Pedagogy first, then technology. Kae Novak

Many Education Games Are Worksheets with Points. 6 ways to find better learning games.

Stop telling kids that every game is fun. They're not. Some stink. Some rock. The word “game” doesn't make learning great. Games shouldn't be worksheets with points. There's research behind good games. Learn to tell the difference. Your students will thank you.

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Where are we going wrong with games in the classroom? As Kae Novak @kzenovka shares in the show, too many games have a “chocolate on broccoli” approach. She should know, she's the chair of the ISTE Games and Simulations network. She teaches us all how to use games in the classroom. Kae says,

[tweetthis]Pedagogy first, then technology. @kzenovka [/tweetthis]

What is chocolate on broccoli? I asked teachers on the ECM Awesome Educator Network. They say:

  • “Where the students are “told”  – eat this [game name omitted] game. It’s good for you.” Ann Oro @njtechteacher
  • “Pretty much all of the drill and practice ‘games’ are like that. They seemed to work 20 years ago when computers were new and novel. Kids are far beyond that today.” Alfred Thompson @alfredtwo
  • Dr. Lee Graham@ak_leeg says the teachers she instructs, “call those games ‘computerized worksheets.’”

When I taught my children math facts, flashcards got boring. They preferred Math Baseball. It helped. Memorizing happens. But if it is the only thing happening, you're not educating.

What can good games do for us?  Ernie Easter, 35-year retired teacher from Maine, says,

I have seen the results [of Minecraft] with my three granddaughters, ages 6, 8 & 10, at home. Our 8-year old’s reading blossomed when she started playing Minecraft and watching the videos. Her language expression also just exploded.

In a good game, learning is part of the fun. Let's find good games. Let's teach with them.

6 Ways to Find Good Games for Learning

  1. Understand what makes a good game. Jim Gee has researched what makes a good game: identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customization, and agency. The first step in understanding a “good game” is reading Gee's paper “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” It explains good games simply.
  2. Become a game master. Kae says to read The Multiplayer Classroom by Lee Sheldon. It will help you create exciting good game learning experiences.
  3. Find Good Games. Kae likes the Games for Change website. They focus on the “good games model.” She says you should still check every game before using them with kids. (After learning what a good game is, you can find them yourself on sites like  Graphite, Appolicious, and Gamifi-ed.)
  4. Learn Best Practices. Join the ISTE Games and Simulations Network.
  5. Connect with other teachers using games. Kae has two ways: 1) MetaGame Book Club and the 2) Inevitable Betrayal Educator Guild.
  6. Consider how games can teach more. In addition to learning things, some games can impact attitudes, motivation, and successful habits. (Note for educators: Kae says games can also impact the affective domain, not just the cognitive domain.)

[callout]Before I write a show's blog post, teachers are talking about the show. We do this on the Every Classroom Matters Awesome Educator Network. It is a closed group on Facebook. You're invited if you're an educator.[/callout]

8 Every Classroom Matters Shows with Gaming/Gamification Experts

Listen and learn more about gaming.

Some games are computerized worksheets. That is what Game Designers Mean by 'Chocolate on Broccoli." Dr. Lee Graham

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Stephen Hesketh June 30, 2015 - 8:15 pm

Hello Vicki, My students love Kahoots and yes I guess it is chocolate on broccoli, but we share devices in our thirty minute lessons which make using minecraft some what tricky! I am letting the students make their own Kahoots so that might help! But at least these short electronic worksheet add a little differentiation to the lesson! I have been reading “Teach like a Pirate” so I am hoping to add a few more hooks to get the students excited to learn! Thanks so much for your amazing blog!

Vicki Davis July 2, 2015 - 9:33 pm

I’m not sure, Stephen if that is chocolate on broccoli or not. My students love Kahoot too. It is a blast. I’m grappling with your thoughts. I guess my initial reaction is that I feel differently about Kahoot than some of the rote drill and practice worksheet “games”. This is something to ponder and consider. Maybe even something I’ll take over to the ECM Awesome Educators Facebook group if you want to join us over there.

John Laskaris July 3, 2015 - 7:28 am

Implementing games in learning might be beneficial on 2 conditions: 1 – the implementation is justified and the process well-considered, 2 – the very games are worth implementing which means they’re valuable, interactive and engaging learners – if not the results will be quite poor and the games won’t help in learning.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere