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Engaging students in activities with Games: Using Games for Leaning

"If you don’t feel engaged in what you’re doing, you won’t care about it, and you’re unlikely to succeed." Learning Futures [1]


What is Game-Based Learning?

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Educational gaming makes learning experiences more engaging for students and improves their important skills, such as collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking [5].

Types of games for education vary from single-player to multi-player, from small-group card and board games to online games or alternate reality games [5].

History of Game-based Learning

The idea of using games in the classroom has started in the early 2000s. James Paul Gee introduced the effect of games on cognitive development which [1]. With Gee's initiative, many researchers have started to show interest in the potential of gaming on learning.

Game-based learning interest has grown in recent years as plenty of research continues to proof its effectiveness for learning [5].

Future of Game-based Learning

According to 2012 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report, time to adoption horizon for game-based learning is 2 to 3 years. This means game-based learning will begin to widespread in two to three years between teachers and they will start using educational games to support their activities and engage their students. So if you are planning to use games for educating your class or if you want to use it somehow but concerning and worrying about traditional stereotypical views on games and educational methods; do not worry because it will be widely used between many teachers as report shows.

Game-Based Learning: What/Why/When/Which/Who

What Games can do for Learning?

"The greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning." [5]

In the most recent National Education Technology Plan, game-based learning was named as an ideal method of assessing student knowledge comprehension. With games students are engaged more because they are motivated to do better, get to the next level, and succeed [1].

Why Games to Learn?

So why games? Because it engages students! Because it makes students to become more interested in what you're saying; because they become more curious and active about the subject and they want to get involved in activities. As we said in the very beginning "If you don't feel engaged in what you're doing, you wont care about it, and you're unlikely to succeed." We want out students to be engaged in our lessons and we want successful students and we can achieve this with games. So why not games?

In addition to games' effects on student engagement and collaboration; many teachers around the world, especially practical science teachers choose game-based learning to support their lessons. Because there are many hazardous experiments waiting in the curriculum to be tried; however there is no way to experiment it with pupils due to health and safety issues or sometimes there is not enough materials to experiment it. However, there are hundreds of games prepared specifically for some experiments which are called simulation-based games. You can't expect your students to do dangerous experiments for you but you can expect from them to try dangerous experiments with simulation-based games.

When Games should be used?

Which Games are Already in Use?

Who else is using Game-Based Learning?

There are plenty of examples in all around the world that games are already used by many K12 teachers to engage students with activities more.

One of the examples is Matt McGinley, who is a primary school teacher in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Although some of his colleagues' raised eyebrows and skeptical attitudes towards using games for learning, he planned to use games for teaching and engaging his students. Because he believes that games can be used not only as a reward for good behaviour of students but also to teach them mathematics, geography and so on. Within this aim he achieved to create an innovative Microsoft Partners in Learning project. This project attracted many primary schools' attention not only in the UK but also in Croatia, so that they want to apply his project in their schools as well. So what did he try to achieve such a global effect?

His project is called “Students Driving Learning Forward” in which McGinley's Primary 6 students created a life-size formula one (F1) race car with a built-in PlayStation 2 game-console and F1 simulation game which is usually used by professional drivers. Proper car seat used with a projector to display driver view on the wall to complete real feeling of students like a grand prix driver. Game is used to teach various things to students, such as national flags of different countries are used to provide information about different race tracks of different countries and lap-times are used for mathematical activities and project even helped to improve students' financial planning abilities. Other students in the school wanted to try the car and students decided to charge 50p so that they can raise fund for buying T-Shirts and caps.

McGinley believes that games are not only used for teaching purposes but also for engaging students with class activities and make them excitement about those activities. He proves his belief with stating what has changed with his students after this project. He tested this project on Primary 6 students and observed an increase in student attendance, and dramatic decrease in problematic behaviours especially with boys. He supports teachers who want to use games for their classroom activities and courages them to take the risk no matter what others think about traditional methods of teaching. He wants from them to take the risk, test and evaluate whatever they believe will make the education better.


[2] EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2012
[3] Jame Gee's Blog whose ideas exploded the game-based learning research area
[6] Eck, R. V. (2006). Digital Game-Based Learning: It's Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless...


  • Gee, J. P. (2003). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.
  • Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning.
  • Aldrich, C. (2004). Simulations and the Future of Learning: An Innovative (and Perhaps Revolutionary) Approach to e-Learning.
  • Johnson, S. (2005). Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter.
  • Prensky, M. (2006). “Don’t Bother Me, Mom, I'm Learning!”: How Computer and Video Games Are Preparing Your Kids for 21st Century Success.
  • Gibson, D., Aldrich, C., and Prensky, M. Games and Simulations in Online Learning: Research and Development Frameworks.
  • BERA Insights: Computer Game improves Primary pupils’ Arithmetic

European Game-based Learning Conference