Finding the Riches in Game-Based Learning

Using GBL to maximize enrichment benefits in the classroom

By Caitlin Unterman, 8th Grade Science Teacher, Forest Middle School (VA)

Most in the education world believe that enrichment is the most important goal of a classroom. Teachers focus on creating opportunities that simultaneously enrich and engage students. However, many fail to recognize what is actually enrichment, and what is simply reinforcement.

Enrichment, by definition, is “the act of making someone wealthier.” I like to think this is wealth in the form of knowledge. Do a simple Google search and you find another definition of enrichment: “improving or enhancing the quality or value of something”.

Both definitions apply to our classrooms. And there is no better way to enhance the value of “something” than by adding what kids love best: games.

Another simple Google search can find you the EdTech definition of game-based learning: “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world.”

Put enrichment and game-based learning together by definition, and you would get “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world, while improving or enhancing the quality or value of education.” As an 8th grade Earth Science teacher, that sounds pretty sweet.

Importance of Enrichment in All Content Areas

Like the majority of teachers, my enrichment efforts are based on data. Strands of weakness and complex learning concepts take priority as I work to innovate and plan creative units to convey the concepts better. Try teaching radiometric dating and half-life curves to a bunch of 8th graders who were put into a High School Credit science class… That is quite a challenge.

Game-based learning has become the Aleve to my headache in that regard. Students are far more interested in their phones than any piece of paper I hand out. So, I moved towards digital learning.

Using the game-based learning platform Legends of Learning, I created a pre-test playlist on geologic time, added an assessment pack at the end, and downloaded my students’ performance data. After highlighting the weaker strands (subcategories within the topic), I made a new playlist. I taught the concepts per usual, emphasizing the weaknesses shown in the pre-test playlist data, and then launched the playlist again after my normal teaching lessons. (For an example of how to track student performance, check out the Hall of Knowledge here.)

An enrichment playlist covering geologic time.

Much to my surprise, weak strands were no longer categorized as “weak”, moreso, “improving”. Take a look at the Vanderbilt study conducted in partnership with Legends of Learning, and it speaks for itself. Weak strands can become enhanced strands through game-based learning enrichment.

How to Implement Games to Target Weak Strands

Some may think, “All of this is great, but where do I start?” Game-based enrichment isn’t something you just wake up and decide to implement one day.

Instead, consider doing some critical data analysis, at least once, before jumping right in.

The data analysis portion of the Legends of Learning platform allows you to break down each learning objective by student performance.

Teachers can download student data to track progress during enrichment activities.

From this, identify the weak strands. Your definition of “weak” may differ from mine, but usually I emphasize those showing 50% mastery or below. Think about those weak strands in terms of what I call the 3 Vs: Volume, Value, Vocabulary. Let’s break those down:

Volume

On average, how much time do you spend emphasizing a strand? One day? One week? Strands that are only the focus of one day of class may not be as crucial as larger units you spend weeks on. Take out the strands that are “one-dayers”.

Value

Are the skills presented in this weak strand going to affect later learning objectives? Place an educational value on the learning objective. Is the concept crucial or supplementary?

Vocabulary

Is the learning objective heavy on vocab? If so, take a look at the overview and curriculum for each game. Find the key vocabulary needed, pack the playlist, schedule the playlist to run over the weekend as “homework,” and collect data on Monday. You should see improvement.

View curriculum details for each game before using it for enrichment.

The key to game-based enrichment is finding the value in the innovative learning that is taking place. Don’t just plug in games that are fun and engaging. The games need to emphasize weaknesses within the content in order for enrichment to be successful.

What are your experiences with using GBL for enrichment?

Thank You for a Legendary 2017

Hello Legends,

A lot has happened at Legends of Learning in 2017, in large part because of teachers and educators like you. I would like to express my personal gratitude for everything that has helped make our science games a useful tool in schools across America, and around the world.

At NSTA, ISTE, and a number of state shows, we met so many incredible educators who are working to improve science learning in schools. This included many ambassadors who helped shape our games and platform.

A small convoy of legends even got the chance to witness the Great American Eclipse (at totality!) with some amazing students from Cobb County, Georgia.

Middle school science students and teachers from Cobb County, Georgia view the Great American Eclipse with Legends of Learning on August 21, 2017.
 

What stands out the most is what superhero teachers like you have done with the platform. Sharing innovative uses in the classroom and giving amazing feedback on potential improvements helps us make science classes legendary every day.

There is much to be proud of and far more to look forward to. None of it would be possible without the teachers who work tirelessly for the benefit of today’s students, those children who will become tomorrow’s leaders.

You can always reply to this email directly and tell me what you think of Legends of Learning. We are eager to help you and your science students succeed.

On behalf of the entire Legends of Learning team, thank you. Stay legendary.

Sincerely,

Vadim Polikov, PhD

Founder & CEO, Legends of Learning

Vadim Polikov, Legends of Learning Founder & CEO

Legendary Season of Giving

We’ve made it to December, the Legendary Season of Giving! While you’re giving your students the gift of engaging science games in the classroom, there may be additional teachers out there who have yet to discover Legends of Learning. Since it is the season of giving, we decided to add to the fun and offer gifts for teachers who refer us.

Between now and December 31, when you refer other science teachers and they start using Legends of Learning*, you’ll receive the following gifts:

Give the gift of science games, and Captain Kinetic and the Legends will give you gifts!

