, if not one that doesn't do it on a regular basis. No longer are gamers considered nerds or outcasts, rather they are a regular part of the mainstream. Young kids, teenagers, girls, and boys - all of them have played games. So it isn't a matter of whether or not teachers should be incorporating technology games into their classroom, but just how are they going to do it?

There are many challenges to incorporating games into the classroom, from lack of resources to administrators viewing gaming as 'not educational'. Well, in this article, not only will we hopefully provide you with several fun and educational resources, which are free or low-cost, but also some excellent arguments for games validity as educational tools.

Supporting Research

Here's a slightly startling fact: the average child now spends 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using some form of entertainment media. Today's kids are constantly looking at a screen, whether it is a television, computer, or cell phone. Of this time, the average child is spending 1 hour and 30 minutes playing video games. Wouldn't you rather that time be dedicated to educational games, rather than blasting zombies?

Video games have shown to not only be a good way to keep kids interested in subject matter, but have also been shown to support improved cognitive abilities. Research corroborates that playing certain games supports working memory, problem-solving abilities, and can reduce cognitive losses associated with aging. Many games help students understand and cope with challenging moral and ethical dilemmas or expose them to aspects of other cultures they might otherwise not see. Games have also been shown to improve behavioral self-regulation for young students and to aid students with poor social skills.

If the higher-ups need convincing, a quick search on your favorite search engine (or educational journal database) for 'game-based learning' or 'game-based learning research' will turn up countless articles from reputable scientific sources supporting their validity. Go forth and proselytize the value of technology and gaming in the classroom!

Computer Games

The most commonly available avenue for teachers to implement games in the classroom, the computer, offers numerous options. We'll cover some popular pre-made games as well as some resources to allow you and your students to design your own games.

BrainPOP: One of the single best repositories of quality educational games. They offer games on all subjects, which are supported by sound educational principles and, more importantly, fun! There is also an excellent support page dedicated to how to implement gaming into your classroom.

Portal: One of the most innovate of all video games, Portal (and its sequel Portal 2) has been utilized by a grassroots movement of teachers as an excellent teaching tool. The website Teach With Portals contains a number of free-to-use lessons geared around this unique game, which can be downloaded for free with Steam for Schools.

Minecraft: From my experience, there isn't a child alive under the age of 12 who doesn't go nuts for Minecraft. For those of you unfamiliar, think of Minecraft as digital Legos on steroids. It really is an amazing but simple game, and the fine folks at MinecraftEdu offer it at a significantly reduced price and with bountiful supporting resources.

BYOND: Though it isn't a game, BYOND is a great tool for developing your own games for your students or letting them construct games to support their learning. It features a simplistic programming language, as well as tutorials and a library of created games.

Construct2: Much like BYOND, Construct2 is a very simple way of creating your own games. A simple point-and-click interface allows teachers or students to quickly and easily develop arcade-style games around whatever scenario they can imagine.

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