Stimulating Learning Through Educational Games
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Teaching children with special needs, such as behavioral or emotional needs is a difficult task for many teachers. This group of students is more likely to have poor study habits and suffer from poor attention and motivation levels. Moreover, they are more likely to disrupt the learning process of others. To reach these students, teachers must utilize teaching methods that engage the students' interest, increase motivation in the classroom, increase self-esteem, and allow the teacher to impart information in a way that students can absorb and utilize. Using games in the instructional process of the classroom may be the best way for teachers to accomplish these goals.
Across the content areas, games can be easily introduced. Here are a few examples:
- Theater and drama games can enhance language arts
- Back-to-school games using students' names can boost social skills
- Seek and Find games can enhance reading skills through word recognition
- Counting games can increase math skills while making a tedious subject fun
Concepts taught in school can be supported at home by using games made in class and then made available to be checked out by students to take home. Because children benefit when their parents and teachers work together, teachers can also invest the time in sending instructions or websites home so parents can create their own games.
The Teacher's Role in Stimulating Learning Through Educational Games
The best teachers "keep students highly engaged throughout an entire lesson and encourage students to contribute their ideas and insights as a way of enhancing their own and other students' learning". This is a difficult task for teachers in any classroom. For teachers tasked with reaching children with emotional or behavioral problems, the task may often seem impossible.
One of the characteristics of a good teacher is his or her ability to link lesson plans with the prior knowledge and experiences of students. Students who are not motivated are far more likely to drop out of school, while children who are motivated are more likely to earn higher grades on tests and daily assignments. Motivated students adjust to the school setting better than their non-learning, non-motivated counterparts, are more likely to develop sound problem solving strategies, and more likely to pursue new avenues for learning on their own . The key to imparting educational knowledge is linked directly to the teacher's ability to motivate students. Given this fact, more teachers are turning to educational games as a means of engaging difficult to teach students in the learning process.
Computer Games in Education
Many educators are using computer-based games to heighten the interest and motivation levels in the special education classroom. A large number of these computer game lessons are based on drill and practice lessons made to look similar to arcade-style games. The technology in the curriculum is used to increase motivation and academic learning for students who do not respond well to traditional classroom lesson plans. Studies indicate that educational computer games increase motivation levels by providing clear goals, scores that reflect the child's improvement, and differing levels of difficulty that capture students' interest.
In a 2003 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, it was found that 50 percent of American children play computer games by the time they are six years old. And the fascination with the gaming industry, which currently pulls in more than $7 billion annually, is increasing. Research has proven that when children and teenagers play video games in a virtual learning environment, they not only reinforce skills in motivating ways, but they engage in and creative collaborative behavior with their peers. Video games lower the threat of failure by sequencing tasks for success. They link learning to goals, engage students through immersion, and are multimodal, or incorporate differences and learning styles. With that in mind, school administrators are looking to find ways to put video game technology in the classroom.
Educational software is based on learning facts. There are many examples of video games that strengthen concepts in content areas. For example, one of the most popular games used in social studies classes is Revolution, which puts students into Colonial Williamsburg as they make political decisions while learning about the American Revolution. However, incorporating video games into classrooms requires more than just sitting children in front of computers.
Children with behavioral disorders, such as those diagnosed with ADHD, are inattentive and impulsive and often interrupt the classroom. Children with opposition and aggression disorders disrupt the learning process in the same way. Children with emotional disorders are difficult to teach because they are often withdrawn and hard to engage in the learning process.