Do you need to make a case for using learning games in your classroom or school? Data is your friend. Though studies on the benefits of learning with games are still scarce, the Gates-Foundation-funded GlassLab (“Glass” is for Games and Learning Assessment) managed to put together a terrific meta-analysis of 69 studies measuring the effects of digital games on learning, involving a total of 6,868 unique participants. And it’s available to the public! This infographic sums up the principal findings:
Not only does the meta-analysis ask whether or not games have an effect on learning outcomes (they do), but it also looks at some of the factors that make games better or worse at helping you teach. I highly recommend reading the study summary on their website – it’s well-written, and the methodology is clearly explained, along with many subtleties the infographic doesn’t convey.
I have played many a Jeopardy-style quiz game in class. And with good reason: quiz games adapt to many topics, and they stir up students’ competitive spirit, making for an easy kind of engagement.
1. But if I’m honest about it, I have to admit that with this kind of game, it is most often the strongest students who invest and engage the most. Many games result in winners and losers, but one of the benefits of using games in class is that they can give middling or even poor students a chance to be victorious – something quiz games rarely do.
If you create your own games, you have ideas that need to be tested. Create a lab space for yourself by keeping a game kit around, with some basic components in it that can be used for just about any mechanic you have in mind.
Game parts aren’t very expensive, and you don’t need much to get started. Here are five of the most useful, most versatile components, along with sources and, if you need them, even cheaper substitutes.
For this long-time language teacher, the game that teaches language skills is something of a holy grail. In the past few years, the classes I’ve taught haven’t been focused so much on language acquisition and grammar as on cultural understanding; with students already at least moderately conversational in the target language, I was able to design games that focused on other concepts (international conflict, the immigrant experience). But the game that teaches language is always in the back of my mind.
I’ve finally had a chance to look at the feedback from Isaac Joslin’s students, who played Sans-Papiers a few weeks ago in the context of Joslin’s course on immigration in France.
Of the 18 responses I received, 13 made some mention of the rules being difficult to understand or complicated; 13 used some variation of “interesting” or “fun” to describe play (one instance of “magnifique” is included in this count). A few did not address game play at all, but instead outlined a perceived lesson on the hardships of immigrant life.
Here are some selected comments, with my thoughts: