How to use digital games in the classroom

A recent report reinforces the popularity of digital games among teenagers and highlights their potential uses in education. The report, released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Games and Learning Publishing Council, finds a role for both short and long-form games, which could extend beyond a class period. The report also offers a guide for determining when a game is educational — pointing out that opinions differ on the definition of a “learning game.” 

If it’s true that 97 percent of teens in the U.S. are playing digital games, then the focus on how games can fit into the shifting education system becomes that much more important. Schools, districts, and individual educators are trying to figure out how games and learning can fit into the current complicated landscape.

The newly released report Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis, released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Games and Learning Publishing Council, describes the many different criteria in play in detail, including obstacles from the policy standpoint, lack of teacher development, as well as how the Bring Your Own Device movement is influencing the push towards games and learning.

“Games are more popular than ever with youth today with many students spending hours a day playing them,” said Michael H. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “What we don’t know yet is whether and how they can be a key ally in driving pathways to academic success.”

Though it’s well worth reading the report in its entirety, below are excerpts pulled from the report, conducted and written by Dr. John Richards, Leslie Stebbins and Dr. Kurt Moellering.

On Finding Ways to use Games Within Class Times

The school day is divided into class periods, and this division limits lesson length. Furthermore, the combination of standards and the scope and sequence tied to core curriculum create “coverage” requirements that place practical limits on the number of lessons that can be devoted to a single topic.

Nearly all games fall clearly along a continuum ranging from short-form to long-form with a critical distinction and a bi-modal distribution pattern based on fitting in a class period. As noted by Rob Lippincott, Sr. Vice President of Education, PBS, “Games don’t fit the time box of a class period; a game succeeds when it is sticky and gobbles up more time. You want games in school to finish quickly and speed up learning.” (CS4Ed interview, April 2012).

“Games don’t fit the time box of a class period; a game succeeds when it is sticky and gobbles up more time. You want games in school to finish quickly and speed up learning.”

Continue reading about how to use games in the classroom.

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