Category: Game-based learning

Learning Through the Game?

Everyone Loves To Play

I have to admit that one of the best ways to spend some good time with friends is to spend it with a board game. People like playing games. Playing games makes us feel happy and maybe sometimes a bit upset when we lose a game. However, that’s life and all of us get this experience in our real lives as well. Games lead us through entire life. We begin playing in our early childhood as it is one of the most engaging and effective ways to learn new things.

I love learning through games and even my personal experience shows that it’s really effective. Russian is my second native language, but I have never learned how to fluently read in it. I do recognize Cyrillic characters, but my reading level is similar to the level of a second-grader. Once, I have participated in a small and cozy party. A colleague of mine brought a card game – “Alias“. Since she is a Russian language teacher, it was all in Russian. I definitely was going to challenge myself. The key factors like competition and engagement incredibly accelerated my low reading skills. It is incredible, how learning through the game might be a really powerful and engaging tool for learners. Moreover, one of the biggest advantages of playing games, is that they help us escape from our routine and get some exciting experiences.

Photo by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

Our motivation to win points in the game generates signals in the brain’s reward system that are similar to those produced by our attraction to many other pleasures such as food. (Koepp 1998) Resource

Here are some interesting insights on people playing digital games in the US, shared by Eugen Eşanu. “Gamification: Understanding The Basics”:

69% of all heads of household play computer and video games;
97% of youth play computer and video games;
40% of all gamers are women;
One out of four gamers is over the age of fifty;
The average game player is thirty-five years old and has been playing for twelve years;
Most gamers expect to continue playing games for the rest of their lives;

This kind of statistics might seem shocking at some point. On the other hand, this shows how much people are engaged with digital games. What if those games would be really beneficial for the players, e.g. teach some useful real-life skills, new language, geography and so much more. Jane Mcgoligan (a digital game designer, who makes games for 10 years) has some good ideas on how gaming can make a better world.

Gamification in the classroom

“Games in the classroom help teachers to connect with their students” Kip Glazer “Game Creation as a Learning activity for students.”

has emphasized ways of gamification making students feeling happy. He also suggests celebrating students learning by using some elements from the games as rewards.

He thinks that learning isn’t always rewarding, and students do learn very often because they have to. The author suggests making learning a game or competition and celebrating students’ efforts by rewarding them with virtual badges. Moreover, by receiving a virtual badge students get a visual cue of their achievements, which helps them grow and make connections with the gained knowledge. It acts as a “memory bookmark”.You're the best The opportunity for improvement is one more benefit of digital games, that can be used in the educational process. When playing a game, you have a big chance to lose and start over. This means that gaming is a constant process of playing, losing, learning a mistake, and playing again, and therefore, improving skills this way. However, by learning and completing a task or taking a test, students usually don’t get to look back at the mistakes and try again. In most cases, students are preparing for the next one. Using gamification in education will not only engage students to learn but will encourage them to learn better.


“Gamification is not simply playing games in class….gamification goes beyond”  “3 Ways Gamification Will Make Your Students Happy”

Gamification vs Game-based Learning

I am currently working on the research for my final COETAIL project about Game-based learning and Gamification concepts. I try to dig deeper to understand how these concepts perform in education. Therefore, my biggest question is – “What is the difference between Game-based learning and Gamification?”

This infographic that I found at compares Game-based learning and Gamification concepts. These two concepts are similar and different at the same time.

Gamification vs Game-Based Learning visual

My final project is more likely to be a hybrid model of both concepts. I am going to include a set of tasks, rewards for the completed tasks, levels, characters, settings representing the game environment.

…most school-age children, when playing a video game of their choice, can pay attention for hours,  will choose harder over easier tasks, and learn new cognitive game skill at a ferocious pace. Scott R. Garrigan.

Why are Games so Attractive?

According to the Malone and Lepper research, the intrinsically motivating elements making students want to return and play a game, again and again, are – challenge, curiosity, control, and fantasy.

Challenge – player accepts the challenge as it would be an individual goal that motivates him to meet the challenge.

Curiosity and Surprise – every player is curious about surprises in the game that can come together with the next game level 0r step.

Control – games differ by providing a variety of controls to the players – choosing a level, avatar, tools, or even ending the game.

