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The Difference Games Can Make for Student Engagement

Successfully engaging students often requires educators to perform a tricky balancing act. Oversimplifying a lesson may cause students to tune out, but planning a lesson that students find too difficult could lead them to become frustrated and give up.

A special report from Indiana University revealed 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 part of the solution.

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

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 MIND's 2017 Deeper Learning Symposium. Both Greg and Kurt shared their expertise and experiences from observing the use of games in classrooms. In their presentation, Greg and Kurt discussed several features that make for an engaging game, including:

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

You can watch the full presentation below:


Games and Meaningful Student Engagement

MIND's Director of ST Math Content Ki Karou knows that for games to provide a true learning experience, they must offer meaningful engagement. In the latest episode of the Inside Our MIND podcast, Ki Karou offered some insights from his recent trip to the 2018 Game Developers Conference.

Ki talked about the difference between gamification and meaningful engagement, and offered some ways educators and administrators can ascertain whether an educational product is offering a true game-based learning experience.

You can listen to the episode right here:

Additional Resources:

student engagement resources page

Kelsey Skaggs

About the Author

Kelsey Skaggs was the Communications Manager at MIND Education. She enjoys highlighting the work of colleagues and partners who champion MIND's mission.


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