Editor’s Note: Suitably designed video games are excellent learning tools. I remember my children playing adventure games such as Odyssey on their Apple II computer. In 1982, I studied the flourishing PC industry in the role of a technical writer with a particular interest in graphics and what became video games. In 1996, the Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore shared its facilities and students with makers of computer games to enriching their teaching programs. Over the next decade, excellent software for interactive graphic and video presentation was developed. Flash and related software accelerated the process for students and small budget producers. Among others, the University of Southern California Integrated video games into their School of Cinematic Arts program of study. Educational Video Games have not enjoyed the commercial success of the home product, but the capability exists for profound learning experiences.
Video Games in the Classroom:
Gaming in the classroom is a good use of technology for learning
Gaming in the classroom enhances student learning
Gaming in the classroom motivates students
The use of gaming is more effective as a learning tool with today’s students than previous generations of students
Pictures, diagrams, and graphics included in teaching enhance learning
Games and simulations are an effective way to incorporate pictures and graphics in teaching
Prior or foundational knowledge are required to make a gaming environment effective for teaching
Games should be designed to address individual learners’ needs and issues including learning styles
Games must be adaptable and user-friendly if they are to be used for teaching
When using a game for learning, winning should be based on knowledge or skills, not random factors
When using a game for learning, the game should address important content, not trivia
When using a game for learning, students should not lose points for wrong answers
Games should not be zero-sum exercises, if students demonstrate substantial learning they should be recognized as winners
To be effective in teaching, games and animations must be designed based upon what is known about principles of learning
When using a game for learning, the dynamics of the game should be easy to understand and interesting for the players but not obstruct or distort learning
I use gaming in my teaching (If pre-service – do you intend to use gaming in your teaching)
I believe that gaming is a valuable use of instructional time
The use of games for teaching and learning will likely grow in the next five years
- Likert-scale ranged from 1-5 (1 = Strongly Agree, 2 = Agree, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Disagree, 5 = Strongly Disagree)
A majority of pre- (88%) and in- (98%) service teachers agreed that visual representations, such as pictures and diagrams, enhance student learning. Pre- (80%) and in- (92%) service teachers agreed that games are an effective way to incorporate visual representations into learning.
Participants agreed that prior knowledge (pre- 82%; in- 88%) is required for games to be effective for learning. Additionally, participants felt that games should be designed to address learning styles (pre- 81%; in- 90%), games must be user-friendly (pre- 90%; in- 98%), winning should be based on knowledge and skills rather than random factors (pre- 80%; in- 83%), games should address important content and concepts rather than trivia and facts (pre- 71%; in- 79%), and that students should be recognized as winners if learning takes place (pre- 77%; in- 73%).
However, only about half (pre- 59%; in- 49%) of the participants felt that students should not lose points for incorrect answers. Additionally, a majority of participants (pre- 75%; in- 91%) felt that games should be designed based on what is known about learning and that the dynamics of the game should not distort learning (pre- 82%; in- 98%).
Around half of the participants (pre- 60%; in-55%) stated that they have or intend to use gaming in their teaching. However, a majority of the participants believe that gaming is a valuable use of instructional time (pre- 71%; in- 77%). Additionally, more in-service (92%) teachers felt that gaming use will grow in the next 5 years than did pre-service (73%) teachers.
The Open-Ended questions were designed to help qualify findings from the Likert-scale questionnaire. The open ended question were coded and analyzed for common themes using the constant comparative method (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Results of the open ended questions helped confirm the findings from the literature review and Likert-scale survey.
Question 1: How do you define gaming?
Pre-service teachers defined gaming as a tool used for winning, competition, and learning. For instance, a participant mentioned, “Competing to win using knowledge or skills that have been taught prior to playing the game.” In-service teachers defined gaming as a means to develop a goal/learning strategy. Example responses from the in-service teachers included, “Gaming is the use of traditional games or web-designed activites that are adapted to fit the learning goals in an instructional setting. Gaming allows students to work together and embraces the concept that students have diverse learning styles that instructors should consider when delivering course instruction” and “Interactive strategic exercises oriented toward a specific goal, the ability to interact, have fun and at the same time learn new ideas.”
Question 2: What are the advantages of gaming as a classroom tool?
Pre-service teachers consistently indicated that the advantages of games were that they are fun, motivating, and involve learning/teamwork/participation. Responses included, “Gaming allows students who may not participate in traditional classroom discussion to participate, give feedback, take on leadership roles, etc. It is also a way to engage students in a non-traditional and more exciting manner” and “Collaborative learning, teamwork (especially using something like Jeopardy). Quick and easy to use - good for retention or reinforcement of certain concepts.” In-Service teachers stressed the idea that games are exciting and motivating. Sample responses included, “Most students love to be on the computer, therefore it would keep their interest and help them learn” and “Gaming as a classroom tool could be a way of reaching all students. It will interest students that are proficient in computers; the students that do not have computers at home will more than likely want to use the computer more and enjoy more technologically advanced presentations.
Question 3: What are the disadvantages of gaming as a classroom tool?
