Monday, December 2, 2013

Game On! How Video Games Liven Up Learning

Now that Christmas is approaching, so is the topic of is a link to a prior blog about the positive effects of those fun games we love to play!

Video games. These two little words hold vastly different associations depending on who you ask. To the media (and thus most of the general public), those associations tend to involve violence, sex, drugs, or sitting on a couch for hours on end wasting time. Video games are perceived by many to be nothing more than a black mark on society and a definite downside to the ever-increasing tech-ification of our world. So what reason could there possibly be for bringing these horrible things into the classroom?   

There are actually positive benefits regarding video games, which are rarely talked about in the media and professional circles. According to Abrams and Gerber (2013) in their article "Achieving through the Feedback Loop: Video Games, Authentic Assessment, and Meaningful Learning," video games do more than just encourage an increase in the obesity rate of America. 

Specific benefits of many video games include:
  • increased problem-solving
  • critical thinking
  • reduced anxiety from risk-taking
 Abrams and Gerber state that “in the video game world, errors lead to successes because players have the immediate advantage of learning from mistakes and becoming self-assessors of their learning” (p. 96). In other words, players experience a feedback loop which constantly allows them to re-evaluate and modify their previous actions. This is usually seen in the form of players having the ability to process a game's mechanics and work out a solution given a set of restrictions. Initial attempts are used to gage the boundaries of the restrictions, and subsequent attempts build to an eventual solution. Additionally, the player's ability to try and try again, each time toying with different strategies, encourages players to take risks they would have otherwise decided against for fear of permanent failure.   

Still not convinced, check out these interesting articles about the positive impacts gaming has on:

The key is to find a game which easily fits into your classroom. This might sound more difficult than it actually is. A simple Google search of "Educational apps for the ________ classroom" will yield instant results. Angry Birds, while not overtly educational, might actually be a useful example in a physics classroom about inertia.   

For the English classroom, the classic game Text Twist has an app on both the Google Play store and on iTunes. Text Twist is a simple vocabulary game which gives the players a mix of letters, and they have a set amount of time to come up with as many words as they can using those letters. If they guess any of the words which use all the letters, they get a bonus and move on to the next round. This game accesses students' current store of vocabulary words, but more importantly, it encourages them to guess at and discover new words. By encouraging guessing, students are less anxious about taking risks, because they know they can try again. Additionally, when students learn to take risks, they begin to think outside the box, which can further increase problem solving.   
 If we encourage the notion of risk taking in our students (as well as ourselves), we will undoubtedly begin to see innovation take place in education. And in a technology-driven society, innovation is as much a part of survival as food and water. Are you ready to score?

For Class Discussion (ED 6030 LCB Graduate Students):

What do you think? Please answer one of the following questions in the comments section.   
 1. If we work these games into our curriculum, what sort of issues might we need to be aware of?   
 2. Dealing with parents and administrators: How can we convince a skeptic to see the value in video games in the classroom if we are challenged? 

SPECIAL NOTE: Thanks to my graduate student Caleb Hall for his contribution to this blog.

 Abrams, S. S. & Gerber, H. R. (2013). Achieving through the Feedback Loop: Video Games, Authentic Assessment, and Meaningful Learning.  English Journal  , 103(1), 95-103. 


  1. 2. I think introducing the video game with a detailed explanation of its purposes would definitely help convince skeptics to come around on the idea of using video games in the classroom. If teachers can supply a list of skills they are working to develop in students by using this resource and then provide literature such as this article to back up their arguments, parents and administrators will likely see that the teacher has done research and understands the benefits and potential risks of using this type of technology in the classroom.

  2. In response to the first question...I think there is a place for gaming in the classroom. However, it is important that the games chosen truly supplement what is being taught and are not just time fillers. Also, I can see some students wanting to play games over anything else. I think in order to avoid problems a teacher must establish very specific guidelines for what is acceptable and what is not.

  3. To convince a skeptic about the value of video games, I would think you would have to provide some research backing the strategy, or some data proving that video games really can be beneficial. Proof that the video games do help increase problem solving skills and teach students that its okay to take risks should help to sway skeptics. Help show how they translate those problem solving skills into other areas.

  4. All skeptics need and desire to see results. It has been one of the many issues with using technology. There is a lack of assessment or "proper assessment". Showing them the different games that are used and it's uses will be helpful. When parents and admin. see the excitement and also the value or usefulness, it will be an easier sell.

