Are Educational Games an Effective Use of Classroom Technologies?
“Okay guys, it’s time to play Mavis Beacon. I need you to do a test so that I can get a weekly grade for everyone. The fastest and most accurate score gets to search the internet for the rest of the class. Remember, use your earphones so you do not disturb the student next to you, and follow the internet rules on the wall in front of you! I will be checking your progress as you go along. Good Luck!”
That is how it started the day that Shaquille made it to 76 words a minute. I was so proud of him! When he came to the class in September he could barely hunt and peck 6 words a minute. 16 weeks later he is using all of his fingers and almost never looks at the keyboard. Don’t tell me games don’t work!
That is how I taught keyboarding to the 6th graders I had. It was a simple $9.95 typing tutor game that I paid for out of my pocket. I have nearly 90% of these kids ready to move on the Business Computer Information Systems (BCIS) come January. BCIS isn’t supposed to be taught until the 7th or 8th grade. My guys consistently smoke the 8th graders, and some of them are actually using the math and science websites that have games. The science teacher bought me lunch last week after he realized his benchmark test scores increased in the 6th grade class he taught the period after I had them.
There are a number of great reasons to use games in the classroom, and most of these reasons are completely valid. The grades increase and the willingness to come to class to “play” can energize students, and help keep them on the straight and narrow. The first best example is mathematics gaming software. Many children shy away from math because of its stringent nature. It is difficult to show them how important the subject is, and how they use it every day and never realize it. The gaming software is set up to deliver challenges that incorporate mathematical principles while seemingly making them not even realize it is the subject they hate. Seeing the look on their little eyes when they receive a ribbon on awards day for math, of all things, can make a teacher go home at night and smile on the way.
Motivation to succeed seems to appear from out of nowhere when the kid is deep in the game. They look at the score and strive for more. It usually isn’t until they sit in a regular lesson and recognize that they understand what you are talking about that it hits them that math is…like…really cool!
The best benefit of all is to the teacher. The child’s progress can be monitored and feedback given in a real time atmosphere while it poses no real threat to the child. They know they are playing a game and when their skills increase they get excited for the next lesson.
Another reality of electronic gaming software for education is that it gives accurate information to the educator and it can show a student how he/she is doing and where they need to improve. The electronic nature of the game gives immediate feedback promotes enhanced opportunities for creating lesson plans that actually address where the students are and what needs to be reinforced. There still has to be direct instruction, but the game will help direct the path of that part of the learning process. Overall, the use of educational game technology is a concise, effective tool for use in any classroom.
Sources: Personal experience as a High School/Middle School Special Ed teacher.