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Games in the classroom

September 30, 2011

[Updated on 10/7/11]

Anastasia Salter, a faculty member at the University of Baltimore, has written a series of articles for ProfHacker that takes a look at potential methods and benefits of using games in the classroom.

Part 1 discusses the general benefits of using games. Many faculty who read the article commented on using “Reacting to the Past,” an award-winning series of structured in-class role-playing games.

Part 2 suggests using games that are already available, including board games. Readers are advised to fact-check the content of a game like Civilization to be sure it is accurate.

Part 3 is about ways faculty and students can create their own games, listing a number of software tools (like Gamestar Mechanic) that can help. Creating a full-blown game is not for the faint-hearted, but Salter suggests that “Even a flawed game can provide an opportunity for learning and discussion.”

Part 4 deals with “gamification,” applying game design principles to non-game activities – like designing a course. Salter writes about Lee Sheldon, who designed his course as a game and then wrote a book about the process. Just Press Play is another example of gamification.

I often encourage faculty to consider using games in their teaching. They provide a powerful context for moving concepts from the abstract to the concrete – and help to ensure that students retain what they learn.

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