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Even more teaching tips from video games

Yesterday I mentioned an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that highlighted five ideas teachers can steal from video game developers as they create lessons and units.

As I’ve worked with teachers over the last few years, we’ve been able to put together a few other teaching tips that teachers should use based on the work of video game research.

Win the “game” by achieving engaging goals

  • All great video games have difficult but clear and achievable targets. We need to do the same as we design problem-based learning units with interesting and engaging problems. One example is a western Kansas government teacher who asked her students to solve the problem of a diminished Ogalla Auquifer. Throughout the semester, the students task was to research the problem and then deliver a solution to the District Water Board.This sort of work requires kids to work through a series of levels to achieve a final goal, just like a video game.

Allow cheat codes

  • The word cheat instantly sends up a red flag to most teachers but to a gamer, a cheat code is simply something or someone who helps them solve problems. We need to use the same philosophy when designing lessons by building into the process a more collaborative feel. Allow kids to work together, especially in the earlier “levels” of the unit, encourage the use of online experts and create student experts that can help with instruction.

Provide power-ups

  • Most games offer ways for players to “level-up” their character by offering extra lives, additional special powers and new tools or weapons. We can do the same sort of thing in our unit designs by intentionally including different types of scaffolding through the use of graphic organizers, Web 2.0 tools and differentiated instruction.

Encourage “modding”

  • Modding is short for modifications. Most games allow the user to modify the game or create additional scenarios and settings through the use of in-game editors. We can do similar sorts of things by providing choices to students. Giving kids the opportunity to design their own end product or travel a different path of research encourages higher levels of student engagement.

Include visual and auditory stimuli

  • All modern games include visuals and auditory components specifically designed to enhance the experience. Some game systems, such as the Wii, even include tactile stimuli. Future games will surely include some sort of smell-o-vision. We need to do the same by purposefully planning for the use of multimedia in our instruction. One teacher I know even set off a bunch of fireworks in a metal can and then brought the remains into his classroom during a discussion on the Battle of Gettysburg. It provided a very specific smell that helped kids connect emotion with content.

As teachers, we need to constantly be looking for ways to hone our skills. And the brain research used by game developers to engage users is the same sort of research we can use to design high-quality lesson and unit design.

Curious what works for you? How have you used game theory to design instruction?

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dean groom #

    Game designers understand engagement. They feed off cybergogy. If anyone wants to understand how game designers think, play games. If not your adding a clock to a toaster.

    If you understand how they work, then it is entirely possible to use game approaches in any classroom. After all kids spend 10k hours in games before they leave school. Almost the same time they spend in school. Which climate has the most compelling storyline?

    Game based learning is already here, just not in school. I recommend you check out Cognitive Dissonance – an education Warcraft guild. Plenty of innovation, with real classroom impact. Hope you stick with it! Thanks!

    June 16, 2010

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