Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Games for Health

Carrot not stick.
Almost a year ago, I wrote an article called ‘Games Based Healing’ which featured games that help people learn about illnesses, how to self-heal and more through games.  This article featured games to help those with dementia, autism, cystic fibrosis, depression, stroke, dyslexia and post-traumatic stress disorder.  Since then, I have come across a few more articles about how games are helping people to learn about, cope with and beat health issues.


Depression featured in our post previously mentioned, however, this great article also argues that games could have great potential to help people with depression.  It lists 3 games/apps: Depression Quest, SPARX and MoodTune which have been developed specifically for people with depression.  The article also discusses a therapist’s use of games in sessions.  She uses them as a therapeutic tool to get children talking and working through their troubles.  A gamer’s perspective is also shared, suggesting that games have positive and negative effects for people suffering from depression, but that games specifically designed to treat depression can be fantastically useful.


A game for helping stroke victims recover was also featured in our previous post.  However, a game, Stroke Hero has also been developed to help teach children to recognise the signs of a stroke.  The game has had great success so far.  Click here for more information.


Wellapets is a game designed to help children handle their asthma.  The game features a pet dragon which the player must look after, including giving them their inhaler.  It aims to motivate positive behaviour change, reduce stigma, teach about symptoms and how to avoid common triggers.  Read more here.


Again, Autism featured on the previous list.  However, this article features a list of apps that have been designed to help children on the Autism spectrum to communicate.  There are quite a few apps, some of which are free and some not.

Breast Cancer

Cancer Research UK has developed a game to help them analyse a large amount of genetic data collected from their studies.  The game is called Play to Cure: Genes in Space.  Players are encouraged to go on space missions, but the game environment maps directly to scientific data.  It might be a little difficult to get your head around just how they have managed this, but this sort of innovation is a fantastic use of games and perhaps we’ll see more of it in the future.  Click here to read more.

I hope this emphasises that games can be used in a wide variety of ways and that games based learning is extremely broad.  Games are as varied as any other medium and can be used as such.  And as this post hopefully suggests, games can do a lot of good and help a lot of people.

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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Is Games Based Learning the Solution to Student Engagement?

I recently came across an article from Edutopia entitled, ‘Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement’.  The article is a teacher’s summary of 220 students’ responses when asked what engages them.  Interestingly, they could mostly be answered, if only in part, by games based learning.  Below is her list, with my comments about how GBL could help.

  1. Working with their peers – the original article explains the power of collaborative learning and discussion.  Many games are designed to be played together and many that aren’t designed this way can still be used in groups.  Games can spark discussion and debate, even if learners are working/playing ‘alone’.  Games can encourage students to problem-solve collaboratively and improve their communication skills.
  2. Working with technology – of course GBL doesn’t have to involve technology, but that is the main focus of our blog.  Therefore, games are a great way to get students working with technology in an exciting and productive way.  The article also explains that technology can allow powerful ‘learning by doing’.  An immersive game can help people learn knowledge and skills in a more meaningful way.  And as the article hints, technology (and often gaming) is so prevalent in young people’s lives that it makes little sense for school to be technology and game-free.
  3. Connecting the real world to the work we do / project based learning – good game design should help learners connect their learning to the real world.  The games should be relatable and relevant.  All of these things can help motivate students and allow for better memory encoding.  Games can be used as part of a larger project.  However, a good serious game almost acts as a project in itself.  It could allow exploration, learning, problem-solving, creativity and develop the student’s understanding/skills from start to finish.
  4. Clearly love what you do – this is about the teachers.  If you are reading this now, it is likely that you are interested in, or maybe even passionate about GBL or innovative, 21st education.  Therefore, bringing a game to the table is likely to be something that you are excited about and that will rub off on students.  
  5. Get me out of my seat! – The article explains that students learn most when they are active.  Not all games are built for movement, however some are.  For example, see our articles, ‘Kinect Games Based Learning’ and ‘Proof of the Pudding…’ (this one explains one of our games based workshops where the children or adults are encouraged to get out of their seats to negotiate, problem-solve, prioritise and more with other individuals and groups).
  6. Bring in visuals – a good game will have meaningful visuals.  These can make concepts clearer and motivate learners.  For example, in our game, mentioned above, the children are put in charge of a town, which they have to improve by making purchase decisions.  The town graphic, as well as the reports, change according to their decisions.
  7. Student choice – games can be very good for encouraging self-directed learning.  The article also mentions having a choice of activities related to a topic for different levels.  Games can be wonderful for allowing learning at the student’s pace and level.  Often games advance when the student has mastered the initial knowledge and skills.
  8. Understand your clients – the kids – this one is obviously very dependent on the teacher’s attitude.  The article explains how important the culture of the classroom can be for encouraging learning.  Allowing learners to play games at school has the potential to bring about a lot of respect for the teacher.  This is especially true if the learners are given freedom to play the game as they wish.  Games can be very self-directed but structured which can encourage a positive environment in classrooms.
  9. Mix it up! – Obviously games are a great way to mix things up.  They get people doing an activity that is unlike the norm, which can wake people up and keep them motivated to learn.  The article also talks about multiple learning styles (e.g. auditory, kinaesthetic).  See our article ‘Games Based Learning Supports Multiple Learning Styles’ for more about this.
  10. Be human – the article finishes by reminding teachers to have fun themselves.  GBL can be a great way to break up the monotony, spark the imagination, bring fun into learning, wake people up, inspire and so on.  These things are important for teachers as well as students.  The article also suggests asking students what engages and motivates them.  How about going to work tomorrow and asking your students what they would like to see more of in the classroom?  Or maybe even if they would like to try GBL?

For the original article, click here.

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