Take a few seconds and think about the word “Gaming”. What words or associations come to your mind? Atari? PS3? Wii? Exhilaration? Fun? Free time? Any time? Addiction? fat dorky guys drinking too much diet coke and nachos? We all have our experiences with gaming, may it be when we were younger, after work, a friend’s Candy Crush or Halo 3 addiction, and more. We all have feelings about gaming as well. This blog post is about gaming, but for a specific reason. Learning. The place may not be so specific, but for now let’s call it “in the classroom”. This post will also not discuss the “how” or “what” (I will keep those for later posts). It will discuss the “why”.
Why should we, teachers, use gaming in the classroom? We all know that no matter how much time we have to teach, it is never enough. We cram activities into activities, our students are sitting silently or running around, and before we notice, that bell rings. Again and again. So why should we add “games” into our lessons? Yes, they are fun for kids, but the bottom line is “Is it worth it?”
Aside from the facts that we know kids love playing games and that today’s kids spend a lot of time on their tablets, desktops, or in some rare cases, outside, there are more reasons we should bring electronic games into the classroom. First, kids know how to play games. Our kids are digital natives. They have been growing with technology around them- they learn, create, and communicate through different media, so games are a second nature to them, and they learn it very fast. Another reason is that games increase student engagement and it helps teachers to personalize (differentiate) instruction.
Games help kids learn. According to Bristol University neuroscientist Paul Howard-Jones, games stimulate the brain to create dopamine. Dopamine helps orient the user’s attention and encourages creation of connections between neurons. These very connections are the physical basis for learning. Games are engaging and motivating to kids because students get to be active and manipulate objects and variables, they have control over their actions and choices, and keeps them engaged in experiential learning. Teachers who incorporated gaming in their classroom observed that it taught their students many skills, such as problems solving, communication, collaboration, and negotiation! One study by SRI International showed that the percentile ranking of students who used DreamBox Learning (a computer program that includes game-like online exercises) were 5.5 points higher than their peers!
So let’s ask ourselves again, why gaming?
Because they area fun, engaging, and they teach!
View the infographic below to find the research I referred to above, and more!