23 Best Game-Based Education Resources of 2014

The concept of game-based education is one that’s easily dismissed as being frivolous or time-wasting. These go-to resources will help teachers who would like to learn more about the effectiveness of using game-driven approaches in the classroom:

  • The Institute of Play explains how games nurture the higher-order thinking skills kids will need in their futures, including the ability to analyze and solve problems using media resources. The Why Games & Learning page on its site makes a particularly succinct and compelling argument on behalf of game-based learning. It describes games as “complex eco-systems extending beyond the game space to involve networks of people in a variety of roles and rich interactions.”

  • Educational technology company Knewton presents an easy-to-digest infographic about the prevalence of gaming in today’s society, the benefits of gaming in school, and how teachers can harness the powers of gaming for the good of public education.

  • In Gamification in the Classroom: The Right or Wrong Way to Motivate Students?, Tim Walker of the National Education Association (NEA) takes a look at today’s gamification trend, with a call-to-action for teachers to choose their methodology wisely. Although the article is rather critical of gamification in learning, it nonetheless offers valuable perspective to prevent educators from going too far with this method.

Resources for Getting Started

Even if you’re sold on the idea of game-based learning, you might be at a loss on where to begin. Here, you’ll find helpful introductory resources for teachers who want to learn more about gamification:

  • According to Smart Data Collective’s October 2014 post, Press Start to Learn: How Gamification is Changing Education, gamification instills a sense of investment and collaboration in students, which in turn improves both behavior and learning. Author Rick Delgado offers several suggestions for gamification practices in your classroom.

  • Education technology specialist Alice Keeler thinks students should never be bored or disinterested in class. In her video, Getting Started With Games Based Learning, Keeler offers words of wisdom in this webinar for teachers who want to try game-based learning but aren’t sure where to start.

  • In an Education Week blog titled Eight Principles of Productive Gamification that was posted earlier this year, education advocate Tom Vander Ark discusses productive failure, intrinsic motivation, and other important principles you should be aware of before introducing game-based learning strategies to your classroom.

  • TeachThought’s Mike Acedo gives 10 easy-to-follow suggestions for those who want a simple start to classroom gamification. The ideas on his list all are practical and simple to implement.

  • Last July, the Joan Gan Cooney Center published a piece titled How Teachers Can Use Video Games in the Humanities Classroom. In it, Temple University professor Jordan Shapiro provides discourse about how humanities teachers can and should help shape the role of video games in school and society. The story is the 12th installment of Shapiro’s 19-part Guide to Games and Learning for KQED’s MindShift website.

Tools You Can Use

Once you’ve developed an understanding of game-based learning and decided how to get started, it’s time to move forward with deciding on the games you want to use. Visit these sites for access to hands-on games and gaming ideas:

  • Austrian think tank GLOBArt shares an informative video about The World Peace Game, a political science simulation that pits four or five student-led “countries” against one another. Students must use imagination and thinking skills to strike a balance of peace between their countries.

  • Back in May, Edudemic’s Nikolaos Chatzpoulous published a piece titled 3 Edtech Tools You Can Use to Gamify Your Classroom. It details three platforms — Socrative, Kahoot, and FlipQuiz — that can help you make the transition to a gamified classroom.

  • Mojang’s Minecraft is a massively popular game, but it also has educational applications for the classroom. In September, TechRepulblic published an article, MinecraftEDU: From Game to Classroom, which details reasons and methods for using MinecraftEDU in your curriculum.

For Teachers Who Design Their Own Games

When designing your own games, you must accomplish two things: creating a game and constructing a legitimate learning solution. Review these helpful hints for teachers who prefer to structure their own games:

  • In Game Element: Rewards, Bloomsburg University Professor Karl Kapp discusses gamification’s greatest motivators: praise, points, prolonged play, feelings of power, feelings of accomplishment, and more. You may also want to look at Game Element: Feedback, where Professor Kapp explores how gamification supplies students with automatic feedback, which in turn provides helpful academic guidance.

  • On the EdTech subreddit, there’s a great post titled Reddit Gamification Q & A with MIT Professor Eric Klopfer. In this thread, MIT Professor Eric Klopfer engages the public in a fascinating Q & A about gamification’s implications for students in 2014 and beyond. Among other subjects, it discusses creating games that teach students to code, and Professor Klopfer outlines some important considerations for designing these games.

  • Marzano Research’s Tips From Dr. Marzano: Vocabulary Games for the Classroom will be of particular interest for educators seeking to design language-based games. In this piece, education guru Dr. Robert Marzano offers research-based tips on how to create effective vocabulary games for your classroom.

Game-Based Education in the News

Among news outlets and tech publications, game-based learning is getting a lot of traction. Catch up on the latest developments with this learning modality via these articles:

  • The San Francisco Chronicle’s Computer Science Not Just a Game for S.F. Schools details how a group of high school students in San Francisco are learning computer coding in a college-prep math course. Their assignment: Create your own version of Pong.

Other Resources

Finally, use these miscellaneous resources to further expand your knowledge on game-based learning and gamification:

  • Code.org is a resource site for educators interested in learning and teaching computer coding. This “Hour of Code” video provides information about how you and your students can join the millions who have already taken this one-hour introductory course on computer coding. The class will be available online in December 2014.

  • In a peer-reviewed study published last April by the University of St. Andrews, students were motivated to make healthier lunch choices through gamification. Among other outcomes, it found that “Cafeteria-based FV consumption among K-8th grade students increased significantly above baseline levels when a low-cost, behaviorally based gamification intervention was introduced.”

In educational settings, game-based learning offers enormous potential for teachers and students. When done well, these interactions can yield meaningful, enriching experiences for everyone involved.

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