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The theory and practice of educational games as a means to promote better education

by William Steward
25 Mar 2019 at 11:03hrs | Views
When educators and parents think about games, they see them as tools of distraction. They instantly imagine kids glued down to their smartphones, paying zero attention to what's going on outside that screen.

Yes; gaming addiction is a real thing and it's a huge problem that needs to be addressed. But that is an extreme. Forcing students of any age to stay away from technology is another extreme, which is equally as damaging as the first one.

Today's students live in a world driven by technology. They love playing games on smartphones and tablets. We should take that as a fact. When it comes to education, we should find a way to blend their love for games into the learning process. The winning combination of learning games will lead to more engaged students and a more effective learning process.

Let's look into the theory and practice of children's educational games, so we'll understand the concept in depth.

The Theory: Are Educational Games Worth the Effort?

In theory, games have many benefits:
● The players develop skills that they can transfer into real-world practice. Some of these include hand-eye coordination, quick thinking, and logical processing of information.

● Games may improve specific cognitive processes, such as spatial visualization and visual attention. In addition, game education may have beneficial effects over the student's problem-solving skills.

● Computer and smartphone games are perceived with great enthusiasm on the part of students. They like technology and they definitely like games. When they approach education with more enthusiasm, they try harder to achieve better performance.

● Games encourage good behavior with rewards. In addition, they discourage mistakes through negative points or failed levels. The student strives towards better results not because they are afraid they would get a bad grade, but because it's fun to do better at a game.

● Games engage the students. Instead of being passive listeners, they directly participate into the learning process. Games are more active than traditional lectures or even video lessons.

●  In language learning, in particular, games are essential. Research shows that players pay close attention to the vocal and textual elements of the games, and they are able to adopt vocabulary through gaming. The game improves their ability to memorize vocabulary and use it in adequate context.  
Keep in mind that we're not talking about Super Mario or Angry Birds here. We're talking about games specifically developed with the intention to educate. The developers base these games on learning theories, such as Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences or Gagne's Conditions for Learning. When we talk about interactive sites for education that promote such games, the benefits are obvious.

Games in Practice: How to Use Them to Promote Better Education
All that theory was fun. When an educator is willing to understand that games are beneficial, they will easily find information to support that point of view.

Now, the only question is: how do we implement theory into practice. Do you simply choose a game and tell your students to play it?

It's not that simple. The element of distraction is still a potential threat, so we have to be careful about the way we introduce gaming into the classroom.

1. Activate the Students

The point of games is to move away from the traditional method of delivering lectures. The teacher should not be seen as someone who keeps students quiet while explaining what different concepts mean. A good teacher engages the students into the process of learning. Games help with that.

The game places your students into a fictional environment that shows how those concepts work. Immune Attack, for example, helps them understand how cells and molecules work through play.

If you just teach a lesson on cells and molecules and then ask them to write a project on the theme, most of your students will hire writers who offer university assignment help. Do you know why? - Because they failed to understand the theory. But if you let them play the game and ask them to write about molecules, they will be willing to try. The game helps them figure out how theory is just something that explains real life. The game activates their ability and willingness to think.

2. Choose Relevant Games

How does Immune Attack help you teach students how to write? It doesn't do that? Gaming is not the point. The point of proper education is to choose a game that's relevant to the thing you're trying to teach.

It's important for you to go through different educational websites for students, so you'll choose the best games for the occasion. The game should guide your students towards a specific objective. They should set a goal and work towards its achievement. If, for example, you're trying to teach writing through a game, it should guide them from simple through more complex works. Games work in a progressive way. Make sure the starting point of the game matches the current knowledge and skills of your students.

It might take some time for you to find a relevant game and figure out how to use it in the classroom. But noone is pushing you to do this ASAP. Take your time. Explore, test, and implement!

3. Make Sure the Game Leaves Space for Discussion

The last thing you want is a classroom full of students who only pay attention to the computer or smartphone screen. Games shouldn't isolate the students in their own worlds. Collaborative learning is still important!

You can achieve collaboration by introducing multiplayer games. But even if you simply ask the students to play at home, you can still add the element of collaboration. Just have a discussion about what they learned from the game you assigned. Ask them to evaluate it and share the progress. They can help each other with specific tricks that led them to better results.
Games Work in Theory and Practice

The right game at the right time can help you engage the students on a deeper level. Technology gives educators so many opportunities that it would be silly of us to ignore them. It's our responsibility to make the learning process more accessible to all students. Games are part of the process.

BIO: William Steward is an elementary school teacher. Through his attempts to make learning fun for his students, he constantly finds new online tools to introduce in the classroom. Currently, he is working on his first online course. It's going to be great!

Source - William Steward