This paper responds to the increasing need for educators to connect students’ out of school practices and interests to classroom learning in order to engage and motivate students. Specifically, this paper will explore the high-interest medium of video games as a solution and consider how teachers might integrate edutainment (i.e. games designed specifically for educational purposes) and commercial video games (i.e. games designed for recreational or artistic purpose and enjoyed as a form of entertainment) within classroom contexts and content areas. Additionally, this paper will consider how we might empower students to create video games as assessment projects that reflect their classroom learning as well as implement and building 21st century STEAM skills. In addition to a literature review, this paper will cover the design of a workshop for pre-service teachers on these subjects and evaluate the results of that workshop. The workshop will specifically suggest Gamestar Mechanic as a platform for digital game creation and authorship which remediates this professional development need.
The following literature review explores the need for educators to connect with the at-home interests and practices of students, framed as a professional development need. The literature review then moves to gather research studies that concern utilizing video games in a classroom setting and/or as a tool for building academic skills in non-educational contexts (e.g. a dedicated affinity space, the home, or otherwise outside of the traditional school day). The review will also include accounts that focus on both the consumption of video games by students as well as creation. Finally, the literature review pivots to an overview of the research-backed understandings about adult learning that informed the creation of the professional development workshop.
The Need for Professional Development
There is a necessity for teachers to connect their content area, state-mandated learning standards and objectives with students’ contexts and interests outside of a classroom. While “a teachers’ interest for the subject matter [is] to some degree related to students’ subject interest in the classroom,” it is far from the sole factor inspiring students’ motivation to learn (Rotgans & Schmidt, 2012, p. 88). For example, much as an English Language Arts teacher may love classic literature or a mathematics teacher may derive satisfaction from solving a complex equation, and much as that love may be made apparent to students, it is still a challenge to engage those students with content from which they are far removed historically, socially, and emotionally. The connections between learning, interest, and motivation are understood by all pedagogues as close, and anyone who has spent a day in a classroom – either as a student or as a teacher – can tell you that “those who have little interest in a discipline tend to learn less” (Rotgans & Schmidt, 2014, p. 37). Students engaged in gaming are often stereotyped and marginalized as lazy time-wasters, but it is nonetheless as popular and prominent hobby among today’s youth: survey data from the Pew Research center reports that 84% of teens “say they have or have access to a game console at home” and 90% “say they play video games of any kind” (Anderson & Jiang, 2018). Video games and gaming therefore represent a widespread interest of today’s teens, but they are not currently leveraged within most schools and classrooms.
Understanding the Medium: Frameworks and Models for Integrating Games in Educational Settings
Beavis (2014) presents a model for using video games in the classroom, providing “a way to address textual aspects and [recognize] the central importance of action in video games and game play” (p. 434). The model aims to identify the unique acts and types of thinking that players are engaged in by video games; it has two “interrelated layers,” Games as Text and Games as Action, and acts as “both a map for curriculum planning and pedagogy and a heuristic for observing and analyzing games and play” (Beavis, 2014, p. 436). This model can act as a stepping stone for educators to begin to understand the unique medium of video games as well as guide them as they move towards integrating them in their classroom.
Echeverría et al. (2011) also conceptualize a model for teachers to utilize, though theirs focuses on edutainment games. With their framework, the researchers aim to balance two dimensions in educational video games: the educational, or “how to build and integrate [a] game as a learning tool” and the ludic, “how to create an engaging and fun experience” (Echeverría, et al., 2011, p. 1128). The researchers present a case study in which the framework was utilized to teach high school seniors about electrostatics; they designed a game according to the framework and piloted it with a small group of students. They found that the game as designed did not achieve all of their learning objectives and planned to create a second version, but they also found that student motivation was high when the game was used, that students learned to play the game quickly, and that “significant positive interaction took place” between students even though the students worked and played independently (Echeverría, et al., 2011, p. 1135). Most importantly, the researchers concluded that students were able to transfer the knowledge learned from the “fantasy-based game environment… to the task of answering questions on standard written tests” (Echeverría, et al., 2011, p. 1135).
