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Edugaming explained

Carolyn Rahaman is a professional SSAT tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She holds a Master's degree in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.

Edugames involve a variety of subjects: grammar, mathematics, science or social studies, and they make learning more fun.

kids playing in class

Photo credit: skynesher/E+/Getty Images

When I was in school, my class relocated to the computer lab once per week to play Oregon Trail. Oregon Trail is an edugame, or a game designed directly (or indirectly) to teach. Edugames involve a variety of subjects: grammar, mathematics, science, or in this case social studies. They are available as board games, card games, computer games or video games.

Why do edugames matter?

Certain students are more likely to be engaged by games than by assigned readings or lectures. They are motivated to earn points or to surpass their peers, and because their actions directly affect the outcome of their game, they are deeply involved in their learning. They receive immediate feedback and can correct their mistakes, which can be a challenge in a large classroom. Edugames can also provide a different perspective on the material, engage students with diverse learning styles, or provide an in-depth investigation into concepts. Furthermore, they can decrease pressure and stress. A game is removed from traditional schooling, so it is not an assessment that prompts anxiety; it is simply a game, and children are typically skilled at games. They learn, and it is entertaining.

This reality often leads to the misconception that edugames attempt to "trick" students into learning. This is not true; children are not easily fooled. There is also the misconception that edugames start from the premise that “students hate school, but they will love edugaming." Again, this is not true. Edugames typically do not aim to attack or replace classroom learning. In fact, edugames can be particularly effective if used in tandem with conventional lessons and activities.

How do I recognize quality edugames?

Edugames do not replace traditional academic endeavors. It is important that children first engage in assigned readings, group and individual projects, and thoughtful discussions. But edugames may serve to clarify difficult subjects and encourage reluctant students. Because many edugames involve platforms like smartphones and tablets, limit their consumption just as you would other electronic pastimes.

To identify meaningful edugames, search for engaging premises. Some developers believe the very act of placing educational material on a computer will make it interesting. Content and presentation must be appealing. Many ineffective games become simple quizzes on iPhones. Why would your child wish to play this when they can turn to Plants vs. Zombies? (This is not to say that Plants vs. Zombies is devoid of educational benefit.)

Select edugames that are developmentally appropriate for your child, with clear learning objectives. Look for edugames that combine media and modes of learning; for example, visual imagery, text and kinesthetic manipulation. To deepen the value of edugaming, download apps or bookmark online games that directly relate to the current classroom curriculum.

Such publications as National Geographic often maintain databases of their Internet games, while app stores for smartphones and tablets may differentiate educational games from their purely-for-pleasure counterparts. To begin, browse online reviews, or ask your student’s teacher for recommendations.

For more tips and strategies to help your student succeed in school, visit www.varsitytutors.com.

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