Andrew Miller

Active Game-Based Learning

OK, so I am a gamer. Not that I have the time anymore, but I do venture now and again into a game, whether a first-person shooter or role-playing video game. I am also a big promoter of Game-Based Learning (GBL) and Gamification. To clarify, GBL is when games are used to balance the learning of subject matter through gameplay with specific learning outcomes in mind. Gamification is applying the concepts of game design to learning to engage in problem solving. Again, both are geared toward building student engagement and learning important content. GBL is one method that creates not only a great opportunity to engage students in content, but also an opportunity to keep them active.

Brain-based learning research tells us that being active in and around rigorous learning can help keep students energized in the learning. During the activity, oxygen-rich blood flows to the brain, which increases the ability to concentrate. John Medina published a great book about how movement can increase learning. PBS did a story about a school where students took active "brain breaks" that kept them moving around the classroom. There are many ways to integrate activate movement on a regular basis for students, and using video games is another opportunity.

Microsoft's Kinect is the key to using games for learning that require movement. Kinect demands students physically interact with the content in front of them. Whether it's jumping in an obstacle course or moving hands to push buttons, the body is not only engaged in a game, but also in movement. Although it may seem like a far cry to link these games to authentic learning outcomes, the idea is to balance the gaming with the learning; increasing blood flow and engagement while gaming increases concentration for learning content. The other good news is that there are a plethora of resources in this area, some from Microsoft itself. They have a library, some with specific targets toward physical education, which has activities and lessons for students. These classroom activities align the video games to the Common Core State Standards (although they could be a bit more specific), and indicate which video games are necessary. I highly recommend going to DonorsChoose.org to create a funding opportunity for a Kinect in your classroom.

In addition, a Twitter friend of mine, Johnny Kissko, has dedicated much of his work to using Kinect in the classroom with his website KinectEDucation. His site is complete with not only lessons that are tied to specific games, but also applications that can be downloaded and purchased. Because there are so many resources out there, there is no reason for a teacher to not give it a shot. Using video games, and specifically the Kinect, can allow us to harness the power of brain-based learning and the engagement of video games to create student concentration and engagement.

Andrew K. Miller is an educator and consultant. He is a National Faculty member for ASCD and the Buck Institute for Education. Connect with Miller on Twitter @betamiller.

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