Susaeta et al. (2010) propose a framework that adapts the elements of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft into classroom settings. Their model, the Classroom Multiplayer Presential Role Playing Game (CMPRPG), considers such elements in MMORPGs as the interactive, immersive worlds; character-building elements that motivate players to continue playing; role identification and transporting into new perspectives; the narrative; and player participation in a community (Susaeta, et al., 2010, pp. 258-259), then adapts those elements within the physical and time limitations of the classroom. Their exploratory study used the CMPRPG model to develop an edutainment game about ecology; the researchers concluded that the game “motivat[ed] the participation of the students and promot[ed] team work,” (Susaeta, et al., 2010, p. 266), though they needed to reconsider their quest design and offer students more time to play in order to achieve their learning objectives. Nevertheless, the study suggests that the elements that make video games a popular hobby for students can be successfully leveraged for learning in classroom settings.
Implications & Applications
Video Games as a Tool for Building Skills. Hewett, Pletcher, and Zeng (2018) conducted a qualitative study that aimed to identify the unique skills abilities adolescents built in their playing of video games, using a handful of dedicated gamers as their subjects. The researchers coded these findings into five major themes that built a profile of the 21st century gamer: the Creator, focused on the “creation and crafting of game content,” the Communicator, who builds friendships and communities to “help advance” gameplay, the Strategist, who uses critical thinking and problem-solving skills to meet an objective, the Hero, who seeks “interactive experiences” and “enjoys reading a good story,” and the “Elite,” a digital native that has mastered their affinity/learning environment (Hewett, Pletcher, & Zeng, 2018, p. 14). They argued that their findings “indicated that students who play video games from an early age will bring into the classroom a certain skill set unique to the gaming industry and other 21st-century technologies” and that video games represent a “collaborative parallel education during after school hours” (Hewett, Pletcher, & Zeng, 2018, p. 22). Turning to implications for education and the classroom, Hewett et al. argue that educators must cater to these skills and help their students transfer them into real-world applications outside of games and that educators should “embrace video games in the classroom and stop perceiving them as mere distractions from real work” (p. 22) given the unique skills gamers developed while playing.
The study by Barr (2017) measured the effect of video games on similar skills – problem-solving, communication, resourcefulness or adaptability – which are identified as “desirable in graduates, particularly where employability is concerned” and which higher education courses often fail to teach (p. 86). The study placed undergraduate students in intervention and control groups and used self-report measurement instruments to determine whether controlled exposure to video games positively affected the subjects’ skillsets. Barr utilized a number of commercial titles, many of them with multiplayer components, such as Borderlands 2, Minecraft, Portal 2, and Gone Home, among others. Ultimately, the study found that “communication, adaptability, and resourcefulness all showed significant increases for the game-playing intervention group over the control group” (Barr, 2017, p. 92) and that “graduate skills may be improved in a relatively short amount of time” (Barr, 2017, p. 96), the participants having played only 14 hours of video games over eight weeks.
Schmitt, Hurwitz, Sheridan Duel, and Nichols Linebarger (2018) turn their attention to the impact of educational video games on a younger audience. The study examined whether playing web-based educational video games at home affected the early literacy development of preschool- and kindergarten-aged children. The games utilized in the study were developed by PBS under the US Ready to Learn initiative, and the researchers discovered considerable literacy gains in the children who played the games, “especially in the domains of phonological awareness, phonics, and vocabulary,” which they identify as “key predictors of later reading success” (Schmitt et al., 2018, p. 387).
