Student-centered, multi-dimensional learning environments are essential for today’s students, Barker said, and students who interact and collaborate in engaging environments are better-equipped to meet global demands.
The freedom to fail without fear is a key part of Barker’s classroom today.
“I don’t want them to feel that failure is an endpoint, but rather a new beginning,” Barker said, adding that she had to become comfortable with giving up classroom control and letting students take more ownership of their learning. “Ninety percent of the time, the kids are learning on their own, with me as their safety net or guide.”
This is where educational gaming enters Barker’s classroom.
“Gaming is challenging, engaging, discovery-based, and student-focused,” Barker said.
In Barker’s classroom, students are active game players. They create their own avatars and receive digital badges that they earn as they achieve different levels that are aligned to state standards.
“The whole idea of game-based learning is that they are walking through different activities to get to the assessment level,” Barker said. “It is so engaging. Kids never know what’s coming next.”
Barker’s second-grade students’ reading comprehension, reading fluency, and math scores last year far surpassed district scores.
Barker’s students use a variety of games, including:
BrainPOP’s MasterMines: Barker’s students used this game to learn how to define attributes of rocks.
BrainPOP’s Coaster Creator: Students were challenged to get a marble to roll the distance of a foam runway. They digitally created their own roller coasters to find out if a blueprint would work, and then applied it using physical materials.
Filament Games Backyard Engineers: Simple machines and puzzle-based scenarios. Barker used this for assessment, and her students discussed how simple machines can be used to solve problems.
Tuvalabs.com: This math-based website uses real-world data points with word problems. Teachers and students can submit their own word problems, or can submit student-created projects and work.
Mathpickle: Students choose from games about measurement, fractions, multiplication, and more.
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