Posts tagged ‘Gaming’

Gaming and Special Needs

The last few posts have discussed implementing gaming within the context of set content in our curriculum. Today I want to highlight the use of gaming for students with special educational needs.

As the video shows, gaming can be used to help students on the autism spectrum  to identify facial expressions – an important facet of socialisation. In this context, gaming extends beyond traditional education by increasing life skills.

The Center of Autism Research (CAR) in America is undertaking a research program also based on increasing facial recognition skills via the game FACE STATION:

“computerised health games can motivate players to perform a wide range of activities that promote learning and skill development in ways that have the potential to exceed conventional teaching and training methods by tapping “reward” circuits in the brain.”

The Center of Autism Research (2011).

The results of this research will include brain imaging before and after gaming to measure the effect on the brain. Whilst there is still need for further research, Churchill discusses similar research on the effects of technology on the brain:

“individuals who used the internet showed twice as much activity in regions of the brain responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning compared with those who had limited exposure to the internet”

Churchill, (2011).

How can we apply these findings to education?

By continued scientific research, innovation and discussion.

Assistive Gaming is an online organisation that “make accessible games that were not made with accessibility in mind.” Indeed, its staff consists of editors who themselves use and create “assistive technology”:

“Of course, gaming’s possible, just about anything in life is possible. Sure, I’ll never walk, but I sure as Hell can rock at World of Warcraft.”

Harushimana (2008) found games greatly enhanced his students’ print and digital literacy skills as a part of an after-school literacy programme in an urban city high school. Gaming can be applied to a multitude of special programmes, including abused children.

Inclusive education demands individualised approaches to students with a variety of special needs, from physical to emotional, students at risk to students with literacy issues. Yet individual learning approaches can be costly and difficult to implement in a classroom environment. They require funding to cover materials, special education aides and training. Further feasibility studies focusing on the fiscal benefits of gaming within this context would be extremely useful towards future policy discussions.

Discussion being an imperative to ensure the resource of gaming for special needs is utilised properly in our classrooms.


Assistive Gaming, The Assistive Gaming Team,

The Center for Autism Research (2011), Computerized Gaming,

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High  School Males, Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Terdiman, D. (2005). Second Life Teaches Lessons,


Teacher Facilitated Gaming

When considering gaming in the classrooms, teacher facilitation is imperative to propel gaming beyond its current model of ‘gamer reacting to the constructs of the game’. If not carefully implemented, similarities could be drawn between the ‘gamer and game’ model to the ‘teacher centric’ model in which the teacher transmits information at the student. Although the gamer/game model is arguably an active and even collaborative relationship, I am arguing that for educational application, guided teaching is not only necessary but the key factor in the successful implementation of gaming in schools.

“For games and simulation to be effective instructionally in the classroom…[students] need guided facilitation by the teacher”.

Klopfer (2010).

This requires teacher training, resources funding, administrative support and parental approval. Concerns will range from a lack of funding, to a disconnect between the “generation of digitalised students and their pre-digital parents and teachers” . (Harushimana, 20o8).

There is some evidence of the beneficial cognitive effects of digital technologies but more extensive research is required and would undoubtably aid discussions with administrations and parents. Perhaps highlighting the extensive industry training that utilises gaming and simulation would facilitate a wider acceptance. After all, how many professional parents using technology, have experienced either gaming or simulation in their own career training? Approval might start with educators making the use of gaming  relevant to the parents too.

Schools are wary of the safety issues that surround online technologies but this should not detract from implementing them within a structured, teacher facilitated programme. Klopfer (2010) urges that schools “explore new ways to manage potential dangers; these technologies are safe, valuable tools that schools must take seriously”.

Teachers must embrace the new technologies and receive the appropriate training in order to deliver best practice implementation of gaming in education. Without the teacher, it may just be a game.  The game cannot replace the learning that stems from the relationship between student and teacher, or between students in a collaborative classroom.  Yet with guided implementation, gaming can enhance the learning and relationships.


Gee, J. (viewed 2011), Good Video Games and Good Learning,

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High SchoolFreshman Male,Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Klopfer et al. (2009) The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations. The Education Arcade.

There is more than one way to skill a cat….

Fear not, we won’t be skilling any cats with gaming in the classroom. However, the title highlights the point of this post – gaming can teach a multitude of skills, from contextual to technical and perceptual to ethical. From hidden curriculum to hand-eye coordination, and building self-esteem to saving the world.

All in a digital game you ask?

According to  proponents of gaming – yes.

Several research studies identify the following common skills pertaining to gaming :

  • critical higher order thinking
  • improved literacy
  • enhanced visual perception
  • cognitive ability development
  • collaborative problem solving/interactivity
  • conflict resolution
  • competitive responses
  • ability to operate in complex, rule-based environment

(Klopfer, 2010).

