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Why Should we use Games in School? – 72

Episode Overview

Episode Topics and Interviews

  • Introduction to the Discussion – 3:12
  1. Games Foster Student-Teacher Relationships – 4:47
  2. Games Develop Class Culture – 9:38
  3. Games can be a Classroom Management Tool – 11:32
  4. Games Provide Engagement and Motivation – 17:35
  5. Student-Focused Design – 19:59
  • Conclusion – 22:05

In this episode of Board Gaming with Education, Dustin gives five reasons why we should use games in school. This episode is sponsored by WorldsXP. WorldsXP is a streamlined gameful experience for your learning environment to increase engagement, develop class culture, and reinforce positive behavior. By implementing WorldsXP you will be able to enhance the learning experience for your adventurers through different gamification elements. As the Kit Master, your Adventurers (students) will choose characters, give them their own unique personalities, go on thematic RPG adventures, and earn XP and achievements all while accomplishing three main goals in your learning environment.

Thank you to Purple Planet Music for the wonderful contribution of their songs “Retro Gamer” and “Mumbai Mood” for our interview and desert island segments. These songs can be found in full on this music archive.

Our new Facebook Group for Educators: Games-based Learning, Gamification, and Games in Education

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Episode Topics


This episode is sponsored by WorldsXP!

WorldsXP is a streamlined gameful experience for your learning environment to increase engagement, develop class culture, and reinforce positive behavior. By implementing WorldsXP you will be able to enhance the learning experience for your adventurers through different gamification elements. As the Kit Master, your Adventurers (students) will choose characters, give them their own unique personalities, go on thematic RPG adventures, and earn XP and achievements all while accomplishing three main goals in your learning environment.

The kit includes two decks of 27 unique character cards, 27 item and achievement cards, 108 XP cards, and a 40-page Teacher’s Handbook loaded with tips for implementing the kit and using gamification and game-based learning for your learning environment.

With WorldsXP you will have a gamified curriculum as a part of your learning environment with the core components of characters, an RPG Adventure Story, and XP. This can be “laid on top of” an already designed classroom management structure and curriculum. You will be able to use the XP system as a behavioral management system, and you will be able to integrate learning objectives into the RPG Adventure Stories. It will help to encourage engagement and motivation, develop culture, and reinforce positive behavior in your adventure space. These are the core components of WorldsXP. Be sure to sign-up for the email list below to receive updates about the advanced features and to know when WorldsXP launches on Kickstarter.   

Topic Introduction – 3:12

For this podcast episode (and blog post), I want to explore the reasons why we should use various elements of games in our class or learning environments. First, what do I mean by “elements of games?” For the purpose of this discussion, we mean gamification, game-based learning, or even gaming culture. Also, when we use the word schools, we are not limiting that to a traditional school environment, but it could also include after school settings, adult education, homeschool, or other less traditional learning environments.

#5- Games Foster Student-Teacher Relationships – 4:47

Developing student-teacher relationships within a gamified classroom is more apparent. A gamified environment can help to create individual moments that make a lasting impact on your students.

Think of a time that you pulled off this super sick move on a video game, or finally beat that level you have been working on for hours, or pulled off a great combination in a card or board game. These moments can be described as “fiero.” Fiero is that proud feeling or sense of satisfaction. You can create this experience in your classroom and tie it into learning outcomes. For example, as a part of your curriculum, you can create elements of an escape room. The students need to escape the lab before its too late and the lab explodes. This type of theme can easily be tied into a science class. The puzzles within the escape room can be tied That moment is going to live with your students for the rest of the year, academic careers, and lives. These types of moments demonstrate how student-teacher relationships can foster through games. Check out Breakout EDU for some awesome examples of classroom escape rooms.

Another great example that I have found of how teacher-student relationships through games can make lasting impacts on students is in a video by Extra Credits. Extra Credits is an amazing YouTube Channel that explores video and game studies and dives into the industry. They also have videos that look at games in education.

Games can help to create moments and experiences with your students they will never forget. Extra Credit’s video “Because Games Matter” tells a really awesome story about a high school teacher, Patrick, that was able to connect with a student through games. Patrick had a very closed off student in his classroom. He strived to connect with this student in some way day in and day out. One day, the student showed up with a Kingdom Hearts hoodie on. Patrick’s class was studying the hero’s journey and he encouraged her to use Kingdom Hearts as her writing assignment. This connection led to more engagement in class and higher grades. I highly suggest watching the video: Extra Credit’s video “Because Games Matter.” The video does a fantastic job of telling this story.

