Games are fun. We can use them to teach. It isn't that hard. Game based learning excites learning in my classroom. It can ignite your classroom too. In this post, I'll share what I'm doing in my classroom. Additionally, I'll give you 100+ of my favorite game based learning resources. These links and ideas will jumpstart your journey.
Game Based Learning in My Classroom
Three houses are at war in my keyboarding classroom. Not only do they battle the monsters of ignorance in quiz battle-games but when they type faster, they earn gold coins to buy awesome outfits for their avatar. Ordinarily, each day begins with a random event of the day. While the whole class is a game, there’s serious learning happening.
And despite what some may think, the game is not required to motivate great behavior because I don’t even try to reward everything. In essence, I’ve entered the realm of Game Master and I’m never going back!
What are serious games?
Welcome to serious games. Despite what some may think about the games, serious games are designed for a purpose. In essence, serious games are not just for entertainment. As shown below, well-designed serious games can teach, educate, and inspire. In summary, serious games done right can engage students and help us become better teachers.
Not only do we want our students to be excited about learning but we also want them to be intrinsically motivated. Simply put, intrinsic motivation comes from within. In the final analysis, it is demotivating to “point-ify” everything students do. But in the long run, adding a game based layer to your classroom can get students hungry to win in the classroom and life.
Interestingly, as can be evidenced by the kids running to my keyboarding classroom each day, effective game-based learning does release dopamine (which activates the pleasure centers of the brain.) It can become a powerful and positive motivator for this reason.
Nevertheless, just because an activity has points and is called a game doesn’t make it an effective game-based learning tool any more than putting me in a Doritos bag makes me a chip.
Therefore, we educators need to educate ourselves on game based learning. We should learn how to do it right. We should also learn how to avoid the pitfalls of poorly implemented game based learning.
Let’s dig deep into the resources, research, and tools that will help you become start using game based learning in your classroom.
100+ Game Based Learning Resources
Blog Posts and Current Resources
- Game Based Learning: Make Fast Teaching Games with SMART Lab Added 2/17/17
- 8 Great Ways to Level Up Game Based Learning in the Classroom
- Does Gamification in Education Really Improve Learning? By Jennifer Roland
- Teacher as the Game Master by Lucas Gillispie
- Our Capital Cities – How a classroom studied the forms of government by creating worlds in Minecraft.
- Bartle’s Taxonomy of Player Types (and Why It Doesn’t Apply to Everything)
- 5 Lessons Video Games Can Teach EdTech Developers
- The Who, What, When, and Why of Game-Based Learning – This prezi was used by 3rd grade teacher Sharde Dennis to explain what her classroom was doing with game based learning and why. (Sept 2015)
- Teachers Report Sharp Growth in Game-Based Learning by District Administration (July 2016) – reports that 48% of classroom teachers report using games in classroom instruction in 2015.
- Gamification and Instructional Design by Mia MacMeekin includes a fantastic infographic to help understand some of the basics.
- Gamification in Education – a piece I wrote for Edutopia on this topic
School-Wide Game Based Learning
- How Ron Clark divides his school into “houses” for their school-wide year-long competition
- Quest to Learn Academy uses a school-wide game based learning approach.
- What Does It Mean to Have Your Whole Middle School Curriculum Designed Around Games? Author Alexandria Neason writes an article about what is happening at Quest to Learn.
- A Quest for a Different Learning Model on Huffington Post
- District-Wide Game Based Learning Guide
- Atlantis Remixed – this immersive 3D world was once called Quest Atlantis and is perhaps the most comprehensive tool used to teach students a variety of topics. It is fantastic! Bronwyn Stuckey is an expert in this area.
- World of Warcraft in School – Led by Peggy Sheehy who does awesome work in using virtual worlds and games in schools – added 10/24/2016
Interviews with Experts
- The BreakoutEDU Box: The Classroom Experience That Has Everybody Talking an interview with Adam Bellow, cofounder of BreakoutEDU, Episode 8, 10-Minute Teacher Show Added 2/17/17
- 5 Ideas for Using Game-Based Learning in Your Classroom Today with Michael Matera, author of Explore Like a Pirate, Episode 5, 10-Minute Teacher Show. Added 2/17/17
- Why Minecraft in Schools is the Modern Marvel: 5 Epic Ideas with Lucas Gillispie, manager of the US’ largest deployment of Minecraft in a school system. Episode 180, Every Classroom Matters
- Many Education Games are “Worksheets with Points” 6 Ways to Find Better Learning Games with expert Kae Novak. Episode 155, Every Classroom Matters.
