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Survey: K-12 gaming use has doubled in the last six years

As educators seek innovative instructional models, gaming is proving its worth

Gaming is growing, that’s for sure. We read about it in survey results, we hear about game-based learning in conference sessions and during webinars, and we stumble across it in news coverage.

In fact, teachers’ use of game-based environments and online apps has doubled in the last six years, according to the annual Speak Up survey released in May.

In 2010, only 23 percent of surveyed teachers said they used games, compared to 48 percent of those surveyed in 2015, according to the survey. In 2010, 47 percent of teachers said they used online videos, and that jumped to 68 percent of teachers in 2015.

And as gaming become more prevalent in classrooms, education colleges are taking note–some are even asking students to plan for how they might use games in their instruction.

Next page: How universities are helping current and future teachers incorporate gaming

A course from the Penn State College of Education’s Learning Design and Technology (LDT) program encouraged students’ use of commercial video games.

LDT 401: Gaming 2 Learn, an online course offered this summer through Penn State World Campus, trained current educators and teachers-in-training how to integrate commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) video games into their lessons.

The course focused on the use of COTS games such as “Minecraft,” “World of Warcraft,” “Call of Duty” and others as an educational part of the curriculum. Rather than looking at educational games, Gaming 2 Learn focused on having kids experience learning through the games they already play.

During the course, students completed a project that required them to select a COTS game and describe the integration that connects with their specific content area. Students also observed children as they played their favorite games and participated in playing games with them, and then reported on those observations and experiences.

“As teachers, many of us do not know what games kids are playing,” said Ali Carr-Chellman, department head and professor of learning and performance systems. “So how can we say whether or not those games are teaching our children anything? By observing and participating in the game, our students can see firsthand what the educational values of these games are.”

Might simple gaming yield increased achievement results?

In late July, a Johns Hopkins study questioned whether simple numbers games might increase students’ math performance.

Kindergartners participating in the study demonstrated increased math performance after exercising their intuitive number sense with a computer game.

Humans and animals are born with an intuitive sense of quantities and can demonstrate this knowledge as infants, researchers said. For instance, when presented with a choice between a plate with a few crackers and another with more of them, even a baby will gravitate to the option with more.

The researchers created a five-minute computer game to train the intuitive number sense of 40 five-year-olds. Blue dots and yellow dots flashed on a laptop screen and the children were asked to indicate whether there were more blue ones or more yellow ones quickly, without counting. Children received feedback after each trial.

Some of the kids started with easier questions that gradually became harder. Other kids started with the hard questions, and a third group worked through a mix of hard and easy problems.

The kids who performed the dots game in the proper training fashion — easiest to hardest — scored much higher on the math test, getting about 80 percent of the answers correct.

The kids who got the hardest dot questions first, got just 60 percent of the math test right, while the control group kids who got the mix of easy and hard questions got scored about a 70 percent.

It was clear that by improving the children’s number sense, the game helped their short-term math scores, said Lisa Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences. The next step will be to figure out if there’s a way to use the technique for lasting results.

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Laura Ascione

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