Thursday, May 17, 2012

*Educational Games That Foster Learning and Leadership In Children

The following is a guest post from Roslyn Tam. 

As parents and teachers continue the endless struggle to instil key learning concepts in children, games have proven to be a powerful weapon in the education arsenal. This explains its growth as a discussion topic in teacher trainings and why getting an online education administration degree compare Kindles to iPads and, despite their academic nature, find themselves playing games at times. 

Children respond to the natural competitiveness of games, the social atmosphere they foster, and the rewards they offer for winning. Combining education with games is a simple step and the results are promising. The most effective ages vary, but educational games are shown to be especially useful from the age of six onwards, although some studies are experimenting with the possibility that using educational games for four-year-olds may also prove highly effective. 

Games to Learn 

What do education games look like? One popular category is games for reading comprehension, since reading skills are relatively easy to teach and can benefit from games which encourage awareness. Plus, with definitions, rhyming, phonological links, and sentence building, the ways that educational reading games can be put together are numerous. 

Team games are another lauded type of gaming for young children, since these encourage both interpersonal skills and learning. Parents can easily play team games with their children simply by involving them in grocery shopping, playing memory games, or sitting down for family board games. The educational aspect comes more to the front in the classroom, where teachers create project games or use games designed and created specifically for the classroom environment. 

It's a Digital World 

One of the fastest growing fields in educational games is the digital field. Digital games can be easily mass produced, sent to a broad swath of schools, and accessed by students at home to make the education experience accessible at any level. Age is no longer a barrier to entry for computer games, so even young children can benefit from this field. Plus, the combination of sight, sound and text means that children can quickly find which method works best for them to learn, and even choose from a variety of rewards which they earn for successfully completing a game.

Even if teachers do not bring it up, students are sure to: What about video games? If online content and multimedia games can help increase student engagement and improve grades, what about traditional console or computer video games made for entertainment? This is tricky territory. On the one hand, games designed for entertainment have been shown to encourage some skills, especially hand-eye coordination.  However, educational games have the ability to target specific types of learning, such as history or math, so students can reach particular goals in their classes.

As medical and military fields start to use video games to improve specific skill sets, the trend of hybrid games which both entertain and enlighten is growing. Even traditional games teach basic reading and mathematics. A number of initiatives, including the National STEM Video Game Challenge, are trying to increase the number of games that add educational goals to these basic forms of entertainment. 

Of course, from the Professor Layton series to Carmen San Diego, a number of educational video games already exists to foster an appreciation of trivia and facts among grade school students. The challenge is creating new games that students not only enjoy playing, but also offer students the chance to learn basic educational skills, while having fun.*

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