Game-based learning has become synonymous with educational video games in some circles, but low-tech games have been used with great success in classrooms for a while. In fact, games that don’t require costly technology have a lot to offer the intrepid educator both as a learning tool and an education mindset, according to game-based learning advocates.
Quest to Learn schools in New York and Chicago are based entirely on game principles, but 90% of the games used in those classrooms are board-games or physical games, according to school officials. If classes do use video games, they almost always use existing commercial games like Minecraft or Portal paired with a specific query or learning goal directive designed by the teacher. The drawback of many video games is that they are single-player and isolated. The benefit can be a self-directed and personalized experience with a lot of data to help assess if a student is learning.
“Kids can sit for hours on end playing games because games drop players into spaces that force them to face complex problems,” said Eliza Spang, Institute of Play learning director in an edWeb presentation. “Then players get immediate and ongoing feedback about their choices.” Gaming can be especially useful in middle and high school grades when school traditionally moves away from play, she added.
LEARN THROUGH PLAY
There are seven components to game-play that aptly fit curriculum design.
- Challenge is constant
- Everything is interconnected
- Failure is reframed as iteration
- Learning happens by doing
- Feedback is immediate and ongoing
- Everyone is a participant
- It feels like play
“These characteristics are very hard to untangle,” Spang said. “You need to use them all together to make them feel the most powerful.” Like a game, students won’t understand a new unit of study all at once. It should be designed around a difficult concept that students reach by doing exercises and projects – leveling up – to the point when they understand how to “win” the game or unit.