Categories : Weekly Blog
Classroom engagement can be challenging. Each class can have more than 30 students, each with their own needs and limited attention spans. Even on good days, most teachers need every available tool of the trade to keep everyone going. There are great guides available on how to keep your students motivated and dead time to a minimum. But what about the medium of video games specifically?
Read on for ideas on how to use them to provide engagement and variety in your classes:
Multiplayer: Let’s All Get Along
When you want to teach students to work together, what could be a better activity than a multiplayer game where you literally must work together to stand any chance of success? In a game such as Stranded, not only are the resources and goals shared but common tactics are vital. Even students normally uninterested in any manner of project work have suddenly began devising expert tactics together, for no other reason than to get that perfect high score!
Tristan de Frondeville writes that “doing project learning and other team-based work without prior training can lead to lots of dead time. You can nip much of it in the bud by teaching collaboration skills before projects get started. You don't need to use an activity related to your subject area to teach teamwork.” This is great news for collaborative multiplayer games: it’s not just gaming skills your honing, it’s learning to work together.
Mixing it Up: Keeping it Fresh
Imagine you are in an early 20th century classroom. Every day is essentially the same: you listen to the teacher drone on, memorize facts without necessarily understanding anything, and can face even corporal punishment for stepping out of line. While today’s classrooms are thankfully nothing like this, one problem occasionally persists: the monotone learning experience. This, in our experience, results more from time and lesson material constraints than from actual indifference on the teacher’s part.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to provide students with varied classroom activities. With something like TeacherGaming Desk, you literally have dozens of games and more than a hundred lessons to choose from. Many topics have multiple games available: why not kick off astrophysics with Gravity Simulator and then build your own galaxies with the Universe Sandbox ²?
Level Editors and Creative Exercises
Self-expression is a great activity. But what if your students are too old to get excited about arts and crafts? Or you just don’t want things to get messy, with glue and glitter everywhere? Digital creativity leaves the classroom spick and span and provides many options you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s not just universe building like in Universe Sandbox ²: there are many ways to get creative with games.
Build your own rockets and optimize them to reach the Moon in KerbalEdu. Design wacky puzzles in Contraption Maker and have your classmates attempt to solve them. Write and read music with Gismart Piano. Write your own stories, characters and settings in StoriumEdu. Change any part of the playing experience with the tools provided to you in Planetoid Pioneers.
Wrapping it All Together
In the end, there is no better judge of your students’ engagement than you. The better you know your students, the easier it is to know their individual needs and the optimal solutions to any situation. Maybe you have a hectic class that needs constant stimulation and activities to leave no time for students to get rowdy. Or perhaps your students need to be given lots of free rein and the chance to figure out things for themselves, such as by letting them learn about politics by running their own country in Democracy 3.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. Just remember the possibilities that educational video games offer: a great addition to any teacher’s class engagement toolbox.