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Teachers' Quick Guide on The Use of Games in Education

Online gaming plays a major part in most of young people's lives. The gaming trend  that started off as a sole leisure activity a couple of years ago is now integrated into the mainstream and more and more people are using them on everyday basis.Game developers and business corporations are generating billions of revenues out of their sales .In March 2008, a government-funded report from DCSF indicated that sales of games for the under 12 age group represented nearly three quarters of the total UK games market. 87 % of 5-16 year old have a game's console at home, and the enormous success of the Nintendo Wii has shown that new technologies can reach and hold audiences never expected to enjoy playing online or computer games.

Regardless of the negative features associated with gaming such as frivolity, violence and mindlessness, games do have a growing potential in education. Just to make it clear, when I say games I refer to  all kinds of games ( simulations, virtual world games , online games, computer games, puzzel games and many more ). Several studies ( check webliography links below  ) have proved that some characteristics of games have a positive role in learning settings to the point that an entire new model of learning has seen the light under the name Digital  Game-based Learning ( GBL ).

The main Factors behind the raise of Digital Game-Based Learning

Here is  the three main reasons behind the formulation of DGBL :

1- The first factor is the ongoing research conducted by the proponents of DGBL. Numerous articles, docs, and books have been written on the power of DGNL including :Marc Prensky's ' Digital Game-Based Learning ( 2001 )', James Paul Gee's ' What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy(2003)', and Steven Johnson's ' Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter 9 2005 )', to mention but a few examples.

2-  The second factor involves today's " Net Generation ' or ' Digital Natives' , who have become disengaged with traditional instruction.They require multiple streams of information, prefer inductive reasoning, want frequent and quick interactions with content, and have exceptional visual literacy skills, characteristics that are all matched well with DGBL.

3- The third and last factor in favour of the raise of DGBL is the increased popularity of games. Digital gaming is $10 billion per year industry, and in 2004, nearly as many digital games were sold as there are people in the United States ( 248 million games vs 293.6 million residents )

Now in the midst of this overcrowded game market how can you ,as a teacher and educator, decide upon the games to use in your classroom or for educational purposes , in other words, what makes a learning game ?

What makes a learning game ?

According to Malone and Lepper ( 1987 ) there is a list of characterstics that really make a learning game. I am including this list and hoping that everyone  of you would always check it before selecting a game to integrate in your instruction. Make it as a checklist for learning games selections.
 Here are the four characteristics :

1- Challenge

Challenge is created by having clear, fixed goals that are relevant for the learner.Uncertain outcomes provide challenge by offering variable difficulty levels, hidden information, and randomness. Feedback on performance should be frequent, unambiguous, and supportive. Lastly, the activity should promote feelings of competence for the person involved.

2- Curiosity

Curiosity exists in two different forms: sensory curiosity and cognitive curiosity. Audio and visual effects, particularly, in computer games may enhance sensory curiosity. When learners are surprised or intrigued by paradoxes, or incompleteness, it arouses cognitive curiosity.

3- Control

Control is experienced as feelings of self-determination and control on the part of the learner. The ingredients of contingency, choice, and power contribute to the control feature of the learning experience. When the individuals face choices that produce powerful effect, it increases their sense of personal control.

4- Fantasy

Fantasy encompasses both the emotions and thinking process of the learner. Fantasies should appeal not only to the emotional needs of learners, but should provide relevant metaphors or analogies. Lastly, fantasies should have an integral relationship to the material covered.

These are the four main  characteristics of a learning game and if you want to see examples of how we can apply these characteristics to games then  check out this PDF .

Check out this Webliography for further reading on this topic.

1- Mission to Learn
2- Teaching Educational Games Resources
3- Why are Video Games Good for Learning
4- Digital Game Based Learning
5- Learning in 3D Class
6- Games in The Classroom.... are you sure ?
7- Digital Games and Learning Gains
8- Using Computer Games in Education
9- The Importance of Video Games in Education
10- Importance of Gamification in Education
11- Video Games Improve Brain's Performance

Here is the above article embeded in a slideshow for you to share with your colleagues or on your classroom blog.

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