  • 1 Referral – Gift: Dean Silencio Pez Head (Pez included!)
  • 3 Referrals – Gift: LoL T-shirt & Cape set
  • 5 Referrals – Gift: Two tickets to Star Wars: The Last Jedi (or a movie of your choice)
  • Plus, don’t forget, you also earn 1000 coins for every referral! That’s good for 1000 science games for your students to play.

Give your colleagues the gift of game-based learning and celebrate the Legendary Season of Giving! There’s no better way to liven up a classroom at the end of the calendar year. Start making referrals today! (Not sure how? Find out in the Hall of Knowledge.)

Celebrate the Legendary Season of Giving and give the gift of game-based learning.
*In order to qualify for a gift, referred teachers need to log in and launch a playlist on Legends of Learning by December 31.

Teacher-Recommended Enhancements for New School Year

We are happy to announce new upgrades and enhancements to our game-based learning platform with significant improvements for the new school year. New features like schedule ahead, student information system (SIS) integration and significant increases in analytic capability focus on ease of use for teachers, stronger performance data and analytics, and increased teacher playlist functionality.

When Legends of Learning launched this past spring, we committed to creating a platform that responds to educators needs. The platform now offers thousands of games and assessment items for earth and space, life and physical science classes. The changes and updates were based on feedback and requests from Legends of Learning ambassadors and teachers.

“We set out to create a platform that is built for teachers by teachers,” said Vadim Polikov, CEO of Legends of Learning. “We have an incredible community of Legends of Learning ambassadors and educators who have shared their thoughts and feedback in order to help meet their needs. From individual game feedback to district-wide features, Legends of Learning is better for it.”

Teacher Reactions to Legends of Learning Evolutions

Enhancements to Legends of Learning’s platform are based on actual teacher usage and feedback. Teachers offer feedback through the Legends of Learning Ambassador community (sign up here) and directly through the product. Teachers have responded well to the new updates.

“I was so pleased when I found Legends of Learning,” said Bailey Johnson-Hastings, science teacher at Hastings Middle School (NE). “My students love using it in the classroom to reinforce the concepts I am teaching. I appreciate how receptive and responsive Legends of Learning has always been with any feedback I have submitted. They are truly committed to creating a student-and-teacher–oriented gaming platform. It is so great to see Legends of Learning engaging with the educator community in this way.”

“I applaud Legends of Learning for their openness and interest in hearing from teachers,” said Bonnie Hohenshilt, science teacher at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School (NJ). “The new features reflect things I was thinking would be great to have: the ability to begin your session where you last left off, a searchable playlist and the teacher’s top 10 list are great!”

Here is a list of some of the latest features:

Teacher Accounts

  • Ability to add student rosters in the platform
  • Enhanced playlist history, including ability to easily relaunch playlists and see student performance history and content mastery by concept
  • Real-time student data on assessments using “Question Data” button on the playlist tab
  • Multiple sessions per learning objective
  • Content skipping: Move individual students to the next game or assessment if they are struggling
  • Streamlined playlist launcher
  • Dedicated teacher code: Codes are assigned to teacher instead of randomly generated
  • New games and assessment questions
  • Improved games with changes ranging from minor to major based on teacher feedback
  • Live playlist shortcut: Switch quickly between active sessions

School and District Accounts

  • Unlimited usage
  • Scheduling feature: Ability to schedule playlists to launch in advance, which can be used for homework, weekend work and substitute teachers
  • Curriculum alignment to Georgia (GSE) and Texas (TEKS) standards
  • Rostering
  • SIS integration
  • School and district dashboards for administrators to view usage, performance and teacher and student analytics in real time

Try the Games

In addition to the new features, several bugs reported by teachers have been fixed. Further, minor technical improvements, features requested by our teacher users and usability improvements have been made.

This blog post is based off a press release issued this morning.

Science Shouldn’t Be Political

Legends of Learning has decided to support the March for Science this weekend in Washington, DC by providing science teachers capes to march in. We will be at the NSTA rally handing out capes to interested science teachers. Our stance is that while science research has become politicized (and arguably has been since the days of Copernicus), it should not be political.

We believe in questioning, curiosity, and using data to guide decision making. This discipline of research to explore new ideas is the foundation of the human spirit, of learning, and yes, scientific progress.

Our founder, Vadim Polikov, Ph.D., was a research scientist at Duke University and has many scientific publications to his name. His first business was an academic editing business helping researchers around the world publish their research in peer reviewed science journals. He started Legends of Learning only after conducting a rigorous study to determine the efficacy of curricula games.

Our first cohort of customers are science teachers. These are the very people who seek to inspire their students — America’s Youth — with that same sense of curiosity, and a commitment to find truth through data and facts. How can we not support the spirit of science this Earth Day?

If you are attending the march in Washington, DC, our CMO Geoff Livingston will be out and about with a backpack full of capes looking for Legends of Learning and NSTA science teachers who want to have a little fun with their science support activities. He will be manning the @legendlearning Twitter handle that day. Tweet at him to meet up and get your own Legends of Learning cape for the march.

PODCAST #5: Legendary Ambassadors Rebecca and Scott Beiter Talk GBL

Two of our strongest ambassadors in the community are Rebecca and Scott Beiter. This husband and wife tandem teach at two different school districts in upstate New York.

They share their insights on game based learning and what it is like to help Legends of Learning build its games and platforms from ground zero to market launch. In addition, Rebecca and Scott share the story of how they both got into teaching science, and the teacher conference life. Enjoy this super fun podcast!

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