Although school districts are implementing new mobile technology at a steady pace and the number of institutions interested in implementing devices is particularly strong, many classrooms in the United States still are not 1:1. If 1:1 isn’t on the horizon for you just yet, have no fear! There are a number of ways to use games in the classroom.
Take a minute to think about your technology access. What hardware does your district currently give you access to for teaching? Do you have a computer lab full of desktops? Do you allow students to bring in their own devices? Is there a projector at the front of the room? A Smartboard? All of these tools can be used to engage students with the power of game-based learning.
Does your school allow your students to bring their own devices from home? Many games, including games built in Flash, HTML5, and Unity, work across browsers and are playable on many different devices. If your students use iPad or Android tablets, that’s fine, too. A number of games on the Filament Learning Store offer tablet versions at no additional charge. Remember that BYOD is perfect for portability. Encourage students to play games in groups in the classroom or outside the classroom during breaks or library visits.
The tried and true computer lab is one of the best places to play games. Many learning games don’t require state-of-the-art equipment . Computer labs also allow students to collaborate while playing games. Collaboration during gameplay is one of the best ways to encourage students to solve problems. In fact, research has shown that gameplay can help students demonstrate greater social and emotional well-being. After your students get set up in the lab, sit back and watch the collaboration happen! You’ll be surprised at how they work together to solve problems and answer questions.
iPad or Tablet Carts
Does your school provide access to a cart full of iPads or Android tablets? Work with your Technology Coordinator or Media Specialist to load games on the devices ahead of time (here’s a link to information about Apple’s VPP program for iPad app installations) and then bring your students down to the LMC to play games.
Bonus: if your students enjoy the subject matter of the games they play, ask your librarians if they could recommend books to students on similar topics.
One of the best ways to play games with younger learners (for example, a middle school-focused game with elementary school students) is to project the gameplay at the front of the classroom from the educator’s computer. During class students can take turns solving each level. This allows students to work as a group to ask questions and give hints to their peers, completing the game as a team. Take a look at this PlayMaker school that used plasma TVs and floor projection to play Reach for the Sun.
Similarly to using a projector, a Smartboard allows you to show your entire class a game experience while bringing a whole new dimension of interactivity to the classroom. Make sure you’ve tested the game before having students play. Not every game will work with Smart technology or group play (turn-based games are good for these scenarios). Our recommended game for Smartboard play? Molecubes!
Many classrooms come equipped with a “mini-lab” of computers at the back of the room. These desktops are used for everything from standardized tests to splitting the class in groups for separate activities. Make use of your machines by having one group of students complete a curriculum activity (for example, building a catapult in the Backyard Engineers student guide), and have other students play the game. Have the two groups come together at the end of class to talk about the differences and similarities between real-life construction and simulated gameplay. You can also switch groups next class.
Take Home Play
If you don’t have access to devices at your school, let students know that they can still access and play learning games from home. Send home access instructions for students and parents and supply them with their login information. This works well if your students are looking for activities to do over winter or summer break. If each student in your class has access, you could even assign gameplay as homework and view your results in the teacher progress dashboard that comes with each Filament Learning game.