Tag Archives: game based learning

SXSWedu – Deeper Game-Based Learning

To see my other posts on SXSWedu 2016, please click on:

Game-based learning is something that is mentioned quite frequently in educational discussions and articles.  It is, understandably, a controversial topic – particularly when the games being used were not specifically designed for education (World of Warcraft and Minecraft, for example).

The panel at SXSWedu on Deeper Game-Based Learning consisted of two teachers, the director of the Educational Gaming Environments Group, and the author of The Game Believes in You.

Paul Darvasi, a teacher at a private school, uses a game called, “Gone Home” with his high school English class.  Darvasi is a huge proponent of game-based learning, but he does caution, “Be judicious.  Think carefully about how you integrate games into your curriculum.”  The teachers who bring games into the classroom with the intent of enriching the curriculum content and engaging students will be much more successful than those who introduce games solely for the source of entertainment.

Peggy Sheehy, who uses World of Warcraft to teach about the hero’s journey in The Hobbit,  told us that it is essential to be transparent to gain parental support.  Once parents are invited to the classroom to participate in the lesson, they recognize the value and become her biggest champions.

Both teachers believe that game-based learning has transformed their classrooms into places where students have lost their apathy and are truly participatory in their own learning.  They also agree that it allows students to receive regular feedback, and to constantly improve their learning based on that feedback.  As Sheehy explained about traditional classrooms, “When you get a 60% it means you failed, but it should mean, ‘Wow!  I mastered 60%; now let’s see how I can achieve the other 40!'”

If you want to incorporate game-based learning in your classroom, take baby-steps, according to these two teachers.  And, make sure you elicit parental support early.  Sheehy says, “Teachers are saying, ‘How do we begin?’ not ‘I don’t want to do it!'”  To which Darvasi replied that we shouldn’t “fear something we don’t do well.  We need to change the mindset.”

To see more of Sheehy’s work, you can go here.  You can also download her curriculum for free here.

If you are an elementary/middle school educator, you may want to take a good look at Zoombinis, which was developed for tablets by EDGE at TERC. TERC is a non-profit organization that includes game designers, educators, and researchers.  They are very interested in hearing from educators and developing meaningful curriculum for using games in the classroom.  I’ve had a great experience so far with using Zoombinis in the classroom, and hope to share more about specific ways to tie it in to your math curriculum in the next few months!

You may also be interested be interested in using Minecraft in an educational setting.  I recently published a post on this from a session I attended at TCEA that may have some helpful resources.

To re-iterate Darvasi’s advice, while game-based learning should be done with deliberate planning in your classroom, do not feel like you need to know everything about it before you use it.  As with many thing in education today, sometimes we are better teachers when we aren’t the experts 😉

The Game Believes in You by Greg Toppo
The Game Believes in You by Greg Toppo
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Breakout EDU

My daughter turned 13 last month.  To surprise her, I invited a group of her friends to a place in San Antonio called, “The Panic Room.” The hostess set the scene of the “Museum Heist” up by telling about a museum robbery gone wrong.  The 10 girls were given the mission of finding the most valuable item in the room to save their families from the robber who had taken them hostage.  They had one hour.

The parents were able to watch the group as they worked their way through the clues, all contained in the room.  There were mysterious codes, locked boxes, and secret hiding places.

Did I mention that these were eight 13-year-olds and two 20-something-year-olds?  Oh, and they couldn’t bring their phones in with them.

For the entire hour, these 10 girls ransacked the room, collaborated over clues, celebrated when they cracked codes, and laughed.

In other words, they were engaged in the task the entire time.

“I have got to find a way to use this in my classroom,” I thought.  And then I added it to my mental list of a bazillion engaging ideas that I keep in my Index of Innovation.

Lo and behold, I clicked on a Twitter link yesterday, and found that someone else had the same idea – and they followed it through with resources for educators.

I found the link to Breakout EDU in this article by Nicholas Provenzano called, “Re-Energize Your Classroom in the New Year.”  The post has other fabulous suggestions that you should also consider.  Breakout EDU was new to me, so I followed the link to find out more.

Breakout Edu is open beta right now, which means that the project is still in development, but open to the public to test it out.  The site currently provides six games that are free (with several more to come, it looks like), but you will need to register as a beta tester to receive the password that gives you access to the games along with the clues and answers.  You will need to invest in a Breakout Edu Kit, which includes the basic equipment for any of the challenges.  To do this, you have the option of buying a kit for $99, scraping up your own materials, or individually ordering the pieces you need through the provided Amazon links.

The games that are currently on the site inform you of the target age groups and the ideal group sizes.  Some of the topics are: “The Candy Caper” (3rd-5th grades, ideal groups of 4-6 people), “Decoding the War” (14-adult with groups of 6-12 people), and “The Mad Engineer” (for ages 10-14 with groups of 5-10 people).  There is also information for creating your own Breakout EDU game.

Follow this link for information about a Breakout EDU Game Jam that will be happening this week!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to try this with my students! Fortunately, I have rather small class sizes.  For teachers with a regular, or larger, class load, you may need to get creative on how to give everyone the opportunity to try to “break out.”  Knowing the audience who reads this blog, I don’t think that will be a problem 😉

image from: Breakout EDU
image from: Breakout EDU