Video Games as Literature. Ostenson (2013) argues that games rely “on the elements of fiction in their design” and that they “represent an unexplored territory in studying the nature and impact of narrative” (p. 71). In his implementation, Ostenson integrated video games in a unit about storytelling with his high schoolers. Ostenson relied primarily on adventure and role-playing games because the genres place the narrative at the center of the experience. In adventure games, players must “solve puzzles through in-game research and trial and error,” and this research is usually conducted through in-game dialogue, descriptive text, and “subtle clues” otherwise conveyed by the game’s narrative (Ostenson, 2013, p. 72). Role-playing games were selected because they “feature extensive dialogue that has players reading as much as engaging in virtual combat” and “the entire rationale for playing is provided by the narrative and the problems posed within the storyline” (Ostenson, 2013, p. 72). As Ostenson’s students played games both individually and as a group, he engaged them with questions like what the setting was, how the game built its characters, what the conflict was, how the plot is structured, how the plot can change based on the player’s choices and experiences, and how the story is “different from what we’d normally encounter in a book or short story” (p. 76). In this way, Ostenson was able to help his students “think more deeply about the experience of playing certain kinds of video games and to connect that experience to traditional storytelling” as well as “recognize the ways that video games can be an expressive medium… with unique capacities to tell stories in ways that other media cannot” (Ostenson, 2013, p. 76).
Beyond the classroom, video games have been examined and analyzed by researchers much the same as one would examine and analyze literature. Ensslin and Goorimoorthee (2018) apply the Bildung, or life formation narrative, to three indie games, and argue that the medium is uniquely capable of “evok[ing] spiritual, self-reflexive, and heuristic contemplation in the player” through the player character’s story (p. 3). Hemmann (2019) examines how three games in the Legend of Zelda series “draw on the religious and literary traditions associated with Mahāyāna Buddhism in Japan” (p. 2). Hemmann considers how both the plot events and the ludic elements (gameplay mechanics the player is engaged with) help to build Buddhist narratives in her study. Pérez-Latorre & Oliva (2017) describe how BioShock Infinite’s dystopian narrative and ideological discourse conflicts with its neoliberal game design and mechanics. These studies stand as a testament to the narrative richness of the medium and represent the types of critical conversations we can engage students in around video games.
Video Games as a Creation Medium & Assessment Tool. Having students create video games can also be used as a form of assessment or creative expression. Oldaker (2010) had middle school English Language Arts students create video games based on a classroom text in partnership with his school’s technology teacher. As with most educational technology implementations, Oldaker aimed to “create and foster a constructivist classroom” around this project, “where the students would be in control of their own learning and assist one another with questions and problems” as they designed their games (p. 21). Oldaker found the project did lend itself to a collaborative environment and that students were excited and engaged with the project despite challenges with the game-making program. The study concluded that students had “successfully applied their knowledge of story grammar to creating an unconventional text of their own” and that students practiced “higher-level thinking skills in the process” (Oldaker, 2010, p. 25). Oldaker’s implementation of the project also included a narrative essay component in which students reflected on the process of designing their games and what skills and knowledge they gained from the experience.
Yang and Chang (2013) conducted on empirical study on the impact of digital game authorship (DGA) on “students’ concentration, critical-thinking, and academic achievement” in science education (p. 336). The participants in the study used RPG Maker to develop games that integrated their biology course content knowledge; data gathered from these participants was compared to that of students engaged in making Flash-based biology quizzes. In terms of concentration, the students engaged in DGA saw “an increase in concentration mean values,” indicating a “relative advantage of DGA” over Flash design (Yang & Chang, 2013, p. 342). More significant, however, were the gains in learning retention, collaborative learning, self-efficacy, and the ability to independently construct knowledge “through [the participants’] empowerment as designers and authors of authentic digital games” (Yang & Chang, 2013, p. 342). Yang and Cheng conclude that video games are a feasible medium for students to test and practice their content knowledge in classroom settings and that video game creation promotes engagement in students with “lower levels of concentration” (p. 343).