Jane McGonigal designs game specifically to create new order thinking about global complexities such as poverty and alternative environmental resources. These tools can be translated into the classroom to increase subject specific skills. (McGonigal, 2010).

However, it is important that gaming does not detract from other methods of learning in schools. Its purpose should enhance lessons, not replace them entirely. Taking this approach, several other skills become possible, spanning KLAs with cross-curricular ELAs.

Suggestions for including gaming and simulations in a lesson plan:

  • building avatars in class discussions encompassing self-esteem, women’s studies, pastoral care and PDHPE. Whilst not technically defined as “gaming” because there is no “end/win” state, these simulations are valuable in this context.
  • games that simulate natural disasters might be considered topical in the extreme. These can be used in Environmental Studies, Science, Biology, International Studies.
  • students can create their own games on X-box for Design and Technology, IT and ITC, Maths and History. Content specific games could be explored for any subject in a curriculum.
  • Food Force – an online game created by the United Nations World Food Programme

If you have attended to the concerns of administration and parents, then as a teacher, you are only limited by your imagination and resources. Each of these must be taken into consideration when designing gaming lesson plans to impart set skills in your students.


Klopfer et al. (2009) The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations. The Education Arcade.

McGonigal, J. (2010) Gaming: Making a Better World,

Microsoft Press Release, (2006), Microsoft Invites the World to Create Its Own Xbox 360 Console Games for the First Time

World Food Programme, (2011) Food Force: The First Humanitarian Video Game,

World Without Oil: Lesson Plans. (2011) WorldWithoutOil.Org, IVS Interactive, Electric Shadows Planning.

Wide Open Doors (2007), Gaming in Education,

Judge Jodi and Gaming Pedagogy…

In my last post, I introduced  the reasons to consider implementing  gaming at school.   Does this mean the latest top-selling game should be provided to all classrooms just so our students can have some fun? No, it does not. At least not without that old academic favourite:  critical analysis. But for brevity – let’s keep it simple :


Judge it accordingly.

How can we measure this value?

By judging its application to current pedagogical thinking.

McGonigal (2010) espouses the social constructive nature of the collaborative learning environment of “massively multi-player online gaming”. Yet this alone is not a strong enough argument to implement gaming into classrooms. Whitton (2007) states that though gaming does not guarantee motivation in students, it can offer pedagogical benefits, whilst Harushimana (2008) refers to “game based pedagogy” as having a direct influence on literary skills. Accordingly, Klopfer argues for pedagogical consideration in the design process and transforming institutional and instructional approaches to learning,

“Technology changes the way we educate, but the way we educate changes technology”
Klopfer et al (2009)

In doing so, games will become the agent of education, rather than the reverse. To avoid the potential conflicts of educational technology as a political and economic commodity, educators must take care to analyse, evaluate and utilise resources with integrity.

Hadjerrouit (2010) further highlights

“technical usability is not enough for designing pedagogically usable [technologies]”

In other words:

Just because it is usable, does not mean it is useful!

Make it a meaningful classroom resource. Gaming in schools is not just about computer skills – it is a medium to deliver content.

Games are most useful in the learning environment when they have been designed pedagogically or identified for their pedagogical worth. Fun is great but educationally beneficial fun is best.


Hadjerrouit, S. (2010) A Conceptual framework for using and evaluating web based learning resources in School Education. Journal of Information Technology Education, Volume 9.

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High SchoolFreshman Male,Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Klopfer et al. (2009) The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations. The Education Arcade.

McGonigal, J. (2010)  Gaming: Making a Better World,

Whitton, N. (2007). Motivation and computer game based learning. In ICT: Providing choices for learners and learning. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007.

School Game Play

The next five posts relate to my ELPCG1 Journal in which we research a topic relating to ITC in education. I have chosen Gaming and Simulations in Education.

There are several reasons to consider introducing gaming and simulations into our schools today.

Today being the operative word – because we know that students learn more effectively when the learning is relevant to their world.

And their world today is digital .

“humans, in their healthiest states are active, inquisitive, curious and playful creatures”

Churchill et al. (2011)

  • Gaming has evolved into a 21st Century technology. Our students are 21st Century learners. We must evolve into 21st Century teachers.
  • Gaming can be flexible – in its content, in its delivery and in the level of abilities required of the students.
  • Gaming takes ICT skills outside of a discrete unit designed to teach technology and  uses technology to teach set content.
  • Gaming provides scaffolding to problem solve, creating a consequence free environment in which the student can either win or lose. Pintrich’s Motivational theories state that “learning is improved when students associate success or failure with the effort they make as opposed to their ability”. (Churchill et. al. 2011).


Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Klopfer et al. (2009) The Instructional Power of Digital Games, Social Networking and Simulations. The Education Arcade.