Gaming as a Teaching Method

For as long as I’ve spent playing any variety of games, and with my interest in accidental learning resulting from a multitude of gaming, I thought it might be interesting to figure what is a game.

What triggered this is the realization that the reason I have a student who seems to take a lot out of me is because I can’t just teach him. He shuts down. I quickly figured out that I had to make everything a game. Once I framed it that way, he was more receptive to the lessons, and learned the concepts beautifully. Parents have long used games to manage tired, cranky, strong-willed offspring, anyway, so kids are used to being manipulated like this.

So, what is a game? It turns out “game” has a long list of definitions if you go looking for help from a dictionary. One of the most straightforward definitions, oddly enough, comes from Wikipedia:

A game is a recreational activity involving one or more players. This can be defined by A) a goal that the players try to reach, B) some set of rules that determines what the players can or can not do. Games are played primarily for entertainment or enjoyment, but may also serve an educational or simulational role.

Basically, a game contains a set of rules that the player exists within and the goal the player is trying to obtain. Somehow, that sounds an awful lot like how learning is often structured. We give the student a set of rules to learn and work with while guiding them toward a specific goal. We’re laying down a challenge, and many kids love to be challenged (whether or not they’re willing to admit it).

Perhaps this is why establishing a game-like environment can help students learn if they’re constructed well.


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