Educators struggle with creating ways to keep students engaged and motivated. Today students receive instant gratification from easy access to smart phones and digital games. Educators are under constant pressure to create engaging and motivational learning opportunities to keep students attention long enough for them to learn the material. We need to become stealth-like, having the context of what students need to learn secretly included in engaging activities that provides unobtrusive knowledge.
Stealth learning is when an instructor uses clever, disguised ways to introduce learning objectives through non-traditional tools, such as games and manipulatives, to encourage students to have fun and learn. Anytime learning is presented and students are unaware they are learning, it is an unexpected benefit.
According to Presnky (2007) young students primarily learn through play and games that blend real world situations (learning to take risks and making choices) with traditional learning. Traditional lecture and quiz instruction models are inefficient in teaching higher-order, problem solving skills. Todays students will be asked to manage projects, negotiate deals, and make decisions that affect the jobs in the 21st Century. All things they can learn through game play.
Games can increase memory skills, can provide necessary repetition to make mastery, increase class performance, teach social skills like rule following. Games encourage students to take risks and learn from them. It encourages communication, collaboration and cooperation. Players must learn to interpret the language of the directions to master the game which requires out of the box thinking and risk taking. This is what is called active learning vs passive learning.
Games provide structure, motivation, enjoyment, gratification, pleasure, intensity, creativity, and social opportunity. Those concepts tied to emotional experience increases long term memory (Ledoux, 1998) Individuals learn best by doing. So hands-on learning opportunities has been proven beneficial. Skills addressed through games are often missed in a traditional lecture style instruction.
Haystead and Marzano (2009) found using academic games gained 20% in achievement scores. Tests done on students using MANGO Math found students scores went up 4 percentile points on average and that 80% of students tested stayed, gained or increased a grade level over a 6-week summer period. Learning through games involves requiring the student to develop various strategies in order to advance to next level.
Games in the classroom should be relatively quick to play, 10 to 15 minutes. Students should have time to reflect between game sessions. Games should be created so that they can be played numerous times to provide repetition needed to obtain mastery. Students learn at different paces and will achieve master at dissimilar times. Through various learning styles, games can touch on visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles. Provide a variety of games to offer learners a choice about how and what they learn.
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