Pre-service teachers indicated that a disadvantage to using games in the classroom was that they were a distraction to students. Sample responses included, “Sometimes students can get carried away. They might become easily distracted” and “Some students may get carried away with the available medium of technology. Many students are linked into web based networking, such as Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, etc., so instead of staying on task they may be tempted to visit these sites, thus abandoning their classwork.” In-service teachers reported similar responses stating that games can be a distraction and that they should not replace lectures. Example responses included, “Games cannot be used solely in place of lecture and preparation on the parts of the instructor and students. A solid grounding in the material must be set” and “Students can easily get carried away with the game and loose sight of its purpose. May be difficult to control the classroom and keep everyone on task.”
Question 4: Do you have other thoughts about gaming as a classroom tool?
Both pre- and in- service teachers indicated that games are fun, motivating, and the future. Sample pre-service responses include, “Gaming is good and can make students want to be in class and want to learn. And any time you have a student saying ’I can’t wait to go back to school or class’ is a good thing!” and “Classroom gaming rocks!” Sample in-service responses include, “It is here and is the future and we must adapt” and “Anything that motivates learners is the way to go and gaming is a perfect example of bringing learning and fun together.”
The video game industry is currently growing by tremendous proportions (Nawaz, 2009). Similarly, the use of games as training and learning tools is increasing at a rapid rate. Games are no longer played just 'for fun', rather, they are seen as learning tools that can capture students' interest and keep their attention. Prior research has shown that games support learning and increase student motivation, however, scant research has examined how teachers perceive these games. As a result, this study sought to examine how games were being perceived by both pre- and in-service teachers.
Findings from this study confirmed results from prior research (Can and Cagiltay, 2006) and revealed that teachers are using games in the classroom and see them being implemented more in the near future. This finding was not surprising considering the large volume of game sales and number of schools pushing technology use in the classroom. Thus, as the gaming industry continues to grow, the use of games in education will follow. Furthermore, as the cost of development decreases and demand increases, there will be more customizable games available, which could cover more content areas to meet state and national scholastic standards.
Participants indicated that gaming was a good use of technology for enhancing and motivating students during the learning process. Similar findings were uncovered by Ke (2008), who found that gaming enhanced students' motivation and attitude towards math education. As a result, utilizing games in the classroom may increase motivation and might be best used in subjects that students often do not have motivation to perform well in or with students who lack motivation.
From a design standpoint, the participants of this study felt that games should address learning styles, must be user-friendly, should address high level learning rather than factual recall, and should involve teamwork. Munoz-Rosario and Widmeyer (2008) uncovered similar findings in their study which found that games must be easy to use and should address high level learning in order to be successful. As a result, common classroom games should focus on high level learning. Many times simple games, such as Jeopardy in PowerPoint, only address factual information. These games need to be developed to address higher levels of learning. Additionally, computer-based games should be easy to use. Simple classroom games are usually very easy to use. However, many current games on video game systems have a high learning curve. These types of games may not be appropriate in learning settings where class time is an issue and may exhaust students' cognitive resources on game play rather than learning. Thus, teachers trying to implement console games into the classroom should first consider the resources needed to play the game.
Only around half of the participants surveyed felt that they have or intend to use gaming in their teaching. However, the majority felt that gaming is a valuable use of instructional time. Thus, there are educators that do not plan to use games for classroom use. Participants indicated that games could be distracting and that they should not replace lectures. If students are too distracted and excited to use games in the classroom the learning value may be diminished. Additionally, games should not be designed to replace lectures or education practices that are successful. Rather, they should be used to enhance the learning process (Pivec, Dziabenko, and Schinnerl, 2003). Future studies should examine this further to discover what barriers teachers face when trying to implement games into their class environment. Nevertheless, its important to note that both the pre- and in-service teachers felt that gaming in the classroom will grow in the next 5 years. This indicates that while not all participants intend to use games, a majority see them being utilized more often in the next several years within schools.
The rise of simple computer-based games has grown in use because game programming is becoming easier and demand has increased. The trend for easy development will help get educators who are not computer experts to feel comfortable using technology in their classroom and to create their own games. As this trend of easy development is combined with a broader understanding of how games can help teaching and learning, the use of computer-based games in classrooms will likely grow. If these tools are to live up to their promises to improve teaching and learning, we must strive to understand the ways that designing and using them impacts quality teaching and learning in schools.
Future research on gaming in the classroom should focus on case studies where teachers are implementing games in classroom settings. This would help determine barriers, pitfalls, and successes. Since game research is usually technology specific (each game can be very different), research should focus on implementation, use, and design guidelines common to most educational games. This would help educators who are considering implementing this technology and ensure that they can use it successfully.
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Raymond S. Pastore Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has ten years of instructional design and technology experience. His research focuses on multiple representations, computer-based tools, gaming, and metacognitive strategies that support learning from a multimedia environment. He recently earned his Ph.D. in Instructional Systems from Penn State University and is currently an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://raypastore.com
David A. Falvo Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology at Delaware State University in Dover, DE.. He served as key personnel on an NSF grant studying the use of animations for teaching chemistry, and on a major grant from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Indian Education. His research interests include online learning systems (designs and tools), interface usability, collaborative learning, and teacher professional development.