CreativEd Services is a division of Ottersmith LLC and the creator of LEARNING GAMES. We started in 2012 and to date have published five books, six bingo games, and have presented workshops across the United States.
Why did we create Learning Games?
Some teachers turn up their noses at the thought of playing games in the classroom. They argue that it is the students’ responsibility to be motivated and interested in learning. They characterize games as trivial exercises that manipulate students with rewards, badges and points.
Are THEY missing the point?
Kathy Sierra, an author, technology blogger and game developer was described in NEA Today as believing that “…incentivizing learning-related behaviors poses risks. Sierra says rewards should be left at the classroom door.” (Summer 2014, page 50)
But isn’t that what we do with grades? Don’t we give grades to incentivize learning-related behaviors? Aren’t grades “educational rewards”?
Raise your hand if you have ever been asked “is this for a grade?”
In his book Learning with the Body in Mind, Eric Jensen believes that games can engage learners. He asserts that:
Teachers who depend on content as their only asset are dinosaurs. Today’s learners have masses of information at their fingertips. The point is, the role of today’s educator is not to provide content, but to engage learners with relevant content in meaningful ways so that it is learned, valued, and hopefully enjoyed – and not just “covered.” (2000, Corwin Press)
Corporations use games to train their employees. The U.S. Military uses games to develop military strategy and tactical training. Companies and government agencies use games for innovation and idea generation.
It just makes sense that games would have a place as a part of classroom instruction.
What is a game?
A game is a competitive activity with rules for one or more persons that involves a challenge. That’s our definition.
What is a Learning Game?
A Learning Game is a competitive activity with rules for one or more persons that involves a challenge AND a clear instructional goal.
There are many types of Learning Games. Some are short games while others are longer, complex instructional activities. Some involve competition among others, and some involve competing against a standard – or oneself.
Some Learning Games have winners, and in some games, everybody wins. Sometimes there are extrinsic rewards, and often times the rewards are intrinsic.
Learning Games almost always involve teamwork.
And their use ALWAYS involves good judgment on the part of the teacher.
Imagine that you are a high school Language Arts teacher. Yesterday you read and discussed “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. At the beginning of class, you want to do a quick review before you move on to your next lesson.
Two minutes. Two choices.
Choice One: Tell them what they learned yesterday.
Choice Two: Ask them to pair up and write down the names (first, last or both) of as many characters as they can recall from the story. “Let’s see who can remember the most in 2 minutes. Go!”
What’s the difference?
The students in choice one are likely not engaged. Even if you ask questions, only the responding student is likely engaged.
In the second choice, most of the students are engaged. They are retelling the story in their heads from start to finish, thinking about who said what, to whom, and why. The real goal is not in recalling the names – it’s the learning that comes from replaying the entire story in their heads.
And it’s engaging because you presented a challenge. Notice that you didn’t offer a reward. But if you could see inside their heads, you would see neural impulses dancing around the cerebral cortex as they try their hardest to remember more names than the other pairs in the class.
That’s a Learning Game.