Learning While Having Fun: Games as Educational Tools in the Classroom

Jul 7, 2015 by

If you are a child from the late ‘70s to the mid ‘90s who attended an American or possibly an international school, you will likely remember how the computer game Oregon Trail sparked your curiosity about the history of American westward expansion, American geography, or even fatal diseases from the 19th century. Such was the power of computer games in the classroom, then as pioneering a tool as were the earlier trailblazers in search of fortune on the western frontier.trail

Of course, games as educational tools in the classroom are nothing new; for millennia, pedagogues have noted the power of play as a powerful device for capturing the imagination of the student, transporting her to a completely different context – even other worlds – whilst still retaining the fundamental principles of math, language, or a more topical subject that the learner must utilize to succeed, and in the process is, one might say, almost tricked into apprehending. And yes, with the advent of computing technology, more possibilities are opened up to the educator; the potentialities of learning are only limited by the imagination of the programmer. If such a powerful evocation of emotions and memory might exist in the simple code of an Apple II game from 1979, imagine what is possible today when factoring in Moore’s law (a prediction which states that every 18 months, computational speeds double).

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few games that be used as educational tools in the classroom, ranging from the age-old, tried and true past-times to more cutting edge stuff we would not have dreamt of being possible even a short time ago.

Bingo

There are countless variations on this time-honoured classic that typically involves numbers and luck. With a few tweaks, this game becomes a class-favourite and go-to game for teachers whilst remaining extremely useful for practicing mathematical principles or reinforcing linguistic memorisation.

For students to get the gist of the game, use sites like Lucky Cow Bingo to teach the rules and goal of bingo. Now comes the creative part: for math, replacing reading out numbers with equations that students have to solve (eg. reading out ‘11 x 2’ instead of ‘22’); for history, replacing placard numbers with the heads or names of prime ministers, then referencing a period or historical event associated with them; for foreign languages; using a bingo board with pictures, and reading out corresponding names in said foreign language. The uses for bingo to teach concepts and reiterate ideas that have been covered are limitless, one only need dream up the next creative idea!

Theatre Sports

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These games are fun in that they involve a different faculty than is typically employed when in the classroom. While most classes focus on intellectual concepts, theatre sports focus on emotional and aptitudes of expression. (For those that doubt the important of this, many psychological studies suggest that one’s emotional quotient is a better predictor of future success than IQ).

Practicing putting oneself in front of people with the possibility of making a mistake or making a fool of oneself is a highly instructive tool in itself. As everyone is bound to look silly in the act of improvisational theatre, a students’ confidence can grow just making themselves vulnerable and realising that it’s OK to make mistakes. For a list of great games to use in the classroom, check out this list.

Portal 1 and 2

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Valve’s critically acclaimed masterpieces of the puzzle genre, Portal 1 and Portal 2, are underrated as educational tools. Highly entertaining pieces of interactive media, these games offer fully fleshed out narratives in the same world that some of the most famous games to have ever graced PCs or consoles, the Half-Life series, occupy.

The central conceit is that you, a test subject in a mysterious laboratory of sorts, come into possession of a device capable of shooting corresponding portals which transport you from one place to another. From this mechanic, simply ingenious puzzles are played out as the player encounters rooms of increasing difficulty she must escape. A top notch experience from beginning to end, this game is educational in that it places a premium on the player’s creative understanding of space and physics as depicted in the Portal universe. One thing is guaranteed: this will stretch your mind and might even make it hurt a bit, in a good way of course.

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1 Comment

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    Sonia Bilton

    Thanks for sharing an amazing information really such a wonderful site you have done a great job once more thanks a lot!

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