While the targeted population for the specific workshop in this study are undergraduate Methods students, it is still important to understand and respect adult learners in the workshop design. These Methods students are in or near their senior years of college, making most of them at least 21 or 22 years old. While this stands outside defined lines of adult learners, which typically begin at age 25, these students share many of the subgroup characteristics that Kimmel, Gaylor, and Hayes (2016) name as defining adult learners, such as employment, work experience, and work status. These Methods students have begun an extended practicum and field placement and are endeavoring to balance the demands of being a classroom teacher (and therefore lesson plan, grade, and coordinate with co- and cooperating teachers) with being a full- or part-time student. Additionally, the teacher education program offered by the college does attract non-traditional, adult students who seek to enter the classroom as certified professionals. The workshop design therefore followed from understanding the participants as adult learners and endeavored to respect the roles and responsibilities, expected outcomes, and experience levels of those participants under that status.
Roles and responsibilities of adult learners. K-12 teachers are intimately aware of the out-of-school stressors and obligations that can distract students from schoolwork, but it is nonetheless understood that the child’s full-time obligation should be school. Adult learners, by comparison, “have many other roles and responsibilities” and they “add the role of student onto their other often full-time roles” (Merriam & Bierema, 2013, pp. 11-12). In a qualitative study of three female adult learners attending graduate school programs, “all of the participants acknowledged the pressure of balancing their academic pursuits with the demands of caring for a family” and a household (Shepherd & Nelson, 2012, p. 16). While the planned workshop will consume significantly less time than a graduate course, it is still time that participants might otherwise use for lesson planning, second jobs, childcare, housework, or other out-of-school responsibilities.
Expected workshop outcomes for adult learners. K-12 students’ primary motivation for learning in academic settings is, unfortunately, often that they are required to achieve a passing grade – though we hope that we inspire intrinsic motivation in them to learn or at least an interest in the topic at hand. Because adult learners typically must seek out formal learning opportunities, they are usually looking to get something specific out of these opportunities. For many, this is something they can use to further their careers. Panacci (2015) writes that “many adult students evaluate their classroom experience based on the extent to which their career-related roles and goals are supported” (p. 8) and that adult educators should strive to closely relate their workshops to these roles and goals. It is essential, then, that workshops designed for adult learners wrap up with takeaways for participants, i.e. how they can directly and immediately apply what they have learned in the workshop to their professional and classroom practice.
Experience level with technology. Today’s teachers might hail from a number of generations: baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, and millennials. Brown (2011) explains that “members of the Baby Boom era and Generation X are often referred to as digital immigrants, since their level of exposure to, and competence with using, technology varies” (p. 313). While this is by no means an immutable state, and a particularly tech savvy older person might know more than a typical millennial, it is important to remember that some workshop participants may need explicit demonstrations and tutorializing of the technology utilized. Something seemingly simple like installing an application or accessing a settings page may be challenging for some adult learners depending on their experience levels with technology; workshop design must support these differences.
To prepare for the workshop, a needs assessment survey was designed and administered to the participants via Google Forms. The aim was to better understand the participants’ experience level and familiarity with video games and their pre-workshop feelings on utilizing them in educational settings, then to apply these new understandings to the workshop design and tailor it for the participants. A copy of the questions in the needs assessment is available in Appendix A. Unfortunately, only four responses were recorded for the needs assessment, limiting the breadth of results. A summary of the results is provided below.
Responding participants generally felt familiar with video games, with 50% rating themselves as a 3 on the five-point scale, 25% rating themselves as a 4, and 25% as a 5. Additionally, all respondents were able to name video games popular with today’s students (Call of Duty, Minecraft, Overwatch, Halo, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, and Fortnite), and three out of four respondents named games they personally play (NBA 2K, Overwatch, Minecraft, Call of Duty, and Guitar Hero). This informed the workshop design in reducing the need to explain the prevalence of video games amongst today’s youth or providing numerous examples of popular video games; a basic level of familiarity was instead assumed. Additionally, all of the video games named in these two questions center around interconnected, online multiplayer experiences; therefore, I made an effort to highlight in the workshop how video games introduce opportunities for collaborative learning and build skills for working in teams.
