Five Reasons You Should Teach with Games

Adults love games. Kids love games. Both groups of people work in classrooms. So why aren’t classrooms filled with game based learning?

Some teachers have resisted gaming because they see it as a chance for students to goof off rather than focusing. In their minds, games do not truly teach content and thus do not provide educational value.

Over the past few years, learning games have evolved to include content of real value. Meaningful learning games are now easily accessible for teachers. Legends of Learning offers 900 science curricula games for middle school.

Take it from this teacher. Game based learning is not only fun for students it makes teaching easier.

Five Reasons to Use Games in Your Classroom

Teacher showing child tablet

1. Students Love Games – Most students already spend free time playing games online with friends, watching other gamers play on YouTube, and bragging to each other about who’s the best gamer.

Introducing games into your class is a natural extension of what your students already like. With so many games available that teach content, its the perfect fit for your classroom.

2. One on One Time with Students – Imagine getting to walk around a room of 30 students and having meaningful one on one conversations with each of them. Because students are so engaged, off-task behavior with game play is minimal, in turn giving you time to work with the students who need your help most.

3. Curricula Games Mean Learning – Games are effective because students have so much fun playing the games they don’t even think about whether learning is taking place. When students are engaged, they learn significantly more content and remember more of what they learned. This leads to higher test scores and more confidence taking on complex tasks in the classroom.

4. Struggling Students Feel Included – When students struggle, they often stay quiet or act out. Because games are fun and teach content without shame, struggling students engage and learn at their own pace.

It’s common to see organic conversations about content crop up during class. Students who never raise hands show eagerness to participate. Games remind you that all students want to learn, they just need the right vehicle.

5. Personalized Learning – Games let students take control of what they learn. Students teach themselves new material or review existing knowledge via engaging gameplay. Teachers facilitate learning, gently guiding students through game play, and helping them think critically about decision points. This is the 21st century classroom.

As you consider your lesson plans for the school year, imagine the possibilities games offer as an everyday part of your instruction. Simply put, game based learning can transform your classroom. Want proof? Try Legends of Learning science games for three weeks and watch student achievement take off in your classroom.

Aryah Fradkin is Manager of Teacher Outreach and Engagement for Legends of Learning. Prior to joining the Legends, he taught middle school for six years in Baltimore City Public Schools.

Creating a Blended Learning Culture in Your School

Excerpted from Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom. Download it today.

Having technology in your classroom can be a fantastic thing. It has the potential to expose your students to a world of information, hand’s on projects and game based learning, like our middle school science games. In order to maximize your classroom experience with blended learning it is critical to have a school culture that supports technology integration.

Getting Administrators and Parents On Board

Catlin Tucker, co-author of “Blended Learning in Action,” shares the importance of a shared vision in her article, “Sharing the Journey to Blended Learning.”

Making the shift from traditional learning to blended learning is daunting and impacts every stakeholder in a school community, including leaders, teachers, IT staff, students, and parents. As a result, the journey from old to new, from traditional to blended, must be a shared journey—one in which all stakeholders are engaged and all voices are heard.

For a blended learning initiative to be successful long-term, decisions cannot be top down or device driven. Instead leaders must carefully consider why they want to make a shift to blended learning and how that shift will benefit members of the school community.

To get administrators and parents on board, use these two approaches.

Administrators

Administrators may hesitate to invest in blended learning because of cost or lackluster results. Overcome their concerns with detailed research and data that show blended learning’s past successes and your plans to implement the teaching model in the classroom.

Administrators also want hard numbers about projected academic performance. They prefer financial documents, implementation plans, and blended learning examples. The more data and documentation you can provide, the more likely your blended learning proposal will receive approval.

Parents

Parents care about academic performance on a more personal level—everyone wants their child to succeed. They want to know how their child is performing academically, and what you’re teaching in the classroom. They also desire to learn how to help their child improve test scores and study habits.

To reach parents, talk through how blended learning will motivate their student to learn and excel, they will back the initiative. Your conversation could prompt them to become advocates on your behalf and secure support from administrators, other teachers, and peer parents.

