The value of game-play as an educational technique is now well established. With educational benchmarks and national assessments a constant for teachers, being able to quantify the skills children will learn and which games will work is integral to adding them to school programs. And with more games and game-based applications being released each year students can learn valuable skills while they play.
Game-based learning (‘gamification’) can enhance a child’s learning and development, and teach a whole range of skills including:
- Problem solving
- Strategic thinking
- Hand eye coordination
- Spatial awareness
In terms of practical examples, different types of games are available to teach different types of skills.
Sandbox of imagination
Named for the creative playground style of play, ‘sandbox’ games are those where a player creates their own world without specific goals or instructions so that everyone has their own individual experience.
Minecraft is perhaps the most well-known and widely played sandbox game to emerge in recent years. Teachers across the world have embraced it to teach chemistry and engineering concepts, collaboration and empathy skills and other core subjects. Minecraft Education Edition provides structure to using the game in the classroom, with lesson plans for a range of subject areas and age groups, training for teachers, and an online community for sharing lesson ideas and experiences.
Coding the future
Tipped as the new language everyone should learn, coding is set to become commonplace in the classroom, and not just for students interested in ICT.
Hour of Code seeks to bridge the gap between traditional subjects and coding. Covering science, math, social studies, language, music and art for pre-schoolers through to year 9 with a game-based approach to learning.
The response from teachers and students alike has been incredible, with groups reporting improved student recall and increased enthusiasm for learning. More than half a million teachers have signed up to Hour of Code and they can access lesson plans and other resources to improve their ‘productivity’ in the classroom, while students can work at their own pace or modify teacher-guided lesson plans.
Consoles in the classroom
Video game consoles like Xbox, Wii or PlayStation can also have a place in the classroom – even though this may be controversial. These types of gaming systems have long captured the attention of children and can now engage them in learning experiences.
A new wave of educational games is being released for consoles and mobile devices, including from educational stalwart National Geographic. Its Challenge release uses a stimulating game show theme that covers history and geography with questions that can earn young players points.
These types of video games – with their immersive environments, rewarding structure and creative narratives – can be a fantastic resource for getting students involved and educated.
Just a few years ago, the idea of sitting a class down to play an hour of Minecraft would have raised a few eyebrows but now progressive educators are scheduling exactly that sort of play into their curriculum – and students are reaping the benefits.