Liam has often spoke about gaming in school being different than it is at home. At home you can play from the comfort of your couch while eating Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew.  Playing a video game at school is still fun, but not quite the same experience. This truth is pretty easy for students to understand; they are very aware of the differences between school and home.  Do students still ask to play at inappropriate times, or try to sneak in a game while “working” on another project?  Sure, but so do many adults at work.  Playing video games into the classroom is more about how you use them, rather than justifying to your students why school play is different than home.

The real difference between playing at home and playing at school is how play is leveraged. Games based learning is often (but not only) about using games to leverage learning; coming alongside what is being taught directly. I have used games in many ways that have directly, and indirectly connected to the curriculum.  I, and many of the other GamingEdus, have told many, many stories about the lessons we have taught using games that directly connect content areas, and you can even find some posted on this site.

One of the less celebrated benefits of games based learning is on how it can be used to address the ‘softer’ skills we report on. When planning to use video games to help support what is being covered in the content areas consider the other indirect benefits to using games:

Learning Skill: when students are engaged in a gaming they demonstrate a broad range of learning skills.  For example,  I have seen students engage in collaboration constantly in multiplayer games, as well as problems solving, initiative, self regulations, and independent work.  I have seen students come back to Minecraft club a week later armed with knowledge they gained through research to succeed in a challenging build, or organize a group of people in, and out of game to achieve a common goal.  All done through their own initiative.  I have not spent any time in club formally teaching these skills, or reminding students to use them, but students practice them all the time.  Especially when the end product is something they are invested in; and sadly, completing a project that compares the Cordillera to the Hudson Bay Lowlands just doesn’t always inspire students to engage in using these skills.

Metacognition (aka the 4.0 curriculum expectations):  Even though metacognition is in the curriculum expectations, it is often the least loved area to cover, and can be the trickiest one to have students to gain an understanding in. Gamers engage in this skill all the time when they play.  Anyone who plays games regularly practice this constantly as they work out how to advance. They think about their game play, and some of the decisions they made gaming, and possible ways of changing their outcomes by using different strategies. By talking to students about what they did in game, and having them explain their thinking, and possible next steps, and strategies for improving their gameplay they make their thinking visible, and practice the skill of thinking about their thinking.  Hopefully by practicing this skill in an area students are very engaged, they will be able to transfer the same skills to other subjects.  At the very least I can use the experience of discussing game play to connect students to think about to how we can think about their reading skills. I have not done any data driven research on this, but it might be something I could look into as a TLCP (Teaching Learning Critical Pathway) in the future.

Now if you will excuse me I need to get back to playing on the professional play server, I have some learning skill of my own to develop.