Games in Schools – Six weeks to understand game-based learning
European Schoolnet (the network of 34 Ministries of Education) and ISFE have teamed up to launch the fifth edition of Games in Schools, a project aimed at training teachers across Europe on the use of commercial video games as pedagogical support in ther classroom. The project started with a 6-week long MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) at the end of which teachers were asked to come up with a tailored lesson plan including game-based learning elements.
In case you missed the opportunity, we are pleased to share with you the main insights of each week’s module below. You can follow the course and get certification until 4 December. Beyond this date, the MOOC will remain available on the EUN academy website, but no further certification will be granted.
- Module 1: Why use computer games in the classroom?
- Module 2: Using games for thematic learning
- Module 3: Learning games
- Module 4: What can we learn from games?
- Module 5: Designing games
- Module 6: Why is it important to teach about games
Why use computer games in the classroom?
In this introductory module, participants reflected on the benefits of using games as pedagogical support in the classroom. Beyond providing knowledge, schools and teachers also help their students develop important skills such as critical thinking, creativity and problem solving. Video games can be usefully integrated into the classroom by providing an engaging, interactive, immersive and enjoyable learning experience for students.
Finally, participants were given a snapshot of available resources at their disposal should they wish to learn more about game-based learning, including concrete examples laid out in the former edition of the Games in Schools handbook
Using games for thematic learning
The second module of the course provides concrete examples of how games can be used in the classroom as part of a project or a lesson. Using the theme of a game such as Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games can, for example, help teachers interest their students in the history of the Olympic Games and in sports in general, as well as introducing a geography element via the countries represented by the in-game characters.
The course presenter also outlined that such a game could even be used for less obvious subjects. At the occasion of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, a teacher asked the pupils to play a very simple game after break time, which was a two-minute-long mini-game in Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games. The teacher recorded the information generated from the game (i.e. the final score obtained by each pupil or the length of the game play) and then used this data at the start of a mathematics lesson. The fact that the children had created and collected the data themselves made the lesson highly engaging.
Many more examples were outlined in the module and can be accessed on the EUN academy website.
While commercial games are primarily designed for entertainment, such as Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, many other games have been designed specifically to educate or train players in engaging ways. Examples of these educational games include those designed for language learning, mathematics, history, literacy or even specific skills such as coding. In Elegy for a Dead World, for instance, players are asked to write what they see or feel given the situation they are confronted with in the game. Players can then share their story and compare it with other players, seeing which words the others choose to describe each situation. This is excellent for learning and using new vocabulary.
Other video games focus on helping students improve their physical fitness or cognitive abilities. Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training includes hours of training activities aimed at improving the ability to concentrate, the value of which has been recognised in a study published in the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. Other games like Pokemon Go encourage players to collaborate and take part in physical activity.
As in module 2, many more examples of learning games and how they can be integrated in a classroom are available for anyone to read on the EUN academy website.
What can we learn from games?
Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), or Mixed Reality are all technologies that either started out in the video games sector and/or are technologies to which this sector brings a unique perspective. Thanks to their use in the video games sector, VR and AR are now becoming mainstream and teachers can use the latest apps and games made for VR and AR to bring a new perspective in the classroom. Star Walk, for instance, is a great tool for teaching astronomy as it allows students to use the app to observe stars and other astral elements by pointing their phone or tablet to the sky.
However, beyond simply using the latest technologies available to offer an interactive element and actual video games in the classroom, teachers can also apply game-design mechanics to foster engagement: rewarding effort and achievement with “experience points”, encouraging collaboration among students, redefining failure to see it as a new opportunity to practice instead of a sanction, using leaderboards for those students that help others… These are just a few examples of how game-design mechanics can be used in the context of a classroom to foster engagement and to support learning outcomes. For more examples, check out module 4.4 and 4.5 on the EUN academy website
In 2017 in the European Union, more than half of the companies that recruited or tried to recruit an ICT specialist experienced difficulties in doing so (source: eurostat). Teaching digital skills is therefore crucial to meet the needs of the job market and to ensure the employability of future generations. The video games sector itself is a thriving subset of the EU digital economy and is in constant need of new talent.
Game design requires a high level of digital skills: coding, video editing, animation, or R&D development… In addition, video games require both technology and creativity, and learning about how to design them provides opportunities in other areas of the curriculum, such as music, literature, or the arts. Many games aim to develop these skills, such as Minecraft: Education Edition, Rabbids Coding, or Kodu Game Lab, and all are specifically designed to be used in schools.
Many more concrete examples were outlined in the module. Do not forget to check them out.
Why is it important to teach about games?
Video games are part of daily life for many EU citizens, whether they be played on a console, a computer, or a smartphone. However, it is important to remind pupils and teachers that not every game is suitable for every player. The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) classification is made available on every platform to guide players and parents to choose the most suitable game for their age. It also helps teachers to make sure they pick the right game for their classroom. Additionally, participants of this module learnt about the parental control tools that are available on every device, to ensure appropriate use. You can learn more about PEGI and parental control tools here
Perception of video games has changed over time, hence why this module explored the various controversies that have affected the sector over the years, such as violence or addiction. Participants in the module analysed recent research on each of these issues to assess how video games contribute to one's wellbeing. Useful resources in local languages are available in many European territories to support teachers in promoting a safe and responsible gameplay. See all local initiatives here
Following this six-week long MOOC, participants are in a position to appreciate the value of using video games in a school environment and have concrete examples of how to integrate them in a lesson as a pedagogical support. They are now being asked to draft their own lesson plans, including video game-based learning elements, by 4 December, in order to receive the final certification for the course. If you are interested, you can still register here (course in English only). The MOOCs will remain available, for free, even after this date.