Game-Based Learning: How to get Started
This blog post is sponsored by Acer Education, a partner of EdTechTeam.
Game-Based Learning is an experiential approach to education that uses games to engage and motivate students in the learning process. All mammals have an innate need to play, from the moment they’re born. According to Constructivist pedagogies, this is central to cognitive development. With technology and internet connectivity being increasingly accessible, digital games are a popular choice of entertainment but can also be a vehicle for the development of important skills, including:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
One of the key researchers in the field of Game-Based Learning is James Paul Gee, who has outlined 36 principles of good learning that can be found in games. These principles can already be found in well designed commercial games and are useful to keep in mind when designing game-based educational activities.
Exploring Existing Games
Before starting to create your own games, it’s important to explore existing games and their potential for learning. This will give you experience in teaching with games in the classroom as well as ideas for what makes games fun and useful for learning. There are lots of existing games that can be adapted for classroom use; here are some examples that you could try:
Scavenger Hunts & Escape Games
These activities also make use of narrative to engage the learner but the key themes here are exploration of a digital or physical space to find clues and solve challenges, often in collaboration with others.
The main difference between these two activities is likely going to be the narrative around them. In a scavenger hunt, you might be solving clues to gather information that leads you to some sort of reward or prize at the end. Whereas in an escape game, there is the more specific goal of… escape! In the scavenger hunt, you might ask students to carry out challenges and provide evidence of this in various forms; whereas in an escape game they may be looking more specifically for codes to ‘unlock the door’.
Before putting an activity like this together, ask yourself these questions:
- What topic will benefit from this activity?
- What are the learning outcomes?
- What will be the narrative around it?
- What information should students find out?
When you’ve decided on the context of and outcomes for your activity, you can start putting it together. There are many ways that you can go about this; below are some suggestions for different tools and how you might use them.
Google Docs or Microsoft Word
This is perhaps the simplest way of delivering a scavenger hunt. List your clues or challenges in a table with a column for students to submit their answers. Add some interactivity to this by including links within your clues to further information or resources for learners to explore, which will help them to solve the clues.
For a scavenger hunt, use it as an alternative to presenting in a document.
For an escape game, use response validation to enter the ‘locks’. If entered incorrectly, students will be presented with an error. Get started using this template – make a copy for yourself! Please sign up for our free online course to see the video guidance to accompany these resources.
Set your scavenger hunt clues as assignments and ask students to submit their answers or evidence. You can schedule each clue to go out at a certain time or manually post it when the previous clue has been solved.
Use private channels to set challenges for students, which you can manually review before allowing them to progress.
Hide clues in a virtual ‘room’ by adding hotspots to a 360° image for learners to explore.
Create interactive images where you can hide clues using links. Have a look at this example.
Embed all of your escape game clues, links and Form onto one page so it’s easy-to-use.
Designing scavenger hunts and escape games is equally fun for both teachers and students. You can get really creative, hiding clues in different places and in different ways, as well as use various tools. Check out the resources below for more inspiration, then have a go at creating your own!
If you would like to learn more about implementing digital learning games with your class, enroll in our ‘Game-Based Learning’ online course!
- Field Day Courses: Games and Learning: 13 Principles from James Paul Gee
- Microsoft Teams Breakout
- Tom’s Digital Breakouts