Establishing a Blended Learning Culture in the Classroom

http://www.schooltechnology.org Photos of elementary students using iPads at school to do amazing projects. student_ipad_school - 235

Blended Learning Universe marks the importance of culture in blended learning success. The organization states:

Blended learning can sustain a bad culture or help create a new one. Culture is especially useful — or toxic — in blended programs because blended learning goes hand in hand with giving students more control and flexibility. If students lack the processes and cultural norms to handle that agency, the shift toward a personalized environment can backfire.

As such, your blended learning culture sets the tone for classroom instruction and assignments. It fosters the right attitudes in students, inside and outside the classroom. Culture can affect parents, too, causing them to encourage, rather than frustrate, their students’ blended learning activities.

To establish culture inside the classroom, begin with clear and honest communication with your students. Set expectations for your blended learning program, whatever it encompasses—classroom projects, edgames, student teams, at-home assignments, et cetera.

Also employ “TRICK,” an acronym suggested by Esther Wojcicki and Lance Izumi, authors of “Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom.” The acronym stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. When your classroom embodies those five traits, students learn, grow scholastically and personally, and desire to help their fellow students.

Outside the classroom, you should also focus on communication, this time with parents. Just because you got their initial buy-in doesn’t mean your work is done. Let parents know how their kids are enjoying and improving thanks to your new blended learning environment.

Remember that some parents may not be familiar with digital technologies and tools, especially if you teach in a rural or underserved area. Share basic information about blended learning with these parents, and offer opportunities for them to experience it in the classroom. Showing parents how blended learning works can better convince them than a letter sent home.

Finally, aim to spread your blended learning culture across the school campus. Your own success with the initiative often sells itself, but you should talk about it, too. Sharing results and personal testimony invites other teachers to participate in blended learning and make a difference in their classrooms.

You can download the whole white paper Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom here on the Legends of Learning site.

Game Based Learning and the Blended Classroom

Game Based Learning (GBL) and the blended classroom have become increasingly popular instructional options as teachers strive to improve teaching and learning. These two instructional forms complement each other well. Both serve the 21st century classroom by engaging students in their education and giving them opportunities to develop not only basic curriculum mastery but also critical thinking and problem solving skills.

GBL uses games to aid students’ learning. Although GBL can drastically transform instruction, as in the case of using World of Warcraft to teach humanities, GBL can be as simple as playing Jeopardy to review materials before summative assessment. Both applications involve games to complement or replace more traditional instructional methods, such as lectures, Q&As, and worksheets.

Most teachers employ some form of GBL. However, we must be careful not to confuse GBL with gamification. In gamification, a teacher incorporates the mechanics of game play and game design into the curriculum. Teachers who espouse GBL take a very different approach. They infuse the curriculum with games, and the games become primary methods to introduce, explore, explain, and reinforce material.

Blended Learning

Blended learning fuses online and traditional “brick and mortar” instruction. Some teachers assume using technology equals a blended classroom; however, blended learning should be viewed as more of a spectrum between traditional “brick and mortar” instruction on one end and online-only classes on the other. Most truly blended classrooms feature 1) students who access some class content and instruction online outside of the traditional time and space of the classroom, and 2) a Classroom Management System (CMS) such as Edmodo or Moodle.

Game Based Learning and Blended Learning in Practice

GBL fits seamlessly into a blended instructional model. Games can act as bridges between the physical, face-to-face environment and an online classroom in at least three ways.

First, a student could play games independently, outside the regular class time and setting. Sites like Quizizz and Quizlet have popularized this method. For this to be successful, teachers must possess some way to track student progress and learning. This usually occurs in the form of tracking time spent on the game and assessing students’ answers and feedback to questions.

Second, a teacher could meet with students in a virtual environment. Examples of such environments include Minecraft: Education Edition and Second Life. With this method, the teacher schedules a time to meet in a virtual space within the game. Students and teacher are therefore in different places but meeting at the same time. The mode of instruction varies depending on the virtual environment and game limitations. A lecture is possible in Second Life, for example, but not Minecraft.

