Who doesn't love games? Most kids begin playing some sort of game from the time they are very young. Peek-a-boo, hide-and-seek, tag, and the list goes on. Everyone loves games, especially at a young age. In an article written by the MIND Research Institute, it states that 97% of 2 to 17 year olds are playing video games. 67% of young Americans are playing games while interacting with family and friends. 74% of K-8 teachers are using digital games in their classrooms for instruction. Those numbers all indicate that games are present and being used. However, just because games are being played and used, that doesn't mean that they provide any advantages.
When using digital games in the classroom, there are many advantages. When students hear the word game, regardless of the content that is being taught, they expect a fun activity that brings competition and a way to win. If a digital game is designed well, game-based learning can combine intrinsic motivation and the love to play games which, in turn, can lead them toward complex problem solving. As with any tool that is used in education, selection is important. Just because you have found a digital game does not necessarily mean that it is effective. Roblyer writes that when choosing effective instructional games they should use the following criteria: appealing and appropriate formats and activities, instructional value, physical dexterity is reasonable, and social, societal, and cultural considerations are addressed. The benefits of using game-based learning are not just for the students. Teachers can take advantage of the student's desire to play games in order to spend more time learning a specific curriculum topic. Teachers can use digital games in place of worksheets, as a reward, to teach "noncognitive skills", and to teach cooperative group working skills. Some guidelines to consider would be to make sure games are used sparingly, that all students are involved, and that the game emphasizes the content-area skill first.
So how does it work? A study has shown that after two months of playing digital games, three areas of brain growth were detected in the prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the cerebellum. When playing games, students expect to fail, but don't give up because they realize that failing is part of the process to succeeding. Greg Toppo said, "Giving kids ample opportunity to fail will not turn them into abject failures but into gritty, impassioned, self-reliant learners." Nearly 75% of teachers who use digital games saw an increase in improvement of math learning and also more often report an improvement in core skills.
The biggest problem that many teachers, including myself, have found is finding games that are effective and are curriculum aligned. I use games and will continue to do so. There has never been a time in my 12 years of teaching that when I have said it's time to play a game that I have heard anything but excitement from my students. I still use some non-digital games, but with time I hope that more digital games that are curriculum based become available. Technology availability is increasing. This is the perfect time to take advantage of that and provide a game-based learning environment.
Research Stresses Benefits of Games When Teaching Math. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2016/08/30/research-stresses-benefits-of-games-when-teaching-math/
Roblyer, M. (2016). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching (7th ed.). Massachusetts: Pearson.