Monday, 20 August 2012

Ten Reasons why Games Based Learning Works in Education

The following list (in black) is from connectED with some of my thoughts (in green).

1. Familiarity – Most students use technology regularly at home, so integrating technology and games based learning into their school life can be very quick and easy. 

2. Engagement – Games based learning can be engaging for children of all educational levels and interests as good educational games draw on different learning styles and they offer something a bit different from the norm.  Games can also be used to engage the disengaged.  Feedback from games-ED workshops frequently mentions this.  For example, “it really captured their attention” and “the students were engaged in the activity” (from an earlier blog article, found here) See a wonderful example here on the Guardian blog ‘An English teacher discovers digital literacy really works’

3. Blended learning has a real place – blending traditional printed media with interactive multimedia gives you the best of both worlds. Technology no longer needs to play a supporting role.  A benefit of games based learning is that it gives people the chance to learn by doing (and being, see earlier blog article).  Rather than simply listening to a teacher or completing written work, students get the chance to engage with interactive software with the opportunity to receive immediate feedback and see the results of their actions (in learning simulations, such as those by pixelfountain).  For example (see Proof of the Pudding article) in the words of one pupil, “It was great being in charge of the town and seeing what the result was.”

4. A cost effective option – In terms of the outputs and results, games based learning is relatively cheap to implement.  Most schools have access to computers and additional consoles can be bought relatively cheaply (and used many times).  However, cost is seen as one of the main barriers to games based learning.  Specifically educational games are often cheaper than commercial entertainment games (when multiple licences and consoles are taken into account, see The Games Based Learning Planning and Analysis Tool by Paul Ladley).  Some games may also represent better value for money than others if they can be used across the curriculum and for various age groups.  games-ED games for example are designed to be used in this way. 

5. Content galore! – Educational apps abound and it’s now really easy to create your own multimedia educational content for use on everything from language labs to macs, pcs and ipads. The Internet is stuffed full of free resources to help bring content to life everything from Voki (used to create your own avatars) to Camstudio (records all screen activity and turns it into a small video file).  Some companies also offer schools and organisations tailoring services, so the games can be personalised to the particular school etc.

6. On a mission! – games based learning also refers to the use of ‘mission’ and ‘quest’ based learning. A lovely example here from Soar Valley College where students used Sony PlayStation Portable and augmented reality software Second Sight to bring the secrets of the solar system to life. Goals can be extremely motivating for learners and this is especially true for children, when it is not always obvious why they are at school.  Using fun, goal-based games gives children a goal to aim for which can be very motivating and aid greater learning and retention.  Playing in a quest like way can also increase skills such as collaboration and communication skills, problem-solving skills and encouraging students to think of the ‘bigger picture’, which are important ‘soft’ skills to be learnt.

7. Flexibility – Game based learning techniques are not just restricted to inside the classroom. Teachers report bringing class sets of PlayStation Portables out on field trips to make video diaries.  Robust and durable, these new technologies mean educational content can still be accessed on the move.  Some companies also make social networks for students or include home use in their licences so that the children can play games at home: homework that is fun.

8. Stay ahead – getting stuck in and embracing new technologies helps brings teacher multimedia skills up to date, equally an understanding of game based learning helps to support schools and teachers to make the most of the technologies they already have. See an example here of a successful game based learning intervention and deployment in action at The Richard Rose Morton Academy in Carlisle.  An understanding of games based learning can greatly improve teaching methods and help the achievement of learning outcome and schools’ mission statements and so on.  However, as games based learning in education is relatively newly recognised (through research etc.) but seen as ‘the way forward’, it looks good for the school and individual teachers if they have experience of teaching through games.  It is a competitive advantage.

9. 21st century workplace skills, more and more organisations require different skills from the old Industrial model (see earlier blog post). Game based learning encourages these 21st century requirements of independent thinking, mission and quest based tasking, communication and collaboration skills.  As mentioned earlier, ‘soft’ employability skills are extremely important and children of all ages should be encouraged to develop them, ‘the earlier the better’ so to speak.  One student in a games-ED workshop said, “It was really good fun and it increased my knowledge of working together and sharing”.  These skills are not only good for employability but are obviously good social skills to be learnt too.

10. The students love it! On a recent game based learning project designed to engage Y5 pupils in literacy at Foxhill Primary School when asked “Who likes writing?” at the start of the project, only 13 hands out of 23 went up. When asked “Who has enjoyed writing about our eye pet?” all 23 hands in the class went up!  pixelfountain has had similar feedback from students (see Proof of the Pudding parts 1, 2 and 3).  For example, a student at one workshop said, “It was fun and a great way to learn”.

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  1. I've been doing a lot of work in this area as well in my classroom. Would love to collaborate! My blog is

  2. Hello Sian. I really appreciate this blog. As a big fan of game based learning, it helps to connect to the "WHY" of game based learning.

    To you and your readers, my research center would love to collaborate with organizations wanting to create game based learning solutions. I am especially interested in mobile, alternate reality games and games that use location.

    What kind of games would you and your community like to see in the future?

    Please consider connecting with the #levelupbc (Level up book club) if you have not already. This community has done a great job of collecting GBL content. They are big fans of Dr. Jane Mcgonigal.

    I have posted about this community on my blog.

    Wish you the best! Thanks again for the great blog entry.

    /\/\ichael Rosario

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