Third, a student could meet and play with other students in a game environment without teacher supervision. The situation arises when students are assigned collaborative Minecraft projects or asked to compete against other students in some games found on ABCya!.

GBL perfectly suits a blended classroom framework. With it, teachers meet students’ expectations—today’s students already “game” with other students. Teachers also overcome challenges found with typical homework assignments and assessments.

Games can reduce testing anxiety and increase student motivation to engage and learn. In fact, some teachers see students playing games outside of class sheerly for the joy of it. For those reasons and many more, game based learning will become a more common mode of instruction that extends learning beyond the classroom.

Scott Beiter teachers science at Rensselaer Jr. Sr. High in Rensselaer, New York. Follow his blog, Full Sail Science, to learn more.

Personalize Your Test Prep with Science Games

Teachers, do you hear that? It’s the sound of summer. But before you get there, there is this little thing called testing that comes up in the spring. Did you know in spring testing is more common than flowers? A key to successful testing is preparing students so content is fresh and top of mind.

Nearly every school in the country is testing this week, tested in the last week couple weeks or is testing in the next couple weeks. For example, in Baltimore students are taking the PARCC exams for the next three weeks while in Virginia they will be tested on the SOL.

All of this makes testing at this time of year extremely challenging for teachers. Teachers have to find a way to keep students motivated and engaged in class so they do their best on exams.

The key to student success on exams depends a lot on how confident they feel in the material they are being tested on. That means practice. Students need to prepare for test taking in a way that’s fun and engaging so they aren’t wracked with nerves when they are taking the real test.

How can you achieve this worthy goal? By playing games of course!

It might sound crazy, but games are exactly the right tool to pull out of the tool belt right now. Think about it. Students are a little stir crazy. They can hear summer coming and spring break is either just around the corner or just gone by. Students really need some engagement, and science games offer just that.

In our pilot of short curricula games last year, our research statistically proved that when students learn with games they have higher levels of simple fact recall and are thus able to give more sophisticated answers to complex questions on tests.

But don’t take our word for it. We have a lot of teacher Ambassadors who have already thought of some great ways to use games to prep for their exams. Here are some of their suggestions:

Renee Ekhoff, Nebraska

Recently, we were studying adaptations and natural selection. We used the life science games — Walter’s Travels and Survival of the Fittest — to identify adaptations, both behavioral and physical. The students applied their practice to their review for the quiz and for the adaptation poster. It was awesome to see students using adaptations they had learned through the games on their projects! — Renee Ekhoff, Nebraska

Ann Pottebaum, Iowa

I have previewed the games and selected ones that best fit our learning objectives. I have projected the games up, and we have worked through them together to introduce the site/types of games available to study for exams.

The students thought they were great. What an interactive way to study and review as we finished our units on atoms, molecules, compounds and bonding! — Anne Pottebaum, Iowa

Caitlin Unterman, Virginia

We used the natural resources games to help review renewable vs nonrenewable sources. We also used the oceanography (weather and the ocean) to review ocean currents. — Caitlin Unterman, Virginia

Elizabeth Lewellen, California

LOL has been an invaluable tool for helping my students prepare for the state test. Students have been giving me personal requests for the topics they feel they need to review the most.

Every student is different. With LOL I just launch a playlist for the different topics requested, and in this way I’m differentiating the review practice for each student. It’s awesome. Its empowering for me and the students feel very catered to when they feel their personal needs for instructional focus are being met. — Elizabeth Lewellen, California

Mariana Garcia-Serrato, California

For test prep in 8th grade, I displayed the complete list of LOL learning objectives. Students were invited to peruse them and decide which ones each of them wanted to review.

Then I created different playlists for groups and individuals based on their perceived needs, with a couple of special invites for concepts that were covered in previous years. Having that list of discrete learning objectives proved an easy way for them to decide what to study! — Mariana Garcia-Serrato, California

If you want to play the games for yourself, sign up today on the Legends of Learning platform. To become an ambassador, visit our site and fill out this simple form (https://www.legendsoflearning.com/join-us/).

Good luck with testing and the rest of your school year!

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