Likert scale question results are available below in Table 1.
Table 1. Needs Assessment Results: Likert Scale Questions
|Question||Strongly agree||Agree||Neutral||Disagree||Strongly disagree|
|Playing commercial video games can build skills that can be applied to academic settings.||25%||50%||0%||25%||0%|
|Creating video games involves planning, writing, and design.||100%||0%||0%||0%||0%|
Responses to the first question indicated a mixed-positive perception of the skill-building potential of video games; research was thus included in the workshop presentation that affirmed this capability. The entirely positive results of the second Likert scale question indicated a respect among respondents for the complicated processes involved in game design, which I perceived as a potential indication of the participants’ willingness to practice game design related skills in their classrooms.
Finally, one theme emerged in response to the last question on the needs assessment, which asked participants about potential challenges that they foresaw in using video games in the classroom: three of the four responses mentioned that video games could be a distraction for students. While this concern can be partly assuaged by the workshop’s overall goal and impetus, it is still a perception of video games with which we must grapple and which direct lip service must be paid in the presentation.
Given the results of the needs assessment and my understanding of the participants as adult learners, a lesson plan for the workshop was formulated and is available in Appendix B. The lesson plan targeted a one-hour long timeslot so as to respect the scheduling demands of senior-level Methods students (understood as adult learners with limited time). Further, because the attendance expectation was high, activities in which learners were directly engaged were designed to scale: rather than asking each group to share out in the think-pair-share, for example, groups submitted their ideas to an interactive display so that the presenter could call out specifically insightful ideas or ask participants to expand more. A PowerPoint presentation was created to structure delivery of the workshop and communicate information to participants.
I presented my workshop to Methods students at SUNY Oneonta. We filled a double classroom; assuming all participants submitted an evaluation, I had an audience of 47. I introduced myself and explained that I would be presenting on Student Created Video Games as part of my coursework in the Educational Technology Master’s Program. I started by defining the problem, the objectives, creating a word cloud with participants, and giving a brief overview of some research in the field. I then transitioned into discussing the Young Video Game Designer Institute, a camp I piloted this past summer, and explaining the learning benefits and materials used during it, primarily Gamestar Mechanic. I demonstrated examples of student work and discussed how the camp curriculum might be adapted in different contexts (e.g. traditional classrooms and afterschool programs) and content areas. We concluded with participants submitting their ideas on how they could use video games in their future classrooms and content areas in order to provide easy takeaways for all participants that could be directly applied to their practice. Finally, I opened the floor for a Q&A session. I also gave participants time to complete the workshop evaluation survey during the allotted workshop time so as to not intrude on their other responsibilities and obligations as adult learners.
A copy of the questions in the workshop evaluation survey is available in Appendix C. Results are tabulated and analyzed below.
Content Knowledge Post-Test
Table 2. Content Knowledge Likert Scale Question Results
|Question||Strongly agree||Agree||Neutral||Disagree||Strongly disagree|
|I feel more informed about video games and their benefits to learners as a result of the workshop.||61.7%||38.3%||0%||0%||0%|
|I left the workshop with concrete ideas on how I can integrate video games in educational settings.||42.6%||46.8%||8.5%||2.1%||0%|
Table 3. Content Knowledge Open-Ended Question Summary (“How might you use video games in your content area and context? What are some specific games you might use (or have used)?”)
|Percent of Responses|
|Responses that Mention a Specific Game Title or Program||25.9%|
|Keywords & Themes||Gamestar Mechanic, Coolmathgames.com, Spore, Until Dawn, Kerbal Space Program, Europa Universalis IV|
|Responses that Mention a Skill or Application||78.5%|
|Keywords & Themes||Scaffolding, point of view, short story, cumulative review, problem solving, escape room, paratexts, assessment, narrative, writing with goals and objectives, simulation, storyboard, engineering, role-playing|
Table 2 represents data from Likert scale questions that targeted participants’ take-aways on the content of the presentation, i.e. using video games in the classroom. Almost all respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the workshop informed them and gave them concrete ideas on how to use video games in educational settings, an overwhelmingly positive result. Two participants (8.5%) were neutral in whether they left the workshop with concrete ideas on integrating video games in educational settings, and only one (2.1%) disagreed.
