Study: Students Win When Teachers Deploy Learning Games

Earlier this morning, Legends of Learning issued a press release about the Vanderbilt University study “Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula.” The following is a version of this research.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers found students boosted their test scores by the equivalent of over half a letter grade in three weeks when their teachers used digital games in the classroom. The new research, published by Journal of the Learning Sciences, demonstrates the benefits of game-based learning for students when compared to students who had no access to such games.

Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula,” was co-authored by researchers at Vanderbilt University and involved more than 1,000 students of 13 teachers in 10 diverse urban, suburban and rural schools in seven states (get the executive summary here). The educators integrated a standards-aligned set of 55 typical educational games into their curricula. Each teacher taught at least one class with the games and one class without.

The research found students in the classes with the games outperformed their peers on essay and multiple choice questions. It also found:


  • Engagement increased. Teachers reported dramatic increases in engagement among students who learned with the games.

  • Teachers enthused. Ninety-two percent of teachers who used the education games said they would like to use similar games again because of the impact on student performance and engagement.

Researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University’s College of Education and Human Development, says, “The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future. This study is important because it is based on data collected with a large set of games used by teachers in extended curricula across multiple school districts.”

Two of his co-authors, Dr. Vadim Polikov, a research scientist, and Aryah Fradkin, a former teacher, tapped into the results to launch Legends of Learning. The online platform is now home to thousands of curriculum-based education games and assessment items for middle school earth and space science, life sciences and physical science curricula. Teachers across the U.S. are using the same kind of standards-aligned games validated by the study to raise engagement and test scores. The games are available via the Legends of Learning site.

Dr. Polikov is presenting the findings next week at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, June 26. Legends of Learning will demonstrate its games and platform live at ISTE at booth 2632.

Some highlights from the Legends of Learning platform include:


  • Short games (5–25 minutes) that align to middle school science curriculum standards to ensure content engages and helps students succeed in their studies

  • An intuitive platform similar to Netflix and Amazon that makes games easy and natural to use in classrooms

  • A dashboard that allows teachers to observe student comprehension in real time, create game playlists for classes and individual students, and assess content mastery

  • A feedback loop that rewards game developers based on ratings given to their games by teachers and students, which allows the best games to rise to the top

The study was published in The Journal of the Learning Sciences (JLS), one of the top peer-reviewed academic journals for research on education and learning. JLS is ranked in the top 3 percent (5th out of 230) of all scholarly educational research journals as rated by Thomson Reuters, Journal Citation Reports®.

News: Readying Launch of Several Hundred Middle School Science Games

This is a copy of a news release issued today.

Legends of Learning getting ready to launch our online platform of several hundred curriculum-based science games for middle school earth and space science, life sciences, and physical science curricula later this month. The company was founded after the results from a forthcoming research study, “Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula,” from Vanderbilt University revealed that short, simple education games aligned to curriculum standards improve student engagement and academic performance.

 

Founded by former research scientist Vadim Polikov, Legends of Learning stands for the principle that rigorous academic research needs to form the foundation of strategies that take blended learning techniques such as game-based learning to the next level. The wide-ranging study — more than 1,000 students in seven states and in schools with differing student bodies, socioeconomic factors and geographical locations — demonstrated statistically significant success.

One year later, Legends of Learning’s content platform and games are being tested and vetted by hundreds of teachers across the country in preparation for the official launch later this month. The company will demonstrate its platform and games at the National Science Teachers Association’s National Conference in Los Angeles, March 30-April 2, 2017.

More than 100 middle schools will use Legends of Learning in their classrooms when it launches. Scores of teachers using the platform will participate in a second study to demonstrate efficacy and best practices for blended learning with curricula endgames. The second study will be conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Vanderbilt University.

“Original research is critical to our education system’s overall success,” said Vadim Polikov. “I firmly believe that proving — or disproving — hypotheses with strong rigorous research is the best way to move education forward. One of the most crucial aspects for the education sector to adapt new methods is efficacy. Educators’ time is at a premium now, so providing them with something that is demonstrably effective and easy to use has a far greater chance of being implemented.”

Some unique aspects of Legends of Learning’s approach to education include:

  • Building games off existing middle school science curriculum standards to ensure content not only engages students but also helps them succeed in their studies;
  • Using an intuitive platform similar to Netflix and Amazon to make it easy and natural for teachers to use the games in their classrooms; and
  • Releasing a dashboard that allows teachers to observe student comprehension in real time.

Teachers interested in being part of the Legends of Learning Ambassador program can visit legendsoflearning.com/teachers. Legends of Learning will take 100 teacher ambassadors to the ISTE 2017 Conference & Expo in San Antonio, June 25-28. For more information about Legends of Learning visit legendsoflearning.com.

Make Tech Easy
for Teachers to Use

When it comes to digital education content, technology and tools, ease of use reigns supreme. If we don’t make new media and tech easy for teachers, they won’t use them in the classroom.

Good digital education tools can be tremendously beneficial in the classroom. They help teachers engage students AND reinforce the educator’s lessons. We know this. But as such, that tool must do more than simply entertain students, and meet a basic loose affiliation with curriculum topics. They must be intuitive and natural to implement.

This is a classic user experience conundrum. User experience (UX) concerns itself with making a customer happy before, during, and after using a product. Unfortunately, education content, games and tech products have been criticized for not meeting the UX bar in the past. Ease of use is one of the main culprits.

Creating a successful education UX requires understanding teachers’ challenges with technology as much as it does building great curriculum media for students. Teachers don’t receive as much professional development as they would in an ideal world. Many struggle with using the latest technology on a personal basis, much less figuring out how to deploy it in the classroom.

