Stepping Up Your Game

Children_playing_video_gamesIt’s easy to see video games as an enemy. They compete viciously for free time, often coexisting on the same computer we powered on with the best of intentions. Everyone from CEOs to teachers to students to my dear own mother seems to have their time waylaid by video games now and again. Clearly, something that sponges so much time your students could be dedicating to their studies seems like an adversary.

But video games obviously aren’t going anywhere. The $93 billion video game industry long ago eclipsed Hollywood in terms of revenue. Many of the kids who grew up playing Super Mario Bros. now have children of their own.

While video games can be colossal time wasters, the concepts they utilize can also be our allies in education. The same creative, social, and deductive skills we seek to instill also exist at the core of gaming’s appeal. The sense of progress, the desire for competency, and the plain fun of gaming can be harnessed and put to great use in the classroom. And these traits are not unique to the video end of games.

“Gamifying” otherwise tedious or difficult tasks is nothing new: fitness trainers, foreign language courses, and the military have integrated gamification for ages. In fact, most teachers use some form of gaming in their classroom. But many teachers use gaming as a Friday reward, a catharsis, or simple test prep, instead of utilizing the entire bag of tricks neatly delivered to us by the digital age.

Classroom games can pit students in direct competition with one another, but this sometimes comes with social and developmental pitfalls. While there’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, here are some other other perspectives on gamification:

The Institute of Play is a nonprofit organization looking to “make learning irresistible” through integrating game design of all sorts with education. Here is an extensive and wonderful list of resources about learning, gaming, and children, from the folks at the Institute of Play.

Beyond making learning fun and fascinating, gamifying unpleasant tasks can actually help people overcome significant personal hurdles. This is a TED talk from Jane McGonigal, a game designer whose passion arises from conquering personal tragedy through gaming. (It is worth its entire duration.)

If you’re looking for something quick or easy to integrate, please take advantage of this selection of games from

For those of you with interactive whiteboards, abcteach offers a host of interactive games and activities. We offer puzzles and games for SMART Notebook and Promethean ActivInspire. In fact, we have a whole section dedicated to interactive activities. You don’t need an interactive whiteboard to take advantage of our great interactive offerings, either. If you’re new to interactive software, or just need a reminder, click here for our “Getting Started” guide.

In the mood for something more literary? The reemerging art form of Interactive Fiction is proving a delight to readers of all ages once again, and technology has bolstered the experience. What’s more, many of the tools this new community uses are geared toward education. There are many such tools, but “inklewriter” is our current favorite. With a very brief tutorial, inklewriter allows you and your students to create text adventures (technically video games!) about anything.

As teachers, we’ll do anything to spark a lifelong passion for learning in our students. There’s never been a better time to harness the enthusiasm your students have for gaming. We hope you enjoy the above resources!

Posted by Greg Teachout, abcteach Team

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