Getting started with games-based learningContinuing our two-part interview with Ron Barassi, creator of SpyClass, the online Mathematics game, today we ask Ron how teachers can easily incorporate online games into their classroom practice to help students.

To start, Ron suggests that educators identify which students may not be as engaged by traditional teaching methods and consider introducing online games instead. The key message here is instead: in certain situations, an online game may be best used as the primary resource rather than an additional resource.

In particular, games can be a useful resource to help students build their collaboration skills, as well as content-related skills. Creating challenges in-game facilitates community and collaboration, especially if overcoming these obstacles is rewarded. These rewards encourage teamwork, as well as repetition of certain tasks, which is useful for skill practice.

Finally, games represent an excellent source of ready-made content that teachers can leverage throughout the year to help save planning and preparation time.

Four easy ways to use SpyClass

Whether you’ve been using online educational games for years, or just getting started, here are a few quick and easy ways to incorporate SpyClass into your Mathematics classroom:

  1. Benchmark the class at the start of the year – built-in reporting capability means that teachers can quickly diagnose where their individual students are at and what areas need more work
  2. Target specific topics – the ‘Recap’ feature makes it easy for students to become familiar with the story at any point so teachers can assign individual chapters in the order that they prefer
  3. Enable self-paced learning – games are an easy way to motivate students so they can complete the mission as their own pace as homework, with little to no involvement by the teacher
  4. Prepare for exams – teachers can assign specific topics in advance or let students self-select what they want to review

Choosing the right game for the classroom

With hundreds of online games available, how do teachers choose which one is best for their students? Ron highlights four key factors that teachers look for:

  • Engagement: As mentioned, the game itself needs to be engaging. For SpyClass in particular, Ron addressed this with a context that students care about in a comic book style presentation with scores and achievements.
  • Transmedia: The game in question should be presented in multiple mediums: videos, interactivities, images and story told through text combine to make a game more cohesive and interesting to students.
  • Time-saving: An educational game will succeed if it cuts back on preparation time for teachers – particularly if its content aligns with relevant textbooks.
  • Encourage social learning: As mentioned previously, games that encourage student collaboration will work best as they assist teachers in building community within as well as outside their classroom.

Jacaranda would like to thank Ron for his contributions and insights into games-based learning. If you have any other questions about using online games in the classroom, please feel free to ask us in the comments below!