#4- Games Develop Class Culture – 9:38

A great gamification system can help to foster a strong class culture. It can provide collaborative elements and cultural components specific to your classroom. Imagine a classroom of space explorers that have designed characters, relationships between their characters, and named their spaceship a specific name. These elements help to provide an engaging class culture unique to your learning environment. Students feel a sense of ownership and uniqueness because no one else can claim the story they create throughout the year. Students buy into the adventure and story that is also tied into their learning environment. They are pilots of their own ship! I love a recent episode from our podcast where we have Alan Gerding on the show (Tuesday Knight Games feat. Alan Gerding – 64 (a Psychology Professor and Game Designer Talks about Games in Education). He talks about how he leverages gamification and in-group/out-group psychology to motivate groups of students. He sets up his courses in a way that each group of students creates their own class identity like the bear class.

#3- Games can be a Classroom Management Tool – 11:32

Games can be a classroom management tool or help to assess the one you currently have in place. Adding elements of gamification to your classroom or learning environment requires a great level of thought on your current class management structures you already have in place and helps you to develop stronger strategies for your learning environment.

Think about your current classroom management structure. What sort of gamification overlay can you add to it? As an example, in my first year of teaching, I was at a school in South Korea. The school used a star reward system. If a student answered a question correctly or did something positive in class they would receive a star. If they did something they were not supposed to do, speak Korean for example (this was an English language school, so students were required to only speak English), they would receive a red star. This was not working for one of my classes. I had a class of 12 or so students (ages 11-13) and all but one or two were boys. They would get out of their seats, play fight with their classmates, only speak Korean, and some other behavior that was not acceptable in class. As a first-year teacher, I was struggling. I had a pretty decent classroom management system in place, and the star system seemed to work in most of my classes. For this class, I had to do something different.

This is where I came up with the Avengers Game. The first Avengers movie was very popular at the time, so I decided to re-theme and modify the star system with the Avengers. Students formed groups and each group chose an Avenger. Their group’s superhero was placed on the far left side of the board. On the far right side of the board was Loki, and between the superheroes and Loki were different spaces. As a teacher, I also got to chose a superhero. This way it created a sense of healthy competition among the groups. If they answered a question correctly their superhero moved across the board one space. It also helped to develop an opportunity for the students to excel as a class because if they did something they were not supposed to do in class, or if they answered a question incorrectly my superhero moved across the board. This way each group wanted to be sure to first compete against each other, but more importantly be sure to beat the teacher.

This behavior management system worked so well with this specific class that I started to use it and other forms of this system with other classes. Currently, with university students in my English language classes, to encourage students to only speak in English, I do something very similar. I will draw three stick figures on the board floating in the water and two life vests underneath them. If any student in classes speaks a language other than English, one of the sick figures drowns. The life vests are always available to use if a student needs to/wants to speak a language other than English. They can raise their hand and ask to use the life vest. This helps to encourage interaction in the target language throughout the class. If the class survives, then a reward is usually given. I use this during any game-based activity as well. If the stick figures die, then we have to stop the game.

#2- Games Provide Engagement and Motivation – 17:35

In Raph Koster’s book “A Theory of Fun” [Amazon affiliate link] he puts it very bluntly, “…learning is the drug.” He describes fun as a way to make our brains “feel good.” Dopamine is released when our students experience something they enjoy. Dopamine is a reward mechanism that rewards the behavior of learning. Koster explains that in games (and this can also apply to when we use gamification or game-based learning in our classrooms):

Amazon affiliate link

“Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun. In other words, with games, learning is the drug.”

“…learning is the drug.”

Now, let’s extrapolate this idea through the lens of a gamified classroom. Through the correct XP measurements in a classroom, students can master content and easily gauge their mastery. If a student earns a certain amount of XP for completing an assignment on division, they receive immediate feedback based on their efforts. And if earning 1,000 XP in a math class during a unit on division means the student has mastered the content, then students can see their work and efforts have tangibly led to the 1,000 XP points and mastering the content.

#1- Student-focused Design – 19:59

The last one is a quote straight from our first draft of our Teacher’s Handbook for WorldsXP:

“‘Gamification simply put is human-focused design.’ This definition comes from one of the most well-known and respected gamification experts and researchers, Yu-Kai Chou. Through the process of gamification, we can take the fun and engaging elements often found in games and apply them to day-to-day tasks. This kit takes the concepts of gamification and applies them to learning environments. We can call this student-focused design. Ultimately, this kit is a tool for your learning environment that is designed to be used as you see fit. You know your students best, and you know which items from this kit can be transferred to your learning environment successfully.” And you can create an environment where students become the focus!

“We can call this student-focused design.”

If we apply gamification in our classroom, and our main goal is student-focused design, this can only benefit our students and our learning environment. The challenge comes from deciding on which elements particular to our learning environment create a healthy and strong learning culture in our classrooms. As the designer of our learning environment, those choices become ours (with certain limitations from admin, policy, etc).

Conclusion – 22:05

To conclude with some final thoughts, it really becomes up to us as educators to apply games and elements of games to our learning environments in the ways that we see fit. The idea of student-focused design should be at the forefront when we design our lesson, create our learning environment, and interact with our students.

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