Game Based Learning

September 30, 2015
CJ Cannizzaro

kids-gamification-testing-educationGamification: Engaging 21st Century Learners

Educational games that challenge and ultimately educate today’s students are proving to be the next logical step in keeping them engaged in the learning process both inside and outside the classroom. For teachers this means the latest and greatest interactive tools available.  For parents it is more about making sure their children are learning through interactive play and not just playing. Online, interactive games are rapidly replacing the mundane, simple java applets particularly in the areas of science and mathematics.

Eight out of 10 teenagers play networked, online video games — which have similar characteristics:

  • Well-defined goals – games that provide players a clear explanation of the desired outcome of the game and a definition of how to play
  • Patience – games that allow players to perform tasks over and over
  • Tracking – games that are organized in levels, allowing players to easily track their progress towards a goal
  • Immediate consequences – games that engage players by allowing them to see the impact of their actions
  • Personalization – games that allow players to customize their character appearance

The most important feature of this type of game-based learning is the use of patterns — these games are designed to allow players to recognize certain patterns to solve problems. Learning to identify patterns and make logical decisions helps students engage in higher-level thinking skills.

Game Based Learning

Game-based learning or gamification is now the “buzz word” when it comes to student engagement and learning. In a series of articles written by Karl Kapp, professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University (and author of the book: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction) it is a way to redesign instruction to be more game-like.  This new genre of game-based learning utilizes a number specific game elements: mystery, action, challenge, risk, uncertainty of outcome, opportunity for mastery, visible signs of progress and emotional content — all of  which keep the players engaged and motivated.

The most successful game models have several key components in common:

  • Clearly identified criteria – the player immediately recognizes what needs to be done to be successful and advance within the game environment
  • Create context – players understand why they should interact with the content and how it affects the final outcome
  • Scoring and winning is transparent – players recognize how their actions affect their score and know what they need to do to be successful, as well as the consequences for wrong answers or skipped questions
  • Simple rules – players are able to learn the rules quickly – the experience should be about who learns the most not who knows the rules the best
  • Small leader boards – while competition is a motivational strategy players should be competing within their own pre-designed environment

Educational Games Summary

By engaging students in game-based learning teachers and parents are able to monitor student learning. Most games employ a “dashboard” that enables quick viewing of statistics and data that will display areas of concern — students moving too quickly through the game or earning too many points or students consistently getting the wrong answer or spending too much (or too little) time on a particular item. This “real-time” data is by far the most valuable tool we can employ to ensure students are “hitting the mark” and mastering the concepts.


CJ is a certified professional educator with a MS in Instructional Technology. With over 25 years in education she is a consultant  to educational textbook publishers, school districts and corporations. As a professional development and training specialist  she was a major contributor to the CPALMS project, as well as a designer and facilitator for the Florida PROMiSE Grant Initiative.  She has written professional development courses to integrate technology in the classroom and collaborated with school districts  on Common Core for Math grades K-8. Originally a NJ native, she now resides in Florida where she continues to share her teaching strategies and educational technology ideas.