Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

4 Innovative Ways to Teach with Video Games: Educators from around the Country Share Their Best Practices for Using Educational and Consumer Games to Improve Students' Engagement and Performance

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

4 Innovative Ways to Teach with Video Games: Educators from around the Country Share Their Best Practices for Using Educational and Consumer Games to Improve Students' Engagement and Performance

Article excerpt

IIFTY-FIVE PERCENT of teachers use video games in the classroom on a weekly basis, and many find these games to be an effective tool to motivate low-performing students, according to a recent survey from the Games and Learning Publishing Council. Another recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that playing action-based video games "substantially improves performance in a range of attentional, perceptual and cognitive tasks." And in recent conversations with THE Journal, teachers across the country are reporting improved student engagement, attendance, behavior and performance whether students are playing an educational game designed for classroom use, a massive multiplayer online game like World of Warcraft or a popular game such as Minecraft.

Using Educational Games for Project-Based Learning

Heather Messer, a teacher at Clark Street Community School in Middleton, WI, recently incorporated a video game into her classroom for the first time. Her school focuses on place- and project-based learning, but according to Messer some students are resistant to this approach. "Sometimes I see kids that view themselves as gamers, kind of on the edge of school, because they don't necessarily associate gaming and school," said Messer. "And so I wanted to more actively support what our gamers do." The school's 15-week terms are followed by a three-week "deep dive" on a specific topic. For one particular deep-dive session, Messer developed an interdisciplinary English, math and science seminar called "It's Rocket Science," which was inspired by the movie Interstellar. "If you've seen Interstellar, you know that it is all things motion," said Messer. To teach motion, she needed to cover the concepts of inertia, Newton's laws, friction, gravity and mass. "That could be a semester's worth of topics, but we had 14 days to cover them," she said. "And so we were looking for tools that would help us introduce these concepts, interact with the concepts, play with the concepts and really get to feel what these things mean in an efficient manner."

As part of "It's Rocket Science," Messer used Motion Force from Filament Games, a game-based curriculum development company based in nearby Madison, WI. Motion Force included a teacher's guide, a student guide and curriculum support materials, and Messer discovered that it was a perfect fit for the seminar on motion. When students played the game, they had to predict how a ship was going to move; they had to figure out much force to apply and how long to apply the force in order to get the ship to move where they wanted it to; and they had to deal with variables such as obstacles in the path, the effect of the ship's mass on its motion and the number of passengers on the ship. As they played, they had to consider balanced and unbalanced forces, mass, inertia and other concepts associated with motion. After playing the game, Messer and the students had conversations about Newton's laws and what they had discovered through the process of playing the game. Messer and her students also completed some of the associated offline activities from Filament Games' curriculum support materials.

For video games to be an effective teaching tool, Messer believes they should be integrated into the curriculum rather than used as a supplementary add-on activity. "It should be set up with warm-up activities, it should be assessed, and there should be activities to wrap up to make sure that kids really have learned what we hoped they would learn, instead of just as a fun closing activity," she said.

Integrating Educational Video Games Into Blended Learning

According to Asante Johnson, a middle school teacher at Wheatley Education Campus in Washington, DC, video games can be an effective motivational reward for learning. She uses a program called i-Ready in her math remediation class. When students answer a set of questions correctly, they get to play a three-minute video game on the computer. …

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