Content creators and developers should understand what makes a new digital tool in the classroom useful. Does the media reinforce teacher lessons, or is it a distraction? Can a teacher use the product as part of their core curriculum, or does it seek to replace them in some way? Will a teacher be able to use student data for productive analytics, or do privacy risks interfere?

“Companies often overlook the fact that younger students do not have email addresses, and that teachers are more likely to use technology if it is easier to set up class rosters with user names and passwords,” said Richard White, Science Department Chair, Griffin Middle School. “I need to be able to import CSV files and have the software generate the user names while I assign a generic password.”

It makes sense to engineer content and tools to work for the teacher as much as they work for the student. A happy teacher makes for a successful use of the new education tool.

Providing Integration

Making new tech easy for teachers to implement within larger district learning management (LMS) and student information systems (SIS) is a primary consideration. “Products need to have seamless integration within existing district technology ecosystems,” said Scott Beiter, a science teacher at Rensselaer Junior Senior High School. “A district won’t buy all new hardware just to adopt one wonderful product.”

For example, integrating into Google for Education allows teachers across the country to use digital tools. Similarly, working within other widespread and adopted education standards, both curriculum and technological, helps teachers use your tool.

“Two words: Google integration!” added Rebecca Beiter, a teacher at Bethlehem Central School District.

A Little How-to Help Goes a Long Way

Sometimes making a new digital tool work in a classroom is as much as about guidance as the actual tool itself. Not every teacher will pick up on how to implement a tool, no matter how well designed it is.

Many companies release their tools with video tutorials, webinars, professional development, and user support forums to make their tech easy for teachers. Some actively seek feedback from teachers and incorporate that feedback in their product evolutions (have you joined the Legends of Learning community yet?).

Secondary content such as lesson plans and evaluation tools can make a big difference for a teacher’s experience. Not only does the digital tool work, but the supplementary content helps teachers at least consider how to implement in the classrooms.

Going the extra mile can make all the difference for a new education tool.

Additional Teacher Insights

We asked our Legends of Learning community members what they thought about the topic, too. Several offered additional insights:

“Making tech media accessible to students on a free basis is crucial,” said Caitlin Unterman, a teacher at Bedford County Public Schools. “Also, including easy to read instructions, easy to manipulate sites, and allowing for manipulation of content, is key!”

“As an educator, companies need to follow CIPA rules and make student sign up easy and without emails,” said Bobby Brian Lewis, Bibb County Schools. “They can also make tech that can read to students to meet the needs of special needs students such as close caption. Tech companies need to be aware of the needs of students with special needs.”

“Companies should look to their local community to help schools improve their internet connections,” said Nancy Hoppa, Ingenuity Program, Baltimore City Public Schools. “Many school communities are in older buildings and just getting connected in the first place presents a no go situation. One in which we need to almost always have a back up plan just in case. Another big problem we are facing is using technology for engineering/stem based projects. We need tools to construct the projects we are designing online and training. This generation does not have nearly as much experience working with hammer, nails and saws!”

There’s no single best way to make tech easy for teachers. Doing so is crucial to enable students to succeed in the digital age.

What do you think?

What Makes an EdGame?

Many educators hold notions about what constitutes an edgame. Some think it’s a game loosely based on the curriculum. Others believe edgames are quizzes, something to be downloaded from the iTunes store.

 

 

Still others suppose that edgames are commercial ones like Sid Meir’s Civilization, Minecraft, or Pokemon Go that are then tied to education goals. In other cases, the game may be a specific simulation, for example, the 1979 Revolution: Black Friday or The Body VR. Both serious games, one puts the player in the midst of the Iranian Revolution. The other takes a player on an Oculus tour of the human biological system.

 

The Experts Weigh In

 

“All of the above” is the correct answer. An edgame can be a variety of things.

In his excellent book “Gamify Your Classroom,” Matthew Farber defines Jane McGonical’s definition of an edgame. She believes that a game must have around four key factors:

  • A Goal
  • Rules
  • A Feedback System
  • Voluntary Participation

Clearly, this definition would disqualify many of the electronic games currently used by educators. Matt Farber proceeds to have a conversation about the McGonical definition of games largely revolves around voluntary participation. He asks, “Does forcing kids to use a game for educational purposes destroy the intent of a game in essence violating the entire entertainment value of a game by turning it into work?”

 

James Paul Gee Responds

Farber’s search for an edgame definition unsurprisingly includes an interview with the godfather of game-based learning (GBL), James Paul Gee, someone we’ve discussed previously. We recently wrote up Professor James Paul Gee’s 16 Principles for Good Game-Based Learning.

But even though Professor Gee provides a lot of structure and regular commentary about what makes a good edgame, he dismisses many of the nuances needed to define one. For Gee, a game’s adherence to every aspect of defined games or every principle of game-based learning is irrelevant. What matters is that the game inspires learning.

Gee told Farber, “The issue is how do we get engagement by an affiliation, not whether we call it ‘play’ or a ‘game’ […] What we want to say is, ‘What’s the interactivity? What’s the engagement? What are the values?’”

EdGames Defined

games

In essence, good edgames or game-based learning platforms inspire children to learn. They involve students and capture their interest. As a result, they deliver exceptional educational value.

Most educators want supplementary curriculum tools that engage and help students master their studies. So whether a game is short or long, comical or serious, made for education or originally developed for commercial use is immaterial. To be an edgame for educators, it simply must meet the barometers of engagement and basic learning.

What do you think makes an edgame?

For Teachers
For Schools
For Districts