7 ways to evaluate educational games

As educational gaming moves from a future technology to a practice found in more and more classrooms, educators are recognizing game-based learning’s (GBL) potential to engage students and help them prepare for future learning.

By ensuring that games meet certain requirements, educators will find themselves on the path to choosing an impactful game that goes beyond the typical drill-and-practice or end-of-unit reward game.

“It can be overwhelming, but as gaming becomes more mainstream and there’s more out there about it, educators will be better equipped to evaluate games and GBL,” said Dan White, founder of Filament Games, a member of the advisory board for Games for Change, and a founding member of the Games Learning Society at the University of Wisconsin.

“Good games look a lot like inquiry-based learning tools and project-based learning tools, with constructive exploring principles.”

Define your goals and outline what you want to accomplish through educational gaming. Then, let those goals guide your actions.

“Is your goal to cover content, or is it to deliver some higher-level experience, such as critical thinking or creativity? Is it about preparation for deeper topic investigation that will happen in class after the game?” White asked. “There are lots of games out there that exist just to cover content, but most of the time, most of those games tend to be relatively superficial. At that point, it’s the teacher’s discretion, but I would discourage [their use].”

A game designed for content coverage would appear as multiple-choice questions dressed up with interesting graphics.

“If it feels like a drill game or a practice game, I think it’s OK to use those types of tools in the classroom, but let’s not call them games—they’re not actually games,” White said. “Now we’re in game-based learning (GBL) territory—we’ve moved away from drill-and-practice apps.”