Fantasy – Giants, Pirates, Characters from the fairy tales, Animated characters, etc., all these game characters as well as environments are making games even more attractive.

(Gamify Literacy)

Anyone will agree – children are the best experts of digital games. I was curious about the elements that make the digital game attractive and fun, so I have asked my students about that. Here is the list of the elements:
missions – student prefer challenges;
customizing option – students like to customize their characters,  gadgets, transportation, environment, etc.
peer comments and interactions or social interactions;
rewards – students like to be rewarded with coins, points, badges, etc.
environment – similar to Minecraft or Roblox,  Planet of cubes for younger students (Gr. 2 – Gr. 3). Fantasy, fiction, or sci-fi for older students (Gr. 4- Gr. 5)
– “Leader Boards” – students like tracking their progress as well as compare it with other students they know in person.
Similar elements are emphasized in the research about Learning Media and Technology by Paul Howard-Jones and other authors.

A New Version of the Monopoly?

Take a look at the example below which I found on Keri Lee Beasley’s website. The visual caught my eye because it looks like a famous board game – Monopoly. This board game was created for “Media Mentor Month” – a global education initiative designed to help parents develop a positive relationship with their children around digital technologies. Using this game-based format is a great and attractive way for parents to play/discuss media importance and impact to students’ learning by the representation of a board game that contains colors and icons, that attract to explore. If I was a student, I would like to play it right away.

Source of the visual

“Gamification is “taking game elements and applying them to a non-gaming context.” Brett Terrill

Gamification is Everywhere?

Before digging deeper into the concept of Gamification, I was sure it is related to education only. However, some facts surprised me after reading this article about gamification concepts and the ways they are used in business (E-learning Industry). For example, when shopping in a grocery store I receive some stickers, that provide me a discount for buying certain items. Moreover, I collect the stickers in my booklet for stickers, provided by the same grocery store. Sound familiar? I’ve seen this in my Kindergarten class but never thought about the connection 🙂

In order to find out more about gamification, I’ve signed up for a Coursera course ran by Kevin Werbach, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has defined gamification as the process of our learning from games. Elements like badges, point systems are being used to reward a player/learner or even consumer for his achievements/shopping. For example, your SmartWatch is a great model of how gamification is being used in business. You thrive to walk and move more in order to achieve your goals and get awarded with a trophy. Eventually, you earn an appropriate badge and change a role in a game 🙂 Just like kids in a digital game. And of course, you buy a SmartWatch to play that game and feel happy about that.


Photo of my personal weekend gamification activity

“Circumstances where something involves some combination of game elements and game design that is for a purpose other than playing the game, that’s gamification.”

What is your favorite game?



Deep Learning and Reality

The Assessment Challenge

A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

In the old pedagogy, you measure only content. As long as we keep measuring only content, we are setting students to learn just that. They need to have freedom to expand that content even further and be challenged to come up with new ways to do so. Erika Twani, CEO, Learning 1 to 1 Foundation. A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning

The biggest challenge of new pedagogies and deep learning is the assessment. Here are some good examples of how educators are using specific ways of assessing the impact of the new pedagogies’:

The final product is being presented as an outcome of the learning process during which concepts are applied in real-life conditions.

Students take ownership of each other’s contributions assessment process.

Organizing public exhibitions of students’ final products of their learning process. Such experience prepares students for life beyond school.

“….you have to make work public – it’s absolutely critical to have public exhibitions. Standardized scores are not used in the real world.”

Learning impacted by deep learning tasks and new pedagogies has too many student skills and capacities to be measured. I would say, it is too difficult to create one general and specific system that could be used for measuring such complexity, containing learning process that may have too many variations of learning a concept. Students collaborate and learn together with other students, teachers are integrating subjects, so the goal, as well as the final product, might change the shape at any time during the learning process. However, ISTE standards often are a solution for assessing students’ learning progress in case of technology integration. ISTE standards measure students’ deep learning competencies (communication, collaboration, designing, learning, critical thinking, problem-solving, digital citizenship skills) that are necessary for a successful learner of the 21st century.

