Games Based Learning – Games Create Real World Issues to Collaborate and Solve

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My school year just ended. As I reflected on another whirlwind year at an inner-city Title 1 public school, I was struck on how gaming in the classroom took a bigger role. As a Title 1 school, over 80% of my students qualify for free and/or reduced lunch. In truth almost 95% of my students face serious socio-economic disadvantages. The daily challenge becomes how to properly engage students who are facing much larger issues like proper food, clothing and shelter. These are the most basic of needs as described by American psychologist Abraham Maslow over 50 years ago.

My goal was to turn as many lessons into games as I could. With the school year over, I saw this more deliberate use of gaming in the classroom had plenty of benefits. I was fortunate enough to have a BrainPOP.com account with the school district but had yet to really jump into their new Game Up section. By the way, there are games offered for free on BrainPOP.com, for those who do not have an account.

I was working with several seventh grade (13yo) government classes during our Presidential Election season here in the USA. While the election and government related BrainPOP movies laid the groundwork, the biggest BrainPOP contributor to student learning was the GameUp section. Three games – Win the White House, Budget Hero and Executive Command proved to be addictive for the students, who quickly learned it is not a simple or easy job to be President of the United States. In Win the White House, students learned about the strategy involved with a campaign. The game reinforced higher-order thinking skills needed to successfully run a presidential campaign.

“Politics seem complicated,” said seventh grader Eugena. “Win the White House game made it easier for me to understand a campaign. Obama and Romney had to work real hard to get enough votes.”

Budget Hero and Executive Command allowed the students to make future-altering decisions as the president. The students had a chance to see how one decision can have far-reaching effects. Once again, higher-order thinking skills were necessary to be successful.

“Those games showed me that the President has a lot to do every day,” said RMS Student Council President Shamila. “It was addictive. I just wanted to keep playing and make the country better.”

BrainPOP offers games for science, math, social studies, English, engineering and technology. They also have an English as a Second Language site and a BrainPOP Jr. site for kindergarten through third grade. I do not want to make this sound like an ad for BrainPOP but it is what is available to me in my district and I genuinely think they have a fantastic product. I’m sure there are several other options for you if you choose not to try BrainPOP. The collaboration and problem solving involved at being successful with these games carried over well past the early November election. Students were looking to gamify everything.

I am teaching science this fall and have already started planning my games lineup to assist in the introduction of new topics. If you haven’t introduced gaming into your lessons yet, I urge you to give it a chance. Classroom management is much easier when students are engaged and whenever we were “gaming”, students were engaged.

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