Friday, February 24, 2017

The Link between Games and Learning

            Personally, I have been playing video games since I was around 10 or 11 years old.  Growing up with games titles such as Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, and Sims, I have experienced some of the most popular games of my generation. This experience has allowed me to see the positives and negatives of gaming; through my mathematics education major, I was introduced to the concept of learning through digital games. This has intrigued me and has led me to explore the benefits of gaming in a classroom setting. 
           Being a junior in college, I am just now starting to get into my major. I have gotten past most of my generals and now am working on filling my own ‘toolbox’ for my teaching career. When I first started looking into this concept of learning through gaming I was on board immediately, but as I thought about my motivation toward this subject, I had to step back and ask myself, "what positives would this bring to the classroom?" As a result of my fascination, I had to do some research. I had an idea of how games engage learning by ways of problem-solving, but I wanted to dig deeper. In light of a school assignment, I found a couple articles written by Matthew Lynch and his view of games in schools. One looked at gamification in schools and it pointed out a few positives to implementing games such as an increase in student motivation and engagement. Immediately, this is not a good enough reason to implement games but he followed up this idea with a stat that I found relevant, “Moreover, (because of technology) recent research has suggested that the attention span in humans has decreased from around 12 to 8 seconds.” As a result of our societal change, teachers have to work harder at keeping their student’s focused on the curriculum. Games could have a place here after all, but what aspects of those games can, or better yet, should be implemented in teaching students? 
            In another article, How to Gamify Your Classroom, Lynch goes into a few aspects that could be implemented into normal classrooms without the need for technology. He explained that there are a few idea’s within every game such as infinite play or respawns, points/achievements, and also a bonus system. One of the issues with gaming in class is that not everyone has the right technology to do it. But these ideas are casual and allow students to progress at their own paces without even needing technology. I, personally, was really fascinated by the infinite play section that he outlined. He described the positives of this through a situation. In a typical classroom, a teacher calls on a student to see if they know the answer; if they get it wrong, the teacher can call on someone else for the right answer. In a gameplay type classroom, the first student would get multiple chances to get an answer right and understand why he/she got it wrong immediately. It would be related to immediate feedback which is a big help for students and their motivation, especially in Mathematics. With this knowledge, I find it hard not to be in favor of this type of classroom. I see it as a very rewarding place for all students and adding this tool to my toolbox seems very helpful. With technology, this can even be exercised further through simulations. Technology has a neat way of integrating a person into the game and allows them to feel like they have a part to play in the game. That being said and the rise of virtual reality gaming, the concept of learning through games will likely become more popular.
This concept of gamified classrooms is not new. There are many math games out there for students and teachers, and the fact that technology is just an option makes this idea so much more useful. I also wanted to take it a step further. What if we could not only implement games into learning but make learning fun through games? This isn’t a new idea either, but it got me thinking about the games I like and if there are concepts in them that I could use to create a new atmosphere in my future math classroom. First off, I have played many different types of games, from combat orientated games to racing games, and even role playing games. Each type of game has its own unique attraction. For example, Call of Duty is a well-known franchise, and in short, it is known for fast-paced gameplay and motivating ranking systems. Then you have racing games, which highlight fast paced gameplay and competition. There are also role-playing games which allow yourself to make personal decisions about where the game will go, and it immerses you into a world that you control.
Gaming companies know how to attract large audiences to their games as well. Lynch explains, “It’s no secret that people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy video games. In fact, over 3 billion hours a week are dedicated to playing video games worldwide.” As to continue this conversation of a gamified classroom, what is it about games that cause this attraction and how can we use it in our classrooms for the future?

Taylor Davis