The effectiveness of the new pedagogies in this research is described as a learning process between students and teachers as partners in learning, that is motivating students for defining clear learning goals that drive students to achieve them by being autonomous learners. The teacher remains a mentor throughout the entire process. During the learning process, students are constantly analyzing their own learning as well as achievements. They manage to master the learning content, that is transferred to a creative process and even more – new knowledge creation, that is very much related to a real-life experience.

“New pedagogies should help students develop over time as independent, autonomous learners able to effectively design, pursue and achieve their own learning goals and personal aspirations as well as master curricular learning goals.”

According to John Hattie, “But this doesn’t happen by itself”. The teacher’s role in this process is to teach students to become teachers to themselves. This is an effort and time-consuming process. Students’ motivation for learning grows along with the attractiveness of the topic being learned. However, learning and achieving a common goal together might be much more interesting.

Challenge-Based Learning

During the CBL process students are provided with some really big real life-related problems, that encourage students to discover new ways and solutions in order to solve the problem. Such a learning process actively develops problem-solving skills. According to the Challenge Based Learning Implementation Report, young people like solving real-world problems. Such learning is a constant collaboration between teacher and student, that drives them to search and create possible ways of solving real-life problems and even more – take actions by publishing the solutions to a worldwide audience. Just like Greta Tumberg does 🙂 Moreover, students are working in collaborative teams on the research of the related topic, brainstorm strategies and solutions that are credible and realistic.

Augmented Virtual or Mixed reality?

Augmented Reality allows digital elements to appear over real-world photos or videos, sometimes with some limited interactivity between them. This allows students to design a digital object and add it to any real location or object.

The example of one of the projects developed by students at Harvard University demonstrated the opportunities for a great integration of AR in the curriculum. It allows a closer look at the objects of research as well as supplements possible missing elements, necessary for the project.

picture of augmented reality project

Credit: Harvard University

On the other hand, Virtual Reality opens wide opportunities for exploration and traveling around the world. Thanks to Google Voyager we can traveling around the world virtually and without any special equipment. The Google Expeditions app is an immersive learning and teaching tool that lets you go on VR trips or explore AR objects. Explore historical landmarks, go down to the atomic level, get up close with sharks, even visit outer space!

Mixed reality allows the design to combine AR and VR elements so digital objects can interact with the real world ( Interaction Design Foundation)


The idea and method of using a game-based implementation in the curriculum for raising students’ motivation must be really effective if the game integrated with some of the learning concepts has been built very well. Such method provides student learning autonomy – in order to complete the level and be awarded for that, student has to do an individual research and use problem-solving and critical thinking skills. However, it takes a lot of steps to be thought through. To come up with a good gamification based activity, educator has to follow the include elements listed out in the table below.

For my Final Course 5, I am planning to use Game-Based Learning method. From my very first acquaintance with GBL, I was impressed by the projects of the BreakOutEdu educational platform, therefore, I would like to come up with something similar.

image of grid for assessing intrinsic motivators for gameful design

Source: Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer

Project-Based Learning

PBL Works explains PBL project as a process, successfully developing better content knowledge and improving students’ critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication skills. This is a long-lasting project that lasts from a week to a semester, and engages students with real-world problem solving or tasks related to complex questions.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration, and problem-solving. (Desing Thinking in Education)

The design process as a framework allows identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions. Moreover, this process is often cross-curricular and allows students collaboration that includes the steps like discovering, interpreting, ideating, prototyping and testing. It is great that teachers can access a lot of activities, workbooks, and curricular guides provided by Stanford or IDEO.

Blended Learning

BL method of delivery that combines the physical co-presence of teachers and students that occurs in traditional classrooms with the use of digital technology. (Universoty of Findlay)

During the pandemic period, this was one of our teaching methods that supported students learning online as well as those who were present in the classroom. For better support of students who learn at home, I was creating video recordings of concept explanations using Loom (an online screen recording tool). Google Classroom and Seesaw were really useful tools that supported BL as well.

New Pedagogies in my practice

“Neither have such measures been consistently integrated in a holistic measurement system that measures pedagogical practices, student engagement, and deep learning outcomes.”

