As many middle school teachers can agree, students in grades 5-9 require a very different approach for instruction compared to upper elementary or high school levels. Middle level educators know that kids at that age need something different in the classroom to keep them engaged and excited about learning.
That’s why game-based learning (GBL) can improve student academic success when incorporated correctly into the classroom. Earlier this month, we headed to Columbus, OH for AMLE 2015, a gathering where middle level educators from all over the country can talk about best practices in the classroom. Suzi led a Speed Learning session with three rotations to talk to teachers about why GBL works, how they can use games in the classroom, and where to find well-built games that keeps the student experience in mind during development.
Here are five important takeaways from that presentation:
- Games should have defined learning outcomes in order to create a meaningful learning experience for the student. In other words, teachers should be able to ask, “What is my student working towards in this game?” and get a detailed response. For example, in Loot Pursuit: Pompeii, the goal of the game is to provide review of Common Core-aligned math problems, but also to give exposure to the ancient Roman culture through artifact collection.
- Electronic games combine visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning at all times. Through the combination of graphics, audio and movement into a coherent whole, players are encouraged to strengthen weaker skills, while taking advantage of their proficiencies.
- Story-based games are immersive and interactive, helping to “hide” the learning. It’s invisible to the students, but they are practicing higher-order thinking and building critical thinking skills during gameplay. These games are valuable because they pull the learner into the game and motivate them to continue to reach the story’s conclusion.
- Many games that provide built-in, instantaneous feedback offer students progressive learning and require players to master a topic before moving forward. This places an emphasis on character traits like persistence and ownership of the learning material. Because this feedback is not communicated to a student’s peers, it acts as a form of self-assessment and encourages experimentation, trial and error, and failure.
- Look for educational games on websites like Graphite, which provide detailed reviews and alignment to standards. Teachers are even able to search by standard on these sites and incorporate a short mini-game into their lessons. Alternatively, teachers may find long-form games for use (like Mayan Mysteries), which can stand on their own rather than being supplemental.
We’ll be participating in the Game-Based Learning Summit at FETC 2016 on January 12! Be sure to save the date and stop by in Orlando, or follow along on our Twitter account (@DigItGames) for more tips and tricks involving GBL.