We see it on the playgrounds, we see it on the fields and courts, and now we're seeing it in some classrooms too. Students of all ages are engaged in various types of play: the pretend play of pirates on a ship, the coordination of running a play in football, and the creation of digital monoliths in Minecraft, for a few examples. What is similar in all these examples is the intense look of concentration on students' faces, the collaboration between students, and the self-directed ambition toward accomplishing goals, all at a level of engagement that is often lacking in the traditional classroom.
If children are most engaged when they are playing, how can we facilitate play in such a way that students are encountering meaningful problems? Game-based learning has emerged as the term for bringing games into the classroom in meaningful ways, but how to do so is often left up to educators. Here's five things I learned this year from Sums & Solution's most popular posts about game-based learning:
1. Games can be difficult, but the best games are hard in a tantalizingly tricky way that compels students to keep going, to persist and to try new strategies.
3. Just introducing games and technology won't automatically provide an active learning environment. Games and technology are tools; you need the right types of tools and deliberate facilitation of games to create an environment where students are learning by doing.
5. Games make brains grow in the prefrontal cortex (abstract thinking, analyzing, making choices, making decisions), the hippocampus (memory, spatial navigation, learning) and the cerebellum (movement). If leveraged well, game-based learning can harness student's intrinsic motivation and love for play and lead them toward complex problem solving.