Assessing and measuring the impact of deep learning pedagogies is a complex and complicated process that contains many steps and stages. I usually apply related ISTE standards to create rubric-based skills that are measured and describe all the stages of the deep learning task. I like the assessment examples described in A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning that have been used by other schools (such as a public exhibition). For similar purpose, I would use online tool ThingLink that allows creating a virtual exhibition room, which could include students works in any format: presentations, digital images, animations, etc. – anything that can be accessed online. The exhibitions could be accessible to the school community. Community members could evaluate and share comments on students’ creations on a  Padlet wall. Students could gather the comments and use them for further learning process.

In order to keep track of Lower School student’s progress during the year, our teachers have come up with Self Reflection rubric of the approaches to learning. Using this document, students can successfully rethink and reflect on their achievements over the last trimester or even school year. Here is an example:

The effective new pedagogies, such as collaboration between teachers and students as well as constant communication regarding the teaching curriculum is really useful. In our school, teachers have access to the curriculum maps of each other, which allows us to plan deep learning tasks as well as projects in advance. Organizing the collaboration meeting is another useful method – teachers gather in the same room and share their teaching plans as well as topics. Sharing this valuable information with each other provides an opportunity of coming up with new collaboration ideas. This way teachers focus more on students’ skills development as well as their abilities in mastering new content and creating new knowledge.

Collaboration between different grade levels improves students’ communication skills. For example, at the beginning of this school year we simulated possible school closure scenario when students were collaborating online on the joint research project about the topic of their choice, working together with students from grades 3-5. During this process students communicated via the chat integrated into Google Slides. Students were searching for information online using their research skills and discussing the process via chat.

My other “project”, that I am going to test out this week with my students is pair coding online. During the last several weeks students were learning how to code in the classroom and individually (as we got closed) using Hour of Code and Google CS Frist activities. Some students have demonstrated a lot of interest in these coding activities by coding on their own during free time as well. The activities include favorite characters, well known to students. Moreover, these activities allow students to learn on their own, because of well-built assignments. Of course, teacher help is necessary for the beginning of the coding unit enrollment. Students from different grade levels will be able to share previously gained coding skills online via Google Meet session in Break out rooms.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In order to support students’ autonomous learning, first of all, we agree on the learning goal that students come up with. After that, we review the goals and come up with an action plan in a form of a Google Keep to-do list. The list can be edited at any time when students gain new knowledge. During the school year, we review the plan and discuss further steps that would lead to the goals that have been planned. Keeping in mind their learning goals, students can build necessary knowledge as well as analyze and reflect on gained knowledge or search for new knowledge and, finally, come up with the newly created knowledge.

Right now, I’m am participating in the PBL project with our grade 4 students. Project topic – energy/collision. Students are split into groups of four and meet virtually as a group, together with their mentors – teachers. Goal of this PBL is to create a presentation/product that would make a social impact on our community. Right before the project, together with students we were experimenting on finding the best ways to use keywords and Google search operators that would narrow down our search results and find the most relevant information, that would support the project driving question – “How does our knowledge of energy, speed, and collisions help us save lives?”

The deep learning practices in our school

AR – Our students used their knowledge gained during the “Space” unit and after more research came up with the Augmented Reality project that included presentations with voice instructions about the interaction of the Sun to Earth. Students also learned to search for images online, respecting the author rights.

Another integrated project was a “Cat Walk” by grade 3 students. They demonstrated their french knowledge by recording each other’s catwalk and used their video editing skills to make a short video demonstrations with voiceovers describing the clothing items worn by students.

Developing the deep learning competencies

Creativity, communication, citizenship, critical thinking, character and collaboration are considered deep learning competencies.

Creativity is motivating me to always search and develop new ways of teaching the same concepts in a new format, as well as improve the content for students in order to make it even more attractive and easier to learn.

Communication between students and teachers in my role is essential. I must be aware of everyone’s needs and to come up with the best and even more effective practices for learning and teaching. Being able to communicate in various ways and using different tools for that is essential.

Citizenship is very important. I am trying very hard to be a fair citizen of the world, who cares about our planet a lot. I think the war and military is just a waste of time and resources, that could be used for so many important purposes. Poverty should not even exist in this 21st century.

Critical-thinking – the more you develop it, the more you understand how much more development it requires.

I think I support my students in becoming deep learners by presenting a concept in a variety of different methods as well as including different attractive and effective digital tools, that are often combined together. This motivates students to seek for the best results and be active deep learners.