Game-based learning is perfect for math because of its instant feedback to problem-solving activities. Rather than giving boring worksheets to students, students can progress faster through the different levels in their understanding and mastery of math problem-solving abilities with game play interactive software that is now readily available online.
Currently our school used Math IXL for elementary students through middle school as a supplement to their math instruction. Students are expected to login to their Math IXL accounts and practice on a weekly basis. Recently I check how much students had been using the program and discovered that the fourth grade class used it the most, then the second, and then the third grade classes. Fifth grade students had not used it very much, similar to the first grade students.
Interestingly though, even though the fourth grade students used it more often, the second grade students had a higher level of mastery with fewer practice tries. So knowing how to interpret the data would be important in using a game-based learning approach. Also keeping students accountable throughout the school year by their regular teachers by logging in to the administrative account to find out how often it was actually being used and encouraging more usage would be helpful in making sure students are actually using the program.
I have to agree with the authors of the book, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (CreateSpace, 2011) about the importance of play as a critical part of learning. I know that I am a person who has to “play” to learn new technology skills. I have taught myself how to use technology, so my method of teaching is often allowing students to have the opportunity to discover how to use technology through play. I believe the power of play can “ignite a student’s passion and cultivate their imagination”, which is the premise of this book. (Q&A With the Authors of A New Culture of Learning)
I have been looking into learning how to use VoiceThread or Educreation on my iPad and also on my Mac to try learning how to use the reverse instructional model. I don’t think every lesson should be a reverse model. But a variety of instruction models help keep the classroom interesting and the students engaged in learning. I am not 100% sold on the Flipped Classroom because if every teacher used this method, students wouldn’t have enough hours in a day to watch all the videos that the teachers would want them to watch. I also think watching too many video lectures can just become boring and the students will quickly quit doing it, but try to pretend that they did it. The best students are the ones who learn for the sake of learning. They are intrinsically motivated to learn. Very young children have this intrinsic curiosity to learn, but often lose it through the tediousness of “school.” We as educators must find a way to keep students impassioned to want to learn and to use inquiry to motivate play as a way to learn new ideas.