- Tweeting Aztec’s Project to teach history with Twitter with Australian Educator Jacques du Toit.
- Digital Shop Class: Game Based Learning, Design Thinking and More, with teacher Kevin Jarrett about how he’s using a WordPress plugin to gamify his Makerspace. Episode #200, Every Classroom Matters
- Zombie Based Learning: Teaching Geography as a Game with teacher David Hunter, inventor of ZBL.
- Gamifi-ed: Studying Series Games #51, Every Classroom Matters with Verena Roberts, Dr. Lee Graham, and Colin Osterhout, cofounders of Gamifi-ed with Vicki Davis.
- How Simulation Games Can Teach Complex Subjects – Dr. Jeff Stanzler talks about the Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation he runs out of the University of Michigan. This fantastic program is my favorite way to teach current events and the struggles in the Middle East.
- Game Mechanics in the Classroom to Engage Learners – Michael Matera, author of Explore Like a Pirate about how he created a class-wide game he called the Realm of Nobles. Episode 204, Every Classroom Matters.
- The Elements of a Great Educational Game by Matthew Farber who explains Bartle’s player types (an essential concept to help you design effective games), game mechanics and how to effectively design great educational gaming experiences.
- Serious Games: Rethinking Gamification in Education with Cat Flippen. Gamification is Cat’s area of research — she shares fantastic insights in where serious games need to go in education.
Tools to Help You Implement Game Based Learning in the Classroom
- Games for Change – This website and organization sponsors contest to create games for change. You’ll find many ideas for game based learning for social good on this site.
- Common Sense Education – formerly Graphite, this organization ranks and evaluations apps, games and activities for kids. I like that they recently added a feature to evaluate the privacy policies and COPPA compliance of websites. A great place to find games.
- Gamifi-ed Website – 9th Graders in the classroom of Vicki Davis (author of this blog) and Masters students at the University of Alaska Southeast analyzed and tested more than 50 serious games. This website has many resources and an overview of what makes an excellent serious game.
- Appolicious – This site pretty much evaluations iPhone/iPad games but has lots of them in the index.
- Game Based Learning Insights on the Samsung Insights Website has articles on recent implementations of game based learning in more fields than just K12 including health care, retail, etc.
- Builder Bowls – Builder Bowls revolve around a wide range of immersive technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), simulations, video games, caves and domes, 3D printing and robotics.
- Game On – a WordPress plugin used by teacher Kevin Jarrett and others to make their whole classroom a game.
- Classcraft – This is the game tool I use to turn my keyboarding class into a game.
- Rezzly – Used to be 3D Game Lab
- Student Shark Tanks – I wrote this about how we had a competition to see which apps would get funded.
- Drama in the Classroom: 2 Bellringers with Activities – Drama in the classroom can have game-based elements. I use this all the time in my classroom.
- Kahoot – This fun gaming tool is being used for classroom tool and review games everywhere. Students can play as individuals or in team mode.
Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM)
- STEM Games for Change
- Reach for the Sun – this game teaches Photosynthesis
- Geocaching: Get Out Into Nature — Geocaching is a game-based nature exploration method. (Pokemon Go uses augmented reality and GPS coordinates, so it is related.)
- Funbrain – This website has many math games. I’ve used them to help teach my own children math facts.
- How an NBA Board Game is Getting Middle Schoolers to Care about Math – October 2016
- Cockroaches vs. Algebra – This games is one of the highest ranked by my students and educators on Gamifi-ed it is to teach basic algebra principles and graphing. Students like it as fun and educators say it teaches well.
Social Studies and Geography
- 10 Civics Games for Change
- Zombie Based Learning to Teach Geography by classroom teacher David Hunter
- News Games for Change
- Mission US: City of Immigrants – go through New York’s Lower East Side as a Jewish immigrant from Russia.
- Darfur is Dying – It is hard to call this a “game” because genocide is very serious. However, the goal of this 2006 game is to promote empathy and understanding for the situation. This is a game I’ve used to introduce the concept of serious games and hold class discussions about the appropriateness of games for difficult topics.
- Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation run by Dr. Jeff Stanzler at the University of Michigan
- Current Events on the Gamifi-ed Wiki
- Cast Your Vote – A Game that helps students understand debates and elections.
Economics & Financial Literacy
- Economics Games for Change
- H&R Block Budget Challenge – I played this and had a classroom win a $7500 grant for being so financially literate. It is an awesome game.
