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Tom Clark

Tom Clark|United States

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Let's Play a (Learning) Game: Why Your School Needs Game-Based Learning

May 13, 2019

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If you thought teachers in the past had it rough, you should see what they're dealing with now. In some public school districts, budget cuts are so bad that school is only held four days a week.

Losing one day a week, maybe once a month for holidays isn't bad, but losing one day a week for the whole school year? The average school year is about 25 weeks in all - so you're missing around 25 days of learning.

While this isn't the reality everywhere - it's fair to say that teachers need better and more efficient ways to teach. If not because they're rushed for time, then because it gives different styles of learners a chance to shine in the classroom.

You could do the classic unit and test on it, or you could design a game. Doesn't that sound like more fun? Enter game-based learning.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Other than a lot of fun? Game-based learning is a newly popular teaching theory that's ultra-effective.

Think about video games. You have a goal, you work towards the goal through repetition, and you learn from your failures. Once you practice enough and figure out where the challenges are, you win the level.

Now you could go back through that level with no issues - you've learned what you need to know to succeed.

That's the idea of game-based learning, except applied to school. It's the difference between active learning and passive learning, and hey - it's fun!

There's a saying that goes "Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can't get it wrong" (Unknown).

Imagine if your kids practiced a skill, like math equations until they never got one wrong. The test scores would skyrocket (and then maybe you could get the funding for that fifth day of school back!) . . . a teacher can dream.

Why is Game-Based Better than Textbook Based?

Well, first, we have to consider that there are different types of learners. Game-based learning caters to all types better than almost any other teaching theory, but it might not be for everyone.

Visual learnings may still prefer reading the textbook.

But for most people, it's the difference between seeing/reading/hearing something and actually experiencing it.

Game-based learning is an experience, that the children have to engage in. If they choose not to engage, that means they don't play, and what child turns down playing a game?

It's almost impossible for children not to learn from this learning style if the game is set up correctly.

We don't need to tell you the benefits of a child engaging with learning material and becoming more active in the classroom.

Another way game-based learning differs from classical textbook learning is how the students feel about the material. When you finish a level of a game (read more) you feel like you conquered that level. People even say that they "owned" that game.

That leads to a feeling of ownership, which is a direct way to improve retention of material. You're much more likely to remember something if you worked towards it vs if you just read it.

And since game-based learning takes time, every time kids log in, they're refreshing their memory. You don't get the 80% retention loss that we see in regular learning.

Failure in Game-Based Learning

Think back to a time when you answered a question in class really wrong. It was embarrassing, right? Well, fear of failure is one big reason kids don't ask for extra help or clarification in class.

But in a game-based learning program, no one sees their failure. They can go back and try again without fearing any sort of social shame.

For shy students and even those on the Autism spectrum, it can reduce stress and change the way they feel about learning and school.

How Are Learning Games Created?

Creating a quality learning game is a labor of love. It takes months, if not a year, to get them just right. They're built around a curriculum, just like a teacher would build a lesson plan.

Developers start with a learning goal, then they work backward from there, creating challenges with incremental information, that build to the main goal.

Games are tested on students, edited to meet the feedback of the test group, and tested again. The game isn't released to educators until the test groups come back learning everything that the game intended.

It's important to know how in-depth and education based on the development of these games are. When parents find out you're using game-based learning, especially if it's digital, they're going to have questions.

The bulk of the questions centering around the idea that "they're just playing games, they're not learning anything".

If the parents aren't on board, then the teachers will have a hard time getting the school board to buy and approve more game-based learning items.

You'll need parent, teacher, student, and community ambassadors to make game-based learning part of your curriculum.

Making Game-Based Learning a Reality

Now that you know how awesome game-based learning is, and how much it can change the success of your students, you're probably dying to try it out.

We even see people advertising game-based learning in the non-school market, like with ABCMouse.com

If you're an educator, find a few studies about game-based programs and create a team of other teachers. Then, as a group, present it to your administration.

If you're a parent, you can create a group of other parents and educate the administration yourself. Kids do better in general when parents get involved in their education, anyways.

Want to work on your own education? Access our educational video category here.