Table 3 summarizes open-ended question results on how participants might use video games in their content area and context and what specific video games they might consider. Participants first had a few minutes to discuss the question in a small group, then they submitted their ideas to an interactive Mentimeter which displayed responses on the big screen. Not all participants were required to answer, but all were able to and encouraged. Responses were counted in two categories for analysis: those that mentioned a specific game title or program and those that mentioned a specific skill or application, then were coded for common keywords and themes. Responses counted in both categories if the participant mentioned a specific game and how they might use it in the classroom (e.g. “Kerbal Space Program: engineering, physics, space science”).
Pedagogical Content Knowledge Post-Test
Table 4. Pedagogical Content Knowledge Likert Scale Question Results
|Question||Strongly agree||Agree||Neutral||Disagree||Strongly disagree|
|I would consider using ideas from this workshop in my classroom.||53.2%||36.2%||8.5%||2.1%||0%|
|I would seek out additional research, workshops, and information about game-based learning and digital game authorship.||19.1%||63.8%||14.9%||2.1%||0%|
Table 5. Pedagogical Content Knowledge Open-Ended Question Summary (“Explain why you would or would not use video games in the classroom”)
|Number of Responses|
|Keywords & Themes||Motivation, critical thinking, creativity, fun, enjoyment, alternative materials, non-traditional materials, engagement, interest, connecting with students’ outside interests, reaching traditionally alienated students, problem solving skills, interactivity, potential for analysis|
|Keywords & Themes||Time, curricular restrictions, difficulty finding games that connect with their content area|
|Keywords & Themes||Time, video games are a distraction, better alternatives available|
Table 4 represents participants’ intentions to adapt ideas from the workshop into their pedagogy and extend their learning into further research and professional development. Overwhelmingly, participants responded positively when asked if they would use ideas from the workshop in their practice, with 53.2% reporting that they Strongly Agreed and 36.2% reporting that they Agreed for a total of 89.4% positive responses. Participants were less enthusiastic about seeking out more information on the subject in Q2, with positive responses (i.e. Strongly Agree or Agree) falling to 82.9%, with the majority of those responses (63.9%) being Agree rather than Strongly Agree.
Table 5 summarizes results from an open-ended question on why participants would or would not use video games in the classroom. Positive responses highlighted many of the same educational and skill-building benefits explored in the workshop; mixed responses indicated interest in these benefits but had logistical concerns, such as restrictions on freedom to implement video games in their curriculum, finding appropriate games that connect to their content area, and finding the time needed to empower students to create their own games or play games, especially with the pressures of standardized testing. One of three negative responses similarly discarded the possibility of using video games in the classroom due to time constraints, and another felt many of the same learning benefits could be derived from more traditional applications of technology (the respondent specifically mentioned online lab modules). The last negative response simply reported that video games were a distraction.
