Learning through digital games and video games October 02 2015, 0 Comments

As we’ve seen in the last few weeks, games are a broad category that cover many different types of activities. They can be simple like Tic-Tac-Toe, or complicated like Monopoly. Games can be board games, card games, dice games, or computer games. Teachers can use video games to reinforce concepts in math, science, reading, writing, and social studies. 

Not only are students expected to learn these core subjects, but they need to be technologically proficient, as well. According to Augmented Learning: Research and Design of Mobile Educational Games, students need the following information technology skills to live and work in the modern world:

  1. Engage in sustained reasoning.
  2. Manage complexity.
  3. Test a solution.
  4. Manage problems in faulty solutions.
  5. Organize and navigate information structures and evaluate information.
  6. Collaborate.
  7. Communicate to other audiences.
  8. Expect the unexpected.
  9. Anticipate changing technologies.
  10. Think about information technology abstractly.

Digital games are uniquely built to address all of these skills. Throughout this post, we’ll use the term digital games to refer to games on the computer, tablet device, smartphone, or video games.

What are the benefits of digital games?

Unlike traditional paper-and-pencil assessments, digital games are quick and easy to administer to the whole class and provide immediate feedback to the teacher. The teacher can easily see which students mastered certain skills and which students need extra practice. Instead of relying on one set of questions, digital games capture student data over time, recording many observations while the student doesn’t experience the pressures associated with traditional test-taking.

In addition, games, teachers can observe a student's time spent on each activity, various attempts at a task, sequence of actions, requests for help, etc. This allow the teacher to examine the student's process of problem solving, not just the final product. These observations can help educators make important decisions regarding students' mastery of key skills, while providing new methods of assessing the types of factors that aren’t easily measured on multiple-choice tests, including critical thinking and problem solving skills. Want to learn more about using games as a form of assessment? Read more here!

Not only do teachers get immediate feedback about their students’ progress, but students’ are given this feedback, as well. Other benefits to students include improved emotional, social, and cognitive skills. According to research studies, playing video games can enhance reaction time, attention, and focus. This study from the American Psychological Association explains the benefits of playing video games.

Digital game resources

The digital game market is huge, and there are many thousands of engaging, educational games to choose from. Instead of highlighting specific games, here is a list of websites where you can find well-developed, fun games for your classroom:

Common Sense Media is one of the first websites I go to when deciding whether a game, app, movie, or website is appropriate for my students. They have a library of over 20,000 reviews of media and technology for kids of all ages. This is their list of best games for kids and this is their list of best apps for kids.

Developing fluency with math facts can often be a tedious ordeal. Once students have mastered the underlying conceptual understanding of computation, they need to practice their facts to become fluent. Games can make this process fun! Edutopia has a list of 10 apps that can help develop this math fluency- no flashcards required!

KQED published this wonderful guide to using digital games for learning. In addition to a comprehensive look at the research behind digital games and screen time for kids, it includes advice for how to choose which digital learning games to use.

Teach Thought has a fairly comprehensive list of their favorite 36 math apps. If you’re looking for more, Parents.com reviews another 10 apps that reinforce arithmetic skills.

Looking for literacy apps? Scholastic highlights 6 phone and tablet apps to improve your students’ reading skills. Reading Rockets has a useful list that breaks down the best reading apps into distinct categories: comprehension, phonics, print awareness, spelling, vocabulary, and writing.

What are some of your favorite apps for learning? Tell us in the comments below!

Luminous Learning math worksheets with number lines and graph paper for special education students