The concept of game-based learning is not new, yet always in need of new research to take gamified education even further. The following examples should spark your creativity on how to design your classes from this point forward.
Minecraft for Educational Purposes
The wildly popular Minecraft attracts the attention of students at home and school. Until recently, Minecraft rarely made an appearance outside of the computer science lab. It seemed like a natural fit in the world of computer science. However, educators are uncovering an overlooked use for the game – problem solving. After watching students collaborate to solve complex problems presented in the game, teachers began to incorporate the element of team building through problem solving in their learning activities. Katrina Schwartz writes about examples of teachers who are getting creative in their use of Minecraft: “Teachers like to use Minecraft because it’s a “sandbox” game — it provides players nearly limitless freedom to build within it. As a player’s skill develops, the game’s complexity increases ad infinitum. In multi-player levels, players collaborate on building complex structures, use programming features to build contraptions, games, or compose music. Meanwhile, beginning players use their problem solving skills to scavenge for materials. They learn to mine stone for building, and coal for making fire.”
Teachers are beginning to understand that games are more than a means to an end. They need to engage the heart and the mind of the learner. When teachers spend the time observing the students at play (and enjoying the game), they can then plan for the educational outcomes. Students are far more like to learn the subject matter if it is tailored to their fun experience.
Games in Community
Research related to game-based learning suggests children learn more when they play in small groups. The conclusion was that: “The optimal group size was around 3, at least in terms of sharing and learning how to use the device and excel at the game. A student alone with a device struggled more than a group of 3 students. At a group of 7 students, some never got close enough to the device. Frustration and disengagement prevailed in a group size less than 3 and more than 3.”
Many computer games are produced for one child to pay alone. However, this research demonstrates that games are more effective when designed for small groups. Children should play together, not alone, if they are going to learn best.
Are you encouraging your students to have fun and play in groups? If not, your game-based learning might be missing the mark. What one thing can you change today to incorporate fun and group play?