For the past academic year I've been experimenting with game based learning and engagement. I believe games have the potential when utilised correctly to encourage even the most reluctant learners at all levels to produce academic work. Why.. How? Because young people love technology, typically spending hours of their own time using it - so why not tap into that and embed some learning? From my experience so far the results are looking very positive. I have 3 favorite particular instances which have enabled students to work independently and produce written work, where as previously they may have never even tried.
One student really struggled with spelling (Couldn't 'write' his own name with a pen, but found using a keyboard easier as the letters are visible), but as a martial arts enthusiast he was eager to produce some work related to owning his martial arts club. With the help of the spell checker and grammar checker we managed to create some excellent work. Throughout the session we talked about how to run a sports club, the costings and qualifications etc in such an informal way, but we still covered a lot of important criteria which I would have struggled to achieve if I had asked the young person to come for a career chat or formal session on English.
Another instance was a young person who has dyslexia. He mentioned how he hated English and would never produce work but wanted to play some games. After the initial session we had played Split Second on the Xbox 360 for around 40 minutes (see picture) not only had he contributed confidently and effectively in the discussion but couldn't wait to get on the PC to write up his review. And with support, together we produced some good quality work. He left with a smile on his face and continued to discuss transferable skills well into dinner time with another peer.
Lastly is a young person with ADHD and ASD, and is currently still being tutored by myself in a club which I call 'Review Club' which combines several SEFL awards into one package. This person struggles with confidence, with self belief and finds making and maintaining friendships with anyone a struggle. With persistence, and 3 weeks of putting ideas into this persons head about what we could cover, they agreed to have a taster session in review club. The first session was about using templates in Microsoft Word. To warm up we played a game called Ribbon Hero 2, a game which offers hints to complete Office based tasks using Word, Powerpoint and Excel. As you progress you level up and unlock newer, harder activities. So at this point the young person was still only giving me 50% of his effort, so I said to the group, we are going to make a fictitious news story about something that's happened. Once we had made a rough outline together about this young person becoming a Pro Gamer, and I had given him the initial ideas, he ran with them and produced work independently, in quiet and totally engaged. The young person was so proud that a second copy of the work had to be printed so Mum could have a copy!
Success I would argue comes in all shapes and sizes. I am not a qualified teacher, but I know these guys are benefiting from using games as a stimulus for producing work. Similar to Animal therapy, Games offer a familiar face, something we can all relate too - we all love games and have some story to tell about how we created the biggest city ever on SimCity. It can be the bridge when trying to communicate, trying to motivate or trying to calm someone down (when used correctly).
In picture 1 you can see 3 students using templates within Microsoft Word to write fictitious news stories and game reviews.
Picture 2 shows a student led discussion about what benefits we can take away from the racing car game Split Second.