  5. I imagine that working video games into the classroom would involve similar issues as many other forms of technology. I know that students playing other types of educational games often have to be reminded about what "healthy" competition looks like, about the importance of allowing others to take turns. In general, though, I think that video games could have a natural place in the classroom, along with many other types of games that do hold educational value. Children love to play!

  6. In reference to question one: If video games are allowed in the classroom, some issues that might arise would be, how to manage time effectively. Students will need to be monitored on their use of the video game so that they can learn and complete other activities. Also, if you allow students to use video games in the classroom for learning, do you still treat it as a reward. or do you introduce the game as part of the lesson, and how do you think students will take this information. I believe most students would be happy to learn through a game because it is an innovative way of learning. The challenge is to manage their time with the game.

  7. I agree completely about keeping the spirit of education in a "healthy" range, especially with older students. We need to keep students in check and make sure they understand that the competition is just a fun part of the classroom and isn't going to be a big determiner in their overall grades.


  8. In regards to question 1: I think that it would be absolutely vital to ensure that any game you are going to incorporate into the classroom has some level of educational value, uses appropriate language, and supports the specific morals that your school stands for. As long as these criteria are covered, I think that this type of technology is more than appropriate to use in the classroom as long as it is monitored and the benefits are still showing through the educational advancements of the students.

  9. I think all it takes to convince a skeptic is strong rationale. It should be possible explain to a parent or administrator how an essential objective can be met with the help of the game you would like to use in the classroom. Parents and administrators already know that their students/kids love games-- now teachers just need to help the adults understand that the extrinsic motivation that fuels kids' gaming can be very powerful when coupled with purposeful learning.

  10. 2) With introducing any form of education, research on the success of this specific type of tool is needed to convince skeptics. Especially in a society where gaming is seen as a negative, the support of administers will help when parents start to question this type of teaching. An organized outline of how and why you are using gaming and research regarding other teachers who have used it and proven it successful will help sway the opinions of those not yet convinced.

  11. 1. If we work these games into our curriculum, what sort of issues might we need to be aware of?

    I definitely think teachers need to be aware of the range of quality in video games. As we know, not all "educational games" or "educational apps" were created equal. Instead of being an advocate for any and all educational gaming, teachers need to be some of the toughest critics of what will truly supplement student learning and deepen their understanding of class material.

  12. If video games are included in the curriculum restrictions should be used to prevent excessive use of video games in the classroom. Research should be completed first to determine if the video game will actually benefit the students. Limitations will also become an issue, what will the other students be doing while a few students are utilizing the video game? Will the video game become distracting for other students to learn efficiently in the classroom?

  13. I think it is important that students understand the reason they are playing games in the classroom. Students must understand that gaming only assists in learning and will not take the place of learning. Also, students must learn not too become too competitive when playing these games in the classroom. The point of the game is not about "winning" but to make sure that they are growing/learning. - Ashley G

  14. In response to question 2, I think it is crucial that parents and administrators see the results. Statistics always are convincing, as well as valid articles. Adults should be given a mock lesson where they are given games and then a discussion afterwards just as their students are. I also think they should be encouraged to sit in on the lesson so they can see the success of the games.


  15. In response to the first question, I think that the content will have to be carefully scrutinized to be sure that it is completely appropriate. As with any teaching tool, it is important to begin with "why" in deciding whether or not to use a video game. The response should always be that this tool (game) is the best way to engage students and help them learn, not only that it is a fun break in the day. As an aside, I think incorporating the video game strategies into the classroom is an interesting idea. My only concern about giving instantaneous feedback is that if a student needs excessive negative feedback, will the constant negative reinforcement cause the student to abandon the learning process altogether as the result of discouragement.

  16. 2. Dealing with parents and administrators: How can we convince a skeptic to see the value in video games in the classroom if we are challenged?
    Skeptic parents and administrators can be addressed through providing literature on the positive effects of gaming. Information is important when introducing new ideas for learning. I don't see this as being anything different than having to explain to a parent why you choose to implement something they don't understand. By knowing exactly what games you are using, why you are using them, and how they connect to the classroom. Being prepared and knowing the true benefits of the games will help to address the concerns of skeptics.