5 Questions to Ask When Considering Games Based Learning

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Games can be a powerful tool to teach a myriad of things, from curriculum matter to soft, 21st century skills such as problem-solving and collaboration. However, they are not always appropriate. These questions may help you decide whether games are right for you:

  1. Will using a game bring anything to the table? – Don’t use games for the sake of it. If the game adds nothing, or if other methods are superior, don’t use them. However, if the game teaches at the same level, go for it! It will have added value (spice up curriculum and engagement). Be wary of ‘games’ that are just quizzes with graphics and tagged on mini-games. Learning outcomes are paramount.
  2. What problems do I have that I need to address? – Think what problems you need to address rather than where you can use games. This could be curriculum based e.g. “I could do with a way of showing the inner workings of the human body, beyond two-dimensional diagrams”. Or non-curriculum based e.g. “I need to get students to work together to help reduce bullying”.
  3. Do I need games based learning or Gamification? – GBL involves teaching using games. Gamification is the utilisation of game mechanisms in non-game contexts e.g. for behaviour management. You must decide what is appropriate for your needs and how far you want to go. There are systems that turn entire classrooms into role playing games, e.g. World of Classcraft.
  4. Will my students be able to play the game? – The difficulty and complexity levels need to be right and the games should be age appropriate e.g. don’t use Grand Theft Auto to teach 8-year-olds.
  5. Is it actually possible for me to utilise games based learning? – Can your computers and systems cope with the game? Do you have enough computers for a whole class to play a game at once? Can you afford the game/console you want?

These questions offer a good starting point. But if you’re serious, have a look at game-ED’s Games Based Learning Analysis and Planning Tool for more detailed questions.

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