Monday, 23 May 2011

Getting Started with Games in the Classroom

Arguably, this should have been my first post. But hey ho...

This post is inspired by the question "What is holding back widespread adoption of games based leaning?"

The simple answer is there probably isn't enough good quality games based learning out there. A lot of what has been done so far in the field has been with commercial entertainment games. Another answer is that, barring the early adopters, educators have not latched on the benefits of games based learning or simply don't know where to start.

Back to Basics
Developers and educators should get back to basics. If we were buying a car, we might consider whether the car looks nice and suits our needs. We might think about how we are going to use the car. We might worry about support from the dealership. We might think about the long-term and wider outcomes, such as the environment and whether we would be better off using public transport. And finally, we would be concerned about the cost.

These five factors hold true for games based learning and they are: design, delivery (usage), technology & support, outcomes and cost.

Readers can find more on the five factors in a Games Based Learning Analysis and Planning Tool at

While I am writing about Getting Started, it is worth mentioning Digital games in School Handbook.

Digital games in School: A handbook for teachers
The handbook was written in the framework of European Schoolnet's Games in Schools project which began in January 2008 and ended in June 2009. The project's aim was to analyse the current situation in eight countries (Austria, Denmark, France, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain and UK) with regard to games based learning.

The core of the handbook is based around three sections:

  • Why use digital games for learning.
  • Choosing the appropriate game. 
  • Conducting a play session.

The Conducting a play session includes a useful section on  evaluating and strengthening pupils’ knowledge through a debriefing session. Unfortunately, the assumption is that the game is played and the educator then debriefs the session to ensure the learning has taken place. This is mainly to do with the fact that the handbook is heavily biased towards commercial entertainment games. But even so, I would argue (see Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning) that it is better to create break points during the game play for analysis, reflection and scaffolding. Game playing can be collaborative and be an anchor for conversations, so it is such a shame to see so many photographs in the handbook of young people plugged into the games and donning headphones.

Having said that the handbook is a useful read and includes a taxonomy of games, glossary, a section on games for learners with various disabilities and some links to portals where games can be found - but obviously my loyal readers will know the best can be found at :) Pin It