Ask a typical educator about game-based learning and video games in school, and expect at least some skeptical responses.
Many educators and parents worry about gaming as an educational tool.
Research on the educational worth of video games has been mixed, and some educators point out the fact that most data come from short-term studies.
While research on educational software is still young, increasing evidence points to positive outcomes for today’s students—despite the prevalence of headlines linking video games to bad behavior or lukewarm learning outcomes.
According to James Gee, an education professor at Arizona State University, blaming all video games for poor results is like blaming all food for the existence of obese people.1
In reality, video games can create positive outcomes. For starters, they promote better dexterity and visual acuity.
The best video games also challenge players even as they entertain.
Case in point: during video games, players don’t just sit by passively. Instead, they’re part of the action. Plus, the interactive nature of video games often lets players alter the game’s outcome based on completed actions.
Playing for Literacy
Vocabulary gaming activity
Many video games—even some whose main focus isn’t language and literacy—can help players become better readers and inspire a greater interest in reading.
For example, a game about mythology might prompt a student to check out mythology books at the library or do more research online.
Similarly, in game-based software like Imagine Learning, students can build their own avatars, roam a virtual world in Imagine Museum, and strengthen their language and literacy skills via thousands of activities.
Students learn because they’re engaged in fun activities that are research-based and individualized.
The best game-based educational software challenges players in some way. Children learn to search, plan, and try unique approaches as they encounter problems or skill-building activities along the path.
Gaming also helps children learn to strategize, make good decisions, develop patience, and think more critically.
In Imagine Learning, kids progress in their language and literacy skills until they’re ready for deeper content and ‘productive struggle.’
At that point, they’re introduced to more complex texts, academic language, and new language concepts.
In short, the program’s sequencer knows when students are ready to solve new problems and learn new content.
Playing Imagine Learning in the classroom
Although non-gamers might assume video games increase solitary behavior, the reverse is generally true.
Most kids who play video games talk about their experiences with peers. Gaming also draws like-minded students together.
In fact, social scientists have observed that kids play video games because they make new friends as a result2.
Additionally, as kids progress, they gain confidence, leading to better social and academic skills.
Game-Based Software and Imagine Learning
Over 90 percent of kids play video games. At Imagine Learning, we know that video games are here to stay. We also understand that kids’ brains today are wired for digital experiences.
Naturally, video games won’t magically solve all learning challenges. Nonetheless, the best programs offer distinct advantages to a wide population of students, including struggling readers, English language learners, and students with disabilities.
The following video shows how Imagine Learning leverages student motivation to gain language and literacy skills.
Before you discount the positive effects of video games3 and game-based learning in the classroom, test the outcomes of the best programs. How are students performing on standardized tests? Do they better understand the subject matter?
Finally, pay attention to your students’ attitudes. If they’re excited by what they’re learning, they’ll be more engaged at school—and you’ll see ample proof of that engagement at assessment time.
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