At the Serious Play Conference this week we heard numerous educators, administrators, and game designers talk about their history and experience with gaming in the classroom. The three themes around most of the discussions were how to select games, how to get other teachers or administration on board, and lesson/classroom planning. Here’s the top 5 tips for diving headfirst into the gaming world.
Game play is more important than atmospherics. Don’t be too concerned about how a game looks, how many “special features” it has. What’s most important for games used in a classroom is the actual play and mechanics. If the game embodies the correct learning objectives, the atmosphere of the game (colors, badges, etc.) aren’t vital.
Games must make failure fun and acceptable. Students shouldn’t be afraid to try different strategies. Learning can happen not only in success, but also in failure.
Connect to the familiar. When working to convince colleagues, administration, or parents about the benefits of gaming in the classroom, find ways to connect what you’re doing with what people are already familiar with.
Treat classroom games like a “lab”. Encourage students to use the game as an opportunity to apply, prove, and test what they’ve learned. Gaming is by no means meant to replace entire lesson plans, but instead used to fill holes or help with certain concepts. Games can also be used to help better demonstrate concepts to students that maybe aren’t understanding textbook or lecture based explanation.
Teachable moments will arise naturally. Teachers must be willing to let their students “go” and explore on their own. Kids will inevitably be at different levels in their learning which is to be expected. One teacher admitted, “I’m not a gamer, but I do it because my kids are experts and we need to meet them where they are, not where we are”.
While some teachers think parents would be concerned about their students spending the day playing video games when they should be hitting the books, many teachers said it was actually the opposite. Parents were excited about what their kids were learning and how well they were mastering difficult concepts. Many even wished they had the opportunity to use games when they were in school.
There are numerous benefits to using games in the classroom. Some teachers even claim that games make it easier to show student growth as well as find where students are truly struggling. Take some time thinking about these tips as you consider adding games to your curriculum and stay tuned for more updates from the Serious Play Conference!