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Education - Gaming and Simulations

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Advantages of Playing Games

Increased motivation: Students who are having fun and are engaged tend to find the learning experience meaningful and memorable.

Complex understanding: Complex processes, especially relationships among systems and system components,can be well reflected in games.

Reflective learning: Learners are given the chance to experiment within a safe play space and to reflect upon the outcomes of the decisions they make.

Feedback and self-regulation: Through experimentation and feedback, players learn to refine their choices and to control their actions within the game space.

(from: Playing Games in School, 2010, p. 44)

Disadvantages of Using Games

The following outlines some of the ways that learners can react to a game that could work against the intended learning outcomes. A knowledgeable teacher can avoid each of these. (See pages 48-53 in Playing Games in School for 'Perscriptions' to problems.)

Subversion of rules: In competitive situations, players may employ strategies that ignore the learning outcomes in favor of winning tactics.

Games take time: the increased time associated with preparing and delivering a game may not seem to be an option for some teachers.

Loss of Teacher Control: Teachers may not always have complete control over which parts of the game the students find meaningful and memorable.

Traditional learning may now seem dull. Traditional learning, during which students receive less feedback and have fewer choices, may be more difficult for them after playing a game.

Learners may be accustomed to professional game media. With modest budgets, expertise, and tools, teachers may not be able to provide games of the same quality that learners are used to playing at home.

(from: Playing Games in School, 2010, p.46)

Questions Related to Learning Objectives

*Do I understand the overall purpose of the game?

*Do I understand what my students should end up knowing, being skilled at, caring about, or being motivated to do after working through the game?

*Does the video game align with the intended learning objectives and standards I wish to address?

*Is the game developmentally appropriate for my students? 

*Can the game provide experiences that existing classroom practices and activities cannot?

*Am I aware of empirical evidence that supports the effectiveness and/or impact of the game one student learning? Absent research to support this game's effectiveness, am I prepared to explain its curricular relevance to my students, their parents, and the principal? (NOTE: very few learning innovations, whether they be textbooks or games, have bodies of evidence documenting effectiveness, so it should not be a surprise to find missing or limited evidence of the game's impact of learning.)

*Do I understand the conditions and circumstances under which the video game, like all learning innovations, may benefit or hinder student learning?

(from: Playing Games in School, 2010, pp.92-93)