As educators, nowadays we strive to get learners’ attention among a stream of other distractors that are competing for people’s attention. Communication technology, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality programs are making it harder for trainers and teachers to engage with learners. Thus, we are required to look into techniques that can give us a competitive advantage, or a way to embed such technologies or approaches in the learning experiences we build.
In a course that I was taking as part of my Master’s program that provided an introduction to game-based teaching, I had the chance to learn about the benefits of adopting curricular games when developing a learning experience. As an instructional designer who has seen the impact of games on people and their ability to teach life skills, I will share with you five reasons why I see game-based teaching (GBT) as a winning approach when it comes to developing learning experiences in the 21st century.
- Engaging and Entertaining Experience:
None of us would be happy to see our students distracted from what we are teaching, therefore, we put a lot of effort into ensuring that we keep the learners engaged. Curricular games are a great technique to do so! Let us think of a time when you played a game such as Monopoly or Grand-Theft Auto or any game you loved, do you remember how you felt? Can you think of skills you learned through these games? Did you feel bored? If you are like me, most probably you were engaged in a flow state that you didn’t even feel the hours passing by when playing, and possibly you learned various skills such as coordination, decision making, critical thinking, and time management. Well-designed games can be a great entertainment and learning tool, not only to transfer knowledge but also to develop soft skills that are required in the employment world today.
2. Risk Without the Consequences:
Teaching through games encourages learners to make hard decisions and take risks that they might not be able to do in real life. This is due to the ability of games to simulate real-life events and situations without actually having real consequences. The player who is the learner will be more comfortable taking steps or actions that they might avoid in real life only because they are afraid of the result this decision can bring. For instance, in a soccer video game, the player might try a new playing mechanism or strategy without being afraid of losing a point because they know that the loss will only be in the game and not in real life.
3. From the Game to Reality:
Since games are built on real-life situations and events, the player with proper design and direction from the teacher, trainer, or the game itself will see the connection between the curricular game and real-life situations. In such conditions, the player or learner tends to find it easier to develop the connections between the game world and the real world, thus the learner will be able to apply the skills they learned in the game in real-life situations. For example, going back to the game Monopoly players can take the investment skills and strategies they learned while playing the game and apply them to real-life conditions.
4. Special Ed and ELL Students are Welcomed:
Game-based teaching can be a good choice for the educator who teaches English language or special education learners as it provides scaffolding based on the learner’s needs and offers customized directions and challenges. GBT also encourages collaborative learning which is an effective learning approach when teaching ELL and Special Ed students. Collaboration in games takes place during playing among teams or with other players. If you are a teacher focusing on ELL or special Ed students check the experience of Maile Hoyt, a special education teacher in Texas, when using games for teaching her students. Additionally, game-based learning aligns with the universal design learning (UDL) framework making it a great choice for classrooms with students who have different needs.
5. Roots in Learning Theories:
What I also like about game-based teaching and using curricular games to develop a unique learning experience is that GBT has roots in various well know learning theories. Among these theories come the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and Vygotsky’s scaffolding theories, just-in-time instructions, experiential learning, and social cognitive learning. The discussion about the roots of GBT in dominating learning theories needs a separate post, but might encourage you to look into it and is key if you need to convince your institute, parents, or students about the effectiveness of GBT.
Let’s make this short, if you are an educator and looking for a technique that would bring life to your classroom or the learning experiences you develop, I encourage you to look more into curricular games design and game-based teaching. And if you are already using this technique I would love to hear your experience.