Thursday, August 7, 2014

How games can work in the classroom

While the use of educational technology is a great way to prepare students for the future, none of that is possible without a good teacher. However, teaching and learning should not just be about academic content and retention - it should involve other ways of learning that differ from the traditional "sage on the stage" classroom model.

One method of moving away from a top-down practice of teaching is by incorporating video games into the classroom. While some may see it as a distraction, video games can actually be useful in the classroom because they encourage students to understand knowledge not just through memorization but through interaction. Of course, in order for video games to be effective, teachers will need to continue working directly with students and can then use games as a supplement that increases one-on-one learning.

ST Math - otherwise known as "Jiji math" due to its penguin mascot named Jiji - is just one example of successful game implementation in the classroom. Created by the MIND Research Institute, ST Math provides a fun game-based program that teaches math without using words. The company's founder, Dr. Matthew Peterson, says his company stays successful by incorporating three classic principles of good teaching:
  1. Interactivity. The students need to come before the curriculum and learning needs to be interactive in order for students to create their own solutions. Rather than having students regurgitate information learned in class, they should be able to generate their own answers in order to have higher retention.
  2. Informative feedback. Unfortunately, the majority of educational games lack in offering feedback other than simple rewards and scores that are no different than standardized test results. Informative feedback provides instant explanations about why an answer is right or wrong so that students can learn from their mistakes.
  3. Intrinsic motivation. The cost of providing informative feedback is that students are no longer motivated by rewards. However, this may not be a bad thing - rather than being motivated by gold stars and smiley faces, students are now motivated to solve the problems instead of just passing the test.
Check out MindShift's original article, "In the Bustling, Interactive Classroom, A Place for Digital Games" and check out their guide to games and learning here. Educators, how do you use games in the classroom? Let us know in our comments section or on Twitter!