How can teachers use games to teach complex issues? New Jersey social studies teacher Matthew Farber discusses how the latest games can be used to help students learn about the principles of ethics.

Game designers use cause and effect loops to reward players when they advance in a game. Conversely, penalties exist if a task is a mission is failed. For example, when Batman defeats thugs in an Arkham game, the player -- who takes agency over the character -- may earn a digital badge or a power up. The “fail state” is a setback penalty to the most recent save point. Designers use causal loops with the intention of affecting player behavior; intrinsic satisfaction is typically rewarded right away. Of course, decisions in real life are much harder to define.

Games based learning is an area that offers education fascinating possibilities, and different methods are explored daily. However, are certain games, such as Candy Crush, based on a format too addictive to be used in schools? ReadingWise writer Dave Waddell discusses the matter, and considers how games can be used for promoting literacy.

The relative virtual popularity of Dana Smith’s This is what Candy Crush does to your brain - recently posted on the Guardian’s online Notes and Theories science desk – may mean one or two things: either people are genuinely interested in the idea that it is, as Smith says, a by-design addictive game; or any article with the words ‘candy’ and ‘crush’ in its title is certain to get a degree of misdirected traffic.

The opportunities for learning through the use of digital gaming are diverse and massive. The speed and ease in which basic game development can be achieved using apps such as Sketch Nation can provide a platform for outstanding cross-curricular projects and really make an impact on progress, standards and pupil independence.

This blog post describes one project (upper KS2) which could easily be adapted to suit Key Stage 1 or expanded to meet the needs of Key Stage 3 pupils, and to support almost any topic/subject. 1:1 use of iPods enabled maximum pupil engagement but fewer devices could have been used if pupils collaborated in groups.

I love the inclusiveness of games; how any focused activity can draw in people of all ages.

I love games that require creative and strategic thinking. It is refreshing to play a game where the emphasis isn't on winning and losing - but then again, I love it when they are.

I especially love seeing teachers demonstrate how flexible and innovative teaching approaches can be by incorporating games, puzzles and quizzes into lessons, and how one classroom can be transformed into a creative playground by simply moving some desks around.

As parents and family members, we all witness our children’s natural instinct to play. The frontal lobes of their brain are barely developed and yet it seems second nature to swap effortlessly between 'leader' and 'follower' roles, drawing on their basic knowledge and understanding of their environment, experiences and their powerful and infectious imaginative capacity.

Teacher and ICT coordinator Lee Parkinson explains how popular games such as Temple Run can actually be used as a disguised method of learning, rather than a simple incentive, hence the term 'camouflaged learning'. With so many aspects of maths, English and science already incorporated within games (scores, coins, trajectory, gravity, words) and a huge potential for post-play learning to be done with numbers, vocabulary, concepts etc., teachers can potentially use any game as a learning tool.

I have found I use iPads in two major ways within the classroom: as a tool to engage and as a tool to create.

In most of the projects I have completed with the children this year, I have tried to combine both these elements to get the best work from the children. Firstly, using the iPad to provide a focus to use in lessons has had a massive impact as far as engaging children, motivating them and leading them into a 'false sense of learning'.

The idea that children are learning by doing activities where they feel they are 'playing' is something I am always trying to promote. It is the perfect way to get disengaged or reluctant learners on board and almost trick them into writing, reading and solving problems. Nothing sums this phrase up more than the work produced by children when the focus has been the iPad games they are obsessed with - Angry Birds and Temple Run.

Photo credit: Themeplus

The use of computer games in schools has received much attention in the last few years, and stirred up some controversy. However, games have been a part of learning for a long time, and there is much interesting research to support this. Some time ago I attempted a survey of the use of computer games in education for my third year BEd module on cross curricular uses of ICT.

From learning through play, to the loose movement of ‘Games Based Learning’ and ‘Gamification’, as well as recent insights from Neuroeducational research, this lecture seeks to give an overview of the current state of learning from games.

Eat chocolate and ice cream for a balanced diet! Be universally popular by saying exactly what’s on your mind! Pass exams by playing computer games! If you think this is fantasy, then you’d be right – 66.7% of the time.

It’s the computer games claim that’s not fantasy. As early as 2002 a group called Teachers Evaluating Educational Multimedia produced a report which was consulted by the Department of Education: it showed how even games without an explicitly educational content could develop a range of critical skills in children. Last year a survey by researchers from Michigan State University was presented to the Third International Cognitive Load Theory Conference, which confirmed that Internet use and video games significantly help young adolescents who are struggling with literacy.

With a keen interest in ICT and maths, I have been exploring ways in which iPad apps (other than the “I can do maths…. 2+2” type) can enhance pupil progress and motivation. I believe that, when done the right way, gaming can play a huge role in learning.

If you are going to try any of these ideas in class, it's best to be quite familiar with the apps and how they work.

Here are 10 things I have tried:

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This article compares Purpose Built Education Games to Commercial Entertainment Games in terms of their use in the classroom. The comparison is done using the five factors: design, delivery, technology & support, outcomes and cost.

Does the game provide a sense of realism (as opposed to pure fantasy)? Commercial entertainment games (CEnG) provide a visually compelling experience for the player and can provide a chance to practice “authentic” activities. Unfortunately, it can also be argued that they can provide an experience that is too authentic with depictions of violence and sexuality. This has caused some parents to worry about the appropriateness of using games in the classroom. Purpose built education games (PBEdG) should not suffer from being inappropriate and can be graphic rich, although this is not always the case. In reality, the design should immerse the learners in the game play, but this should not be at the expense of the learning.

Does the game offer a suitable level of complexity and is it inclusive? This issue poses a lot of problems for CEnG as they are often designed to play over months. The game play has to be rich and thus complex. This means that they can be problematic for classroom use, as it is hard to justify the initial time spent learning about the game and how it plays. Some CEnG, though, are fairly easy to use – Wii party games, for example. PBEdG, on the other hand, ought to be designed to work easily and as importantly they should support multiple learning styles and be inclusive. Note: CEnG sessions can potentially be dominated by players who already know the game or gaming platform.

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