Walden University Assignment – Course 6715: Week 6 Discussion
Benefits and Challenges of Games in the Classroom
One of the main benefits of integrating games into the curriculum is that it brings a tool into the classroom in which students are familiar with and enjoy using. Gee (2005) mentions many benefits of GAME PLAY in education, such as students having to follow a set of rules, analyze their options, make decisions, perform tasks, and evaluate the results on whether their decision produced the desired outcome or not. Games also encourage pattern identification, exploration, and provide a reinforced scaffolding approach to learning; taking what they know and have learned and connecting this with new information being introduced. The most interesting insight Gee (2005) spoke about was “just-in-time” and “on demand” learning. Understandably, for any of us, when we have made clear connections, we become open and ready for new information. All students learn at their own speed, and when they reach an intellectual milestone, only then are they able to truly receive new information, process it, and apply it to demonstrate learning. This method of learning focuses on the individual student; actively encouraging them to grasp concepts in a non-threatening manner, then motivating them to move forward as soon as THEY are ready. This creates a more meaningful learning experience that ensures learning is taking place.
GAME DEVELOPMENT has all of the benefits of game play however, it has additional benefits. Creating games focuses on the student as the teacher and teacher as the facilitator, guide or resource. As the teacher, students have a better opportunity to master content because they must first collect, organize, analyze and interpret information; then plan, apply and creatively explain the concept to demonstrate understanding; and finally create a mini-game based on their own understanding of the content which in turn, teaches that concept to someone else; the game player (Overbaugh & Schultz, n.d.), (Prensky, 2008). This process can help students build self-efficacy as they are given more control over their learning, are able to create something that has value to them and their peers, and are recognized and rewarded for their unique ideas and creativity (Prensky, 2008). Other benefits include soft skill building in peer-to-peer and peer-to-teacher communication, collaboration and cooperation.
Challenges to bringing game play and development into the classroom is (1) obtaining buy-in from the administration and parents as the perception society has on games revolves around them either being “a waste of time” or “a negative influence on our youth;” as well as (2) securing resources and support. In addition, (3) other teachers may oppose adopting this method, as Prensky explains (2008) because they have been taught to be, and are most comfortable with being, the authority on information acquisition. Many teachers are afraid to try something out of the realm of their knowledge and experience because they believe they must have all of the answers for their students. However, with educational strategies today focusing on student-centered learning, so should professional development training. Teachers need to be trained on how to assist student growth by working along-side them, guiding them when needed, and learning along with students.
I do believe in using game play and development as learning tools in the classroom. However, the games students play in the classroom need to be evaluated for content and learning goals to ensure their effectiveness. Game development offers higher pedagogical application, engages and motivates students to be active participants in their learning (as games are a regular part of today’s society), and encourages students to take responsibility for their learning. Using game development in my classroom proved to be as much of an enlightening experience for me as it was for my students. My classroom was filled with active and focused energy. Students were excited to find I did not have all of the answers, yet I would work along side them to research or explore a solution. It became a competition to them to be the first to find the answer. When they did, I would take a moment to stop the class, have the student share what they had discovered, then let the student demonstrate/teach me (and other students interested) how to solve the problem presented. I would then have the student create the single-action/event in the game software and upload it to our library resource with their name next to it. When other students needed to know how to perform that action/event, they would download and open the file, then review how the action/event was applied to reverse engineer the action/event for their game.
Gee, J. P. (2005). Good video games and good learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33–37.
Overbaugh, R. C., & Schultz, L. (n.d.). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Old Dominion University. Retrieved June 8, 2011, from http://www.odu.edu/educ/roverbau/Bloom/blooms_taxonomy.htm
Prensky, M. (2008). Students as designers and creators of educational computer games: Who else? The British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(6), 1004–1019.
I recently attended a TxDLA (Texas Distance Learning Association) session on Games Factory 2 called, Game Design in Your Pajamas by Pamela Dooley, and wanted to share, briefly, my opinion on TGF2 vs. GM8.1.
- Both can be downloaded from the Web and used for FREE
— TGF2: to create an .exe (executable file) you must have full version
+ GM8.1: an .exe file can be create from the Lite or Pro version
- Both programs are fairly affordable:
— TGF2 = $59
+ GM8.1 = $25 (changing to $40 June 1, 2011)
- Both incorporate a graphical user interface for programming
+ GM8.1: programming interface is more simplistic and organized in an
easy-to-understand, logical manner than that of TGF2 (*opinion1*)
- Both contain an internal graphics library with minor editing features, simple animated graphics, as well as allows you to upload your own graphics
+ TGF2 has much higher quality graphics available in its internal library
- TGF2 sells a converter to change your program executable files into flash/SWF files for posting and playing finished games on the Web (TGF2 + Converter = $123.37); GM8.1 does not
- GM8.1 is a flexible interface that allows users to program visually only, or add additional functionality through GML code-based programming when they are ready to move to the next level; TGF2 does not have coding capabilities
Please understand, these are facts from the software maker’s websites, as well as my opinions based on my experience (GM8.1), observations (TGF2 & GM8.1) and discussions (TGF2 & GM8.1). The TxDLA conference sessions I attended were only 50 minutes long, and not hands-on. Ms. Pamela Dooley did an exceptional job putting together a cohesive and successful DL game development curriculum using TGF2, in which I gained valuable knowledge regarding the software, best practices and course sequencing.
If you have opinions on these two pieces of software, or thoughtful/constructive comments on what I have posted, please share them as this can help others decide which software would be best for their students.
Testing and Evaluation Results
Game Maker Lite is the free version to Game Maker Pro. Both allow you to design and produce games, however, the Lite version has fewer pre-programmed, drag-and-drop, action features. In addition, the Lite version “talks back and forth” or sends and receives information from two countries; one being Russia. Russia is known for its high volume of Malware (known as malicious software) traffic over networks. As this creates obvious concerns for school districts looking to implement game development courses, I worked with Alan Duerr, Network Administrator for Hays Consolidated Independent School District, to test Game Maker and see if the same was true for the paid Pro version. After running several test scenarios, from designing games to running and playing those games, the Pro version proved to have absolutely no communication with outside countries. An additional benefit we discovered during our testing concluded that there was minimal traffic being sent and received which slows down District networks.
As a middle school technology teacher, instructional designer, and game development in education advocate, I am curious to know WHAT TEACHERS NEED to either:
- get started in educational game development, or
- gain support with…
in order to further their or their students’ efficiency and success with this type of innovative curriculum. I am working with my sister, Anna Sexton, as she is a game development advocate at the high school level; and with my friend and mentor, Amanda Hefner, founder of the Texas Games Network and an officer of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Special Interest Group, Games and Simulations (SIGGS).
If you are an educator or education administrator who has questions or concerns, or who is looking to further their understanding and knowledge in the area of game development in the classroom, respond to this blog. What do you need, what do your kids need, what ideas do you have, what successes or challenges have you had or are having, etc.? I will do my best to help you using my experience and any research I can find! If I can’t help, maybe another member will have insight they can share with our Gaming4Ed community to assist all of us in building a strong foundation for interactive game development as a successful learning strategy in our schools!