Table 6. Workshop Effectiveness Likert Scale Question Results
|Question||Strongly agree||Agree||Neutral||Disagree||Strongly disagree|
|The workshop objectives were clearly defined.||78.7%||21.3%||0%||0%||0%|
|I was able to participate in the workshop, voice my concerns, and ask questions.||61.7%||38.3%||0%||0%||0%|
|The workshop was made relevant to my specific context and practice.||48.9%||34%||10.6%||4.3%||2.1%|
|The workshop was well-organized and understandable.||85.1%||14.9%||0%||0%||0%|
Table 7. Workshop Effectiveness Open-Ended Question Summary
|What did you like most about this workshop?|
|Keywords & Themes||Explicit connections to all content areas; examples of student work; presentation of new ideas and tools; presenter was engaging, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and easy to talk to; use of research to back claims; anecdotes about Young Video Game Designer Institute and student experiences; organization of presentation; normalized use of video games; use of Mentimeter; interactivity; attending to challenges in integrating video games|
|How could this workshop be improved?|
|Keywords & Themes||More ideas for my content area; host workshop in a computer lab so participants can try student-created games; too ELA-centric; more about Young Video Game Designer Institute; more about commercial video games in the classroom; more creation platforms than just Gamestar Mechanic; more time for participants to discuss thoughts; teach participants how to make games; present more research; more opportunities to ask questions; alternative plans for students with parents who don’t want them playing video games|
The above two tables summarize participant reports on the effectiveness of the workshop. Most of the comments were positive, with Strongly Agree being the most represented response to all four prompts about the workshop being effective (78.7%, 61.7%, 48.9%, and 85.1%, respectively). Participants reported a positive response to the presenter, the organization of the presentation, the interactivity in the presentation, and the new ideas and tools presentation. The overwhelming concern in both the Likert scale and open-ended questions asking for improvements were direct applications to content areas, especially math, science, and social studies (i.e. not English Language Arts). Participants also wished they were more directly involved with digital game authorship, hoping to have had the opportunity to play student examples and gain firsthand experience with using Gamestar Mechanic.
On my end, I felt the presentation went smoothly and I was able to share a solution to my stated problem (connecting to students’ out of school practices). Given that most of my responses to the workshop were positive, I was of course happy to read over the results of the evaluation survey. Participants seemed to be, for the most part, motivated to pay attention and participate, even though they were required to attend with their Methods course. I hope that I have inspired some of them to utilize video games and digital game authorship in their classroom if not use some of my specific examples. I feel most of the reported suggestions for improvement were endemic to the presentation format. With over 47 participants and just an hour to present, it would have been difficult to build in time for everyone to have time to use Gamestar Mechanic, to say nothing of device and login restrictions. With more time and a smaller group, this is an improvement I would love to make should I deliver the workshop again.
I do need to consider how my audience may have skewed results; because they were mostly young, pre-service teachers, they may have been more open to using video games – a relatively new technology – in the classroom, both because they are more open to new technologies and because they have some level of familiarity with video games if they have not played them themselves. An older demographic would likely have a different reaction, and I would need to rework the presentation to appeal more to them, like highlighting more concrete data and examples of how video games might benefits learners. I learned after the presentation from one Methods teacher who is currently using Gamestar Mechanic in the course that one of her students was non-traditional, older than the typical Methods students, and had five children; this student refused to use Gamestar and requested an alternative assignment that did not involve video games. I did not collect any identifying data in the evaluation survey, but I suspect that this participant was responsible for most of the negative responses. While it is disappointing that this individual is deeply entrenched in their opinion of video games and did not listen to the educational benefits and research covered in the workshop presentation, they are likely representative of the older teachers, administrators, and parents that I (and any teachers using video games in the classroom) would need to win over.
This paper therefore responds to the need to connect classroom learning with students’ out of school interests to best inspire engagement and motivation in students, specifically focusing on video games and game creation as a pathway to achieving this goal. A literature review provided context for this research problem as well as the research-backed benefits and approaches to using video games in educational settings. With an understanding of the unique needs and motivations of adult learner participants, a workshop was designed to supplement this need, delivered, and evaluated through a post-test evaluation survey. These survey results were tabulated and analyzed in detail to assess participant satisfaction and takeaways from the workshop. Finally, a first-person narrative reflection was provided on the workshop delivery and response to the evaluation feedback.
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Appendix A: Needs Assessment Survey
- How would you rate your familiarity with video games? (Scale of 1 to 5, 1 being “Not at all familiar,” 5 being “Very familiar”)
- What are some video games you know that your students play? (open response)
- What are some video games that you play, if any? (open response)
- Playing commercial video games can build skills that can be applied to academic settings. (Likert scale)
- Creating video games involves planning, writing, and design. (Likert scale)
- What are some ways you might integrate video games into your content area and context? (open response)
- What are some of the challenges you foresee in attempting to integrate video games in your classroom? (open response)
Appendix B: Workshop Lesson Plan
- Teachers will be able to describe the research-backed benefits of using video games in the classroom.
