Before you grab a Wii remote or zoom off the line in the latest racing simulation; think about your strategy:
1. What are the learning outcomes you are trying to achieve?
a. If the session is about excitement and engagement then most games are going to work.
b. If you want to achieve group working, then you will need to hunt out party and collaborative games.
c. If you have a specific subject knowledge requirement, then commercial entertainment games might have limited use. You need to embark on a quest for dedicated games based learning.
2. How will you ensure that learning takes place?
a. If the game does not have natural break points, you will need to create them, so learning can be reinforced.
b. What more can you do pre and post gaming?
3. What kit and environment will you need?
a. Console or existing computer? The former is going to cost and, if it is the latter, will the class need to decamp to the IT suite because the game is played individually or needs a powerful computer?
b. Will your current classroom cope? Console games that make use of motion peripherals need enough space to swing the proverbial cat rather than move a mouse on its mat.
4. Will there be a level playing field?
a. “Pro” gamers might dominate proceedings, particularly if they have expertise in a particular game or console.
b. Can the game be played in a way where different players can take on different roles, so that they all have a chance to use their unique talents?
5. Is the game too complex? The game needs to be quickly understood.
a. If you are going to use complex commercial entertainment games, then consider setting up a part played scenario with a specific goal.
b. Party games which are prevalent on the Wii are quick to learn, yet might be lacking in learning content.
c. Purpose built games based learning ought not to suffer this problem, but make sure you ask the supplier.
Games are powerful learning tools, and at games-ED we have seen their benefits on many occasions, but like any other method of teaching they need to be carefully integrated into the classroom in order to achieve the desired results. Above are just some of the points we consider when designing games based learning. We will revisit this topic soon.
If you want to find out more on games based learning in the classroom go to the games-ED website to see some recent case studies (Mellor Primary School and Central Foundation Girls School). Also, have a look at this recent article from the BBC.