- Financial Literacy: Make the Money “Real” – An article I wrote for Edutopia that has lots of game-based ideas for teaching personal finance.
Literature and Composition
- Vocabulary and Spelling City – This helped me teach my son his spelling words. Great site!
- Funbrain Reading Games – This website has online books but also just about every grammar game you can imagine.
Health and Physical Activity
With the explosive growth of wearables and the increasing use of gamification in health care, we’re going to see more apps for physical education that will gamify PE class. (See Wearables Market Has Potential to Dramatically Increase Student Engagement for information on how this is already being used in higher education.)
These books are listed in alphabetical order and are part of my personal library at home. I reference all of them. Some great ones here!
- Farber, Matthew Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning
- Kapp, Karl The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education
- Kapp, Karl The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice
- Matera, Michael. Explore Like a Pirate: Engage, Enrich, and Elevate Your Learners with Gamification and Game-Based Course Design.
- McGonigal, Jane. Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.
- Sheldon, Lee. The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game. Dr. Lee Sheldon created a classroom where students level up, earn points, and start at zero to level up to their earned grade.
- Toppo, Greg. The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.
Game Based Learning Research and White Papers
Boyle, E. A., Hainey, T., Connolly, T. M., Gray, G., Earp, J., Ott, M., … & Pereira, J. (2016). An update to the systematic literature review of empirical evidence of the impacts and outcomes of computer games and serious games. Computers & Education, 94, 178-192.
Carvalho, A. A., & Araújo, I. (2016). What Do Portuguese Students Play on Mobile Devices: Inputs for the Development of Educational Games. In ICT in Education (pp. 69-95). Springer International Publishing.
Donahoo, D. (2016). Playing games teaching human rights. Ethos, 24(2), 22.
Gee, James Paul. “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” (n.d.): 1-13. Web. 2 Oct. 2016. <http://www.skatekidsonline.com/parents_teachers/Good_Video_Games_and_Good_Learning_Updated.pdf>. Summary: Jim Gee has examined what makes a good game and found that identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customization, and agency make a game “good.”
Hacker, D. J. (2016). The role of metacognition in learning via serious games. Handbook of Research on Serious Games for Educational Applications, 19.
Slota, S. T., & Young, M. F. (2014). Think games on the fly, not gamify: Issues in game-based learning research. Journal of graduate medical education, 6(4), 628-630. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-14-00483.1
Build Your Game Based Learning PLN
Game Based Learning Hashtags
- #gbl – Game Based Learning Hashtag
- #ipadgames – Games for the iPad
- #minecraftedu – A hashtag about all things Minecraft
- #Gamification – I've typically found more on gbl but sometimes people who don't know the other hashtag will use this one and you can still find some good articles.
Game Based Learning Pinterest Boards
- Emmy Gilliam has almost half a million followers on her Game Based Learning board with good reason. Her pins have lots of great practical classroom ideas for games. This is a great board to follow for inspiration (298 pins)
- Aysin Alp from Turkey has a mega game based learning Pinterest board with (1.3K pins)
- We are Teachers has lots of classroom games on their board. (75 pins)
- Edutopia has a fantastic Game Based Learning Board
- Here’s my Game Based Learning Pinterest Board – I use this primarily for awesome infographics instead of specific games.
Twitter Accounts Who Share about Game Based Learning
- ISTE Games and Simulations Network @GmSimNetwork
- Lucas Gillispie @lucasgillispie
- Peggy Sheehy @PeggySheehy
- Michael Matera – @mrmatera
- Cat Flippen @catflippen
- Dr. Bron Stuckey @BronSt
- Stephen Reid @ImmersiveMind
- Karl Kapp @kkapp
- David Mullich @David_Mullich
- Yu-kai Chou @yukaichou
- Kzenovka @kzenovka
Game Based Learning Video Resources
The Gamifi-ED Open Online Community was co-created by Verena Roberts, Dr. Lee Graham, Colin Osterhout and me. We spent three weeks digging up ever interview of every awesome Game Based Learning expert we could find. These 17 videos include many experts on the leading edge of game based learning.
Jane McGonigal: The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life
Michael Matera – Realm of Nobles
This interview on the Gamifi-ED OOC forever changed my view of how we can use games in the classroom.
Yu-kai Chow: Gamification to Improve the World
Primary Years and Early Childhood Panel: Why Games?
Alice Keeler: Getting Started with Game Based Learning
Higher Education Panel: Why Games?