Saturday, August 6, 2016

Integrating Games into the Classroom

“Games offer what nothing else can. Through their virtual worlds, students have the opportunity to impact events around them with no prejudice based on youth. Properly selected games invoke problem-solving, critical thinking, logical thinking, and collaboration—all significant skills in Common Core Standards, ISTE guidelines, and 21st Century classrooms.” ~ Jacqui Murray, Ask A Tech Teacher

Using games in the classroom engages students in learning.  They have a passion for games and and are motivated by the challenges they present.  Allowing students to play “games” in class, helps to integrate 21st century skills such as collaboration, creativity, and problem solving as students are learning by experience. Differentiation is inherent in game integration because they play and investigate on their level and can find success along the way.  Games often increase in difficulty as the student masters the levels. This will help students stay motivated and focused in their learning while having fun.
My assignment for the class I’m taking, “Differentiation Using Technology” is -

Play two games and compare/contrast how effective these would be in your classroom and how they differentiate for particular learners.

Bridge Building

In my 6th grade Physical Science and Engineering class, I teach a unit on bridges.  Students learn the importance and necessity of bridges to connect people to places, resources, and other people.  They learn the different bridge types - Arch, Beam, Truss, and Suspension - while learning about the forces that affect them.  Using the Engineering Design Process, students are presented with the unique challenges that engineers face when building bridges.   Teaching students about bridges and how they are built, integrates physics, math, geometry, and history.  This unit also connects with Common Core standards.

For this lesson, I investigated the bridge building  program, West Point Bridge Designer.  This is a free program that needs to be downloaded on each computer.

“The purpose of the Engineering Encounters Bridge Design Contest is to provide middle school and high school students with a realistic, engaging introduction to engineering. We provide this contest as a service to education.
This “game” will provide students with an opportunity to:
  • Learn about engineering through a realistic, hands-on problem-solving experience.
  • Learn about the engineering design process-the application of math, science, and technology to create devices and systems that meet human needs.
  • Learn about truss bridges and how they work.
  • Learn how engineers use the computer as a problem-solving tool.
We also hope you will have some fun pitting your problem-solving skills against those of other virtual bridge designers around the globe.”  Source
In my classes, I have students actually build a bridge using popsicle sticks.  Students really love this lesson and integrate vocabulary and research in their project.  Here is my final project for the bridge after the entire unit is complete.   Even though I love my curriculum plan for the bridge unit, integrating this “game” program would enhance it even more! Students will be more engaged and find more success.  Using physical materials in my project prevents students from easily changing their design.  If they are able to build a virtual bridge, they can redesign it easily.
This program offers examples and templates for the students.  This will help all students in the building process.  In my project, many students struggled to get started.  Even working with another student, they just couldn’t wrap their brains around it.  I personally am not interested in building (anything) bridges but found that I was excited using this program. There is an introductory lesson as well as examples to look at. I never felt alone or intimidated by the design.  When the design didn’t work, I was able to quickly change it without anyone noticing.  I felt successful!  Any student will be able to use this program and feel success.
Step-by-Step Instructions
“Designed to impart decision-making and critical thinking skills in study of American history.  An interactive 3D "virtual world" in which student "becomes" a fictional character caught up in big issues of early 1900s.  Appeals to gamers as well as novices.  Have students do a pre-blog about their immigrant knowledge. When finished, blog about what they learned.  Requires registration; free to use; teacher accounts available.” ~ Jacqui Murray, Ask A Tech Teacher
This game would be great to integrate into social studies classes, and suitable for ages 10-15.   This “game” is a great addition into the classroom.  In school, students are often asked to read, research and memorize information without connecting it to their real lives.  When students don’t connect with their learning, it isn’t meaningful for them and they often don’t enjoy it; or even worse, learn it.  This “game” integrates video with historical information and attaches it to characters from the past.  
This game perfectly differentiates for students.  Students have to gather information to learn about the different quests that they embark on.  They are given big questions and are led through different scenarios to answer the question.  There are different icons to click on for information. Students can gather resources and vocabulary and put it in their satchel, a gear icon to access tutorials on topics that they may need additional information on, and tips for playing the game.
Information about the game.  Click HERE for the source of the information.
What is Past/Present?
Past/Present is an immersive computer game designed to impart decision-making and critical thinking skills in the study of American history. The game tells the story of four days in the life of a fictional mill town in 1906. Players can choose to be either an immigrant female mill-worker or a native-born male mill manager. Both characters must deal with labor strife as well as earn money to support their families.
What makes Past/Present special?
In Past/Present, players encounter multiple points of view. For instance, there are two newspapers in Eureka Falls, one a corporate booster and one that agitates for labor. Characters the player meets reflect clashing worldviews, from a fiery socialist vegetable peddler to the mill's watchman, a loyal company man. Players will come to understand that history is not painted in black and white but in infinite shades of grey. In the multi-layered storytelling that is at its core, Past/Present reminds us of the need for complexity in our understanding of the human condition.
Click HERE for website.



  1. Good reviews, Dierdre. Games offer so much that other project styles can't. I like the traits you've identified.

  2. I agree with Jacqui that the virtual bridge building would definitely enhance your Suspension Bridge Science challenge. Our Stem Academy (grades 7 & 8) has an engineering course and I would like to introduce this program to the teachers to see how it would fit into the curriculum and/or used as an extra "challenge" activity. I also agree with you that it's important for students to find value through making real-life connections in what they are learning to keep them engaged and to enhance their overall learning experience.