Are games an effective use of time in the classroom? We live in a culture where technology is constantly growing and videos games are a part of play at home. In my own classroom, games are used to review and reinforce content. Students are engaged in this type of practice because they are working with others towards a goal. They have the opportunity to practice learning content in a new way through interaction with technology and hands-on materials that encourage exploration, use of strategies, and participation. These artifacts (8, 9, 10) are examples of different types of math games students play. The SmartBoard is the technology used to play the games as a whole class or in groups. In these games students are practicing comparing numbers and practicing their facts that make 9 and 10.
McCrea (2013) quotes FETC keynote speaker Katie Salen. Salen says, “It’s hard for educators or parents—who are usually standing over the student’s shoulder—to see the learning involved with gaming” (p.1). This is a challenge for me when incorporating games into daily instruction. I need to see a clear connection between the learning target and the game, so I know the skill is being reinforced. I think including student reflection would he helpful when determining if a game is effective. Students could explain aloud or in writing how the game helped them with the learning target.
I think giving students opportunities to engage in play or practice learning content through games helps students develop positive relationships with their peers. Students have practice working cooperatively with others. Brown (2009) states,
“My feeling is that play, by its nature, has been molded by evolution to create a more optimistic, exploratory view of the world and more harmonious social interactions. What some call the “dark side” of play is actually an assortment of cases in which play is being used to deal with difficult emotions or when people are not really playing at all. Sadism or cruelty as a means of gaining control over another is not play. One example people give of negative and destructive play is bullying. It is easy for me to say that this is not play at all. When someone is domineering, aggressive, or violent, they are not engaged in true play, no matter what they are doing” (p.178).
Students have to learn how to work productively with others and develop positive relationships with their peers. Brown (2009) states, “A necessary part of sports and games, but even in competition, there are certain rules that govern play. There is an agreement that participants be “good sports” who can shake hands and respect each other after the contest is decided” (p. 180, 181). These are skills they will apply outside of the classroom. It is challenging for some students to participate in a group setting and learn how to play “fair” and be a “good sport.” Including opportunities to play games in the classroom allows teachers to teach expectations and problem solving skills. Teachers might include students in a role play activity to model what effective group work looks like. Teachers are able to monitor and assess students’ group work and can have students self-assess their own participation. When incorporating games into the classroom, I think it’s important that teachers recognize the value of play. Brown summarizes the value of play when he says, “In play, we learn how to deal with life’s wins and losses with grace. In the end, we learn to shake hands and let the emotions go, something that is useful in “real” life as well in games. A poor sport can’t do so in either arena” (p. 181).
Brown, S. (2009). Does play have a dark side?. Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (pp. 174-19). New York: Penguin Group. Retrieved from https://bbwebprod.spu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_67579_1%26url%3D
McCrea, B. (2013, 23). The Journal. Game-based Learning Is Playing for Keeps. Retrieved February 24, 2013, from https://bbweb-prod.spu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-831203-dt-content-rid1295586_1/courses/EDU6655_28453201232/Gamebased%20Learning%20Is%20Playing%20for%20Keeps%20–%20THE%20Journal.pdf