Using games as educational tools is far from a new trend. Within the last few years, educational technology has exploded. From app development to games being turned on their head and re-purposed for an educational setting, the gaming and educational world has collided in an outpouring of opportunity. Some say that games are not educational, especially those of the digital variety. Research has proven that video games can improve students' social skills, puzzle solving capabilities, and their critical thinking capacity. This can be especially helpful with special education students, as more and more students are having supportive technology included in their IEPs and 504 plans. Teaching students through gaming can be a way to bridge the gap between educator and student, while allowing students to have fun at the same time.
There are a variety of games that can be used in the classroom that one might not expect. Angry Birds can be used to teach a science classroom about physics, object paths and movement, and discuss how things move through space. Minecraft has been at the forefront of many classrooms today, and MinecraftEDU is a site that educators can visit to connect with other teachers and get advice on how to use the open world sandbox game for learning opportunities. The Playful Learning repository by Learning Games Network is currently in beta testing, but offers a wide sampling of educational games which can be used in the classroom, how they fit into Common Core standards, and what topics that a game may cover. These games range from educational to commercially branded, and the Playful Learning site has over 100 listings to offer.
Using video games as an educational tool depends on the subject matter that can be taught. Students as young as 5 have mastered algebra in 42 minutes, according to DragonBox, makers of a popular app that teaches students mathematics in a surprising way. Using monsters to represent variables, and upgrading them using points earned by solving problems, DragonBox employs a new and exciting way to teach what is often a “boring” subject that is met with resistance from students and adults alike. The earlier students are engaging in STEM activities, the better. Programs such as Kodu Game Lab can get students interested in computer programming, and the power to code is invaluable in today’s society. Students can design their own games from a young age, and learn to create and tell their own stories within their world.
Opening up the world of education and games is easier than ever. Consider adopting a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy to class, and let students take their notes on their laptop, phone, or tablet. Have students write the acceptable use policy as well, their insight may surprise you. With some teacher tweaking, a fair policy for the use of devices can be in place quickly.
There are a variety of note taking apps, each with their own features. GoogleDocs allows students to submit their papers to teachers for grading, and will allow teachers to see if a student has made requested edits to a paper before a final submission. This also is useful in tracking cheating. Students can be barred from making edits, meaning no last minute corrections in hopes of a better grade. Evernote allows students to take pictures of the class white board, and will tag the photo based on the words in the image. Evernote has a variety of useful features for note-taking, and remains at the top of its class for good reason. Combining these tools with a variety of educational games to be used in or out of the classroom is a great way to start off the school year, and there is a lot to be discovered.