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The Difference a Game Makes in Student Engagement [Video]

Greg Toppo and Kurt Squire show how to leverage the motivation and excitement that accompanies game-play in order to provide fun and effective instruction.

By Kelsey Skaggs April 19, 2017

It’s no secret that successfully engaging students requires educators to perform a tricky balancing act. Oversimplify a lesson and students may tune out, but plan a lesson that’s too challenging and students may become frustrated and give up. A special report from Indiana University reveals that 2 out of 3 students are bored in class every day, while 17 percent say they are bored in every class. Additionally, 75 percent of the students surveyed said they were bored because the material "wasn't interesting” and nearly 40 percent were bored because they felt the material being taught “wasn't relevant."

How can teachers work to eliminate boredom from their classrooms, and what strategies can they use to motivate and excite students? Greg Toppo, K-12 Education Reporter at USA Today, and Kurt Squire, Professor of Informatics at UC Irvine, say technology is the answer. Specifically, they believe that the technology used in video games and simulations is uniquely positioned to meet students where they are while challenging them at the optimal level.

“Failing is not fun, but not failing is even worse. For something to be a game… we expect something to push back at us."

-Greg Toppo, K-12 Education Reporter, USA Today, and author of “The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter”

Student Engagement: The Difference a Game Makes

If school were a game, would students want to play it? This is the question that fueled Greg Toppo and Kurt Squire during their presentation at the Deeper Learning Symposium. Both Greg and Kurt, as a visitor and teacher, respectively, observed games being used in classrooms and now share their expertise and findings.

Greg and Kurt explain several features that make for an engaging game including:

  • The need for failure
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • A design for success

Watch the full presentation:



Length: 39:29


Presented at the Deeper Learning Symposium: Empowering Your Math Superheroes.

Student Engagement Resources to Share 

Here are some related resources to share with your colleagues or to use for staff development:

See all the resources from the Deeper Learning SymposiumAnd to find out more about our professional development programs, you can request information below:

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Kelsey Skaggs is the Engagement Specialist at MIND Research Institute. She enjoys showing others how fun and engaging math can be.

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