Games Based Learning

In this week’s ICT session we looked at Games Based Learning, and how using games in the classroom can help to create a more authentic learning experience. I wasn’t sold on the idea from the off set; I was a bit sceptical of how much a game can actually add to the learning experience. Reading a FutureLabs report on GBL it seemed that although many people were advocates, there was actually little research to back up the suggested benefits of using games in the classroom:

“As Pivec points out: ‘Although video games have been around for nearly 40 years, and GBL [games based learning] has been researched for over 20 years, the uptake of this technology in the classroom has been slow.’
As yet there are no definitive studies on the effectiveness of games, nor how they can be used for formal assessment purposes, or for learning in the home.”

However, I wanted to be open-minded so I tried to embrace the session with as much enthusiasm as possible.

We were given several consoles to experiment with (a PS3, a Nintendo Wii and an Xbox with Kinect) and some suggestions of games that we should to look at.



PlayStation 3 console

I spent around the first half hour of the lesson playing on the Harmonix Music Systems video game ‘Rock Band‘ on the PS3. It is a very fun and engaging game, it got us to work as a group and we had to focus on our timings and rhythm, yet I moved away from it with a deepening sense that it had no place in the classroom. I understand that it provides an opportunity to be creative and to create links for children into the curriculum using a medium which they find highly engaging during their leisure time, however I feel that using a game like this in the classroom would be detrimental overall.

Rock Band could be used to teach rhythm, timing and team work.

We were told of a Scottish group who built an entire curriculum around the game, the children would play it and then use it as a stimulus to write their own songs in Literacy, make posters and press releases for their band, design their own guitars and build them and look at music throughout time. While all of this sounds very creative I feel that it can trivialise some of the curriculum material and detract away from more relevant topics, some of the connections become extraneous. I also feel that these games provide a time issue, as only a small amount of children can use them at any one time. It would be very difficult to find the time for every child to have a chance to play the game before starting on the unit of work attached to it, so trying to structure the lesson would be a nightmare. Especially as children who weren’t playing the game (who have most likely been set a different task while they wait) would be very distracted by their peers who were getting to have a go, and many schools wouldn’t have the facilities to have the children play the game in a separate area/room with adult supervision.

I had the same problem with the Kinect as I did with the PS3, but I did see a little light with the Wii Fit games. I thought that some of these games could be used as whole class warm ups in PE lessons, especially for indoor PE when the weather turns bad.

The Wii could be a more inclusive alternative to the Xbox and the PS3

I do own a Wii at home, and me and my sister often enjoy playing Just Dance. Just Dance is a rhythm game developed and published by Ubisoft during which players attempt to mimic all the moves of the on-screen silhouette dancer. The game could be used as a warm up led by the teacher, who would have the control of the Wii remote.

Just Dance could be used for a whole class warm up exercise in PE.

It was suggested in class that it could also be used as an alternative for those students who forget their PE kit, but I would be wary of using it in this way as it would almost feel like rewarding them for not bringing the right clothing to school.

In addition to the Wii, I was also impressed by the range of educational games that can be found as apps on the iPad.

Apple have a huge collection of educational apps in their app store.

My previous blog goes into quite a lot of detail on the range of apps available and the benefits of using iPads in the classroom. There are also a number of PC games that can be highly beneficial in reinforcing class learning – games such as Mathletics and Numbershark which can be used both at school and at home. I would also be tempted to use games such as The Sims, the Roller Coaster Tycoon series, Civilisation or Age of Empires at school (all of which have been used successfully within a classroom environment to aid teaching, although they are designed for leisure use). However, I would offer these as an activity during Golden Time, not during curriculum lessons.


Games such as Age of Empires can help to improve strategic thinking, interpretive analysis and problem solving skills.

Games Based Learning can help to develop a number of skills, including fine motor skills, communication skills and general ICT skills. However, it needs to be purposeful and time efficient. I would like to use games in my classroom to help plan engaging and interactive lessons but I would be wary to use any game that I couldn’t allow all students to participate in together. PC games and iPad apps are an easy to use to include everyone, but the games on the PS3 and the Xbox can be exclusive as they only allow a few children to participate at any one time. I would also worry that they would be distracting to students who weren’t chosen to play. If the game is likely to take up a lot of time then I think it starts to detract from learning as it isn’t time efficient. It seems, after reading a number of reports, that there are some suggestions that the curriculum is boring and inaccessible without GBL, but I feel that if you can find other creative and more time efficient routes into the curriculum material then this could offer many more opportunities to elicit learning in your classroom.

2 thoughts on “Games Based Learning”

  1. A well-balanced argument Rosie. Good to see you’ve been reading around the subject. A good idea perhaps to use Golden Time for playing but curriculum time for related work. Have a look at Epic Citadel on the iPad for inspiring writing.

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