- Teachers will be able to list potential ways to integrate video games in their content areas and contexts.
- Teachers will gain familiarity with at least one tool used to create video games OR a video game title that might support learning.
Information & Content to be Covered
- Presentation of the problem behind the research: How can we connect classroom content and learning objectives with students’ contexts and interests outside of school?
- Review of learning objectives
- Pre-Test: Free Association Word Cloud
- Overview and examples of edutainment games and commercial video games
- Review of literature and research surrounding using video games in the classroom and the proven benefits
- Overview of my research regarding the subject (book chapter and conference presentation)
- Summary of the Young Video Game Designer Institute
- Demonstration of games produced during the Young Video Game Designer Institute and the Teacher Institute
- Discussion of how to adapt the camp curriculum to other contexts (other summer camps, traditional classrooms, after-school programs)
- Think Pair Share on ideas for video games in participants’ content areas and contexts
- Resources for participants to learn more and get involved with campus efforts
- Post-Test: Workshop Evaluation Survey
Targeted ISTE Standards for Educators
- 1c: Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.
- 3b: Establish a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources and fosters digital literacy and media fluency.
- 4a: Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology.
- 5b: Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
Anticipatory Set. The presenter will briefly introduce herself then explain the research problem behind the workshop and the learning objectives. Participants will engage in an introductory activity in which they generate a word cloud based on the words, ideas, and titles they associate with video games. After participants have had a few minutes to submit, we will reconvene as a larger group to discuss the submissions, focusing specifically on some of the negative perceptions (e.g. distracting, addictive, violent, etc.) about games.
Developmental Activity. The presenter will do a short review of literature on the measured educational benefits of video games in the classroom to help combat negative perceptions as well as build an awareness of the growing body of research behind the topic. The presenter will then describe two of her efforts in the field: a book chapter on video games as classroom literature (highlighting some examples of games that might be used in different educational contexts) and the Young Video Game Designer Institute (showing how students could apply interconnected, collaborative writing skills to creating video games). On overview of the curriculum and writer’s workshop format behind the Institute will be provided. The presenter will then demonstrate some examples of student created games from the camp and summarize student perceptions and engagement in the camp.
Concluding Activity. Participants will engage in a think-pair-share where they answer the following questions: How might you use video games in your content area and context? What are some specific games you might use (or have used)?
Participants will be asked to submit their ideas to a live presentation on the board via Mentimeter in order to “share out.” The presenter will ask participants to expand on some submissions or otherwise discuss the ideas. The floor will then be opened for a Q&A, and the presenter will share some ways that students can learn more about the subject and become involved in efforts on campus. Finally, participants will complete a post-test workshop evaluation survey via Google Forms.
- A projector and screen to display the workshop presentation and the live-updated word cloud and think-pair-share results.
- Individual devices for word cloud, Mentimeter, and evaluation survey. May be phones or laptops.
Appendix C: Workshop Evaluation Survey
- I feel more informed about video games and their benefits to learners as a result of the workshop. (Likert scale)
- I left the workshop with concrete ideas on how I can integrate video games in educational settings. (Likert scale)
- I would consider using ideas from this workshop in my classroom. (Likert scale)
- Explain why you would or would not use video games in the classroom. (open response)
- I would seek out additional research, workshops, and information about game-based learning and digital game authorship. (Likert scale)
- The workshop objectives were clearly defined. (Likert scale)
- I was able to participate in the workshop, voice my concerns, and ask questions. (Likert scale)
- The workshop was made relevant to my specific context and practice. (Likert scale)
- The workshop was well-organized and understandable. (Likert scale)
- What did you like most about this workshop? (open response)
- How could this workshop be improved? (open response)