Game On – How Gaming can change the ways you teach key competencies!

Why Gaming?

Gaming. It’s a little bit of a controversial subject in education – some love it, and some hate it. But Gaming at it’s essence is about relationships and relational understanding, it is through games that we can learn about our world and how to interact with those around us.

In our library at HPSS we actively encourage gaming of all forms, from the traditional Chess board right through to playing Massive Multi-player games such as World of Warcraft and Dota and Fifa on the PS4. It would’ve been easy when the library opened to plaster signs all over our library saying “NO GAMES!” and “Reading only”, but what purpose would that serve?

These students love gaming, it’s part of the societal fabric that makes up their lives. By refusing to acknowledge or welcome that within a library space or classroom, you are stating clearly, I don’t want to try to understand your passion, I don’t want to relate to you, I refuse to know you fully as a learner in a reciprocal relationship.

What is the big deal about them anyway?

I was lucky enough to present at the #edchatnz conference over last weekend on this very subject and had a great time dispelling some of the myths about gaming that people may have heard. These myths are the ammunition that kills Black Ops in an instance. The following information was found and adapted from an article in Huffington Post (

Myth 1: Gaming is a waste of Brain Power
Truth 1: Gaming is actually like steroids for your brain!

Researchers have found that Gaming actually increases your ability to focus, helps you develop better fine motor skills, activates you strategic thinking prowess and builds spatial navigation skills.

Doesn’t that sound rather a lot like the key competencies of Thinking and Using Language Symbols and Text?

Myth #2: Gaming is only good for fun
Truth #2: Gaming actually makes you smarter

Care of Deviant Art

Not only does Gaming build your brain’s ability to think in a flexible manner, a study at a British University found that if you played Starcraft for 40 hours over 6 – 8 weeks, it improves your cognitive processing skills!

Myth #3: Gaming wastes years of your life
Truth #3: Gaming can actually slow cognitive decline.

A study of over 600 people aged 50 and older found that by playing a strategic game as simple as solitaire for up to 10hrs per week, participants were able to slow their cognitive decline by up to 7 years! WOO!

Myth #4: Gaming makes you hyperactive and unable to concentrate
Truth #4: Actually Gaming increases your ability to focus

Courtesy of Deviant Art

Gaming promotes a state of consciousness known as “Flow”. Flow is when you become so immersed in what ever you are doing that you lose track of time. Gaming is an excellent tool for this. Because gamers select the level that they want to play, they are within the cognitive realms of their ZPD (Zone of Proximal Development). They receive feedback when they need it and in ways they can understand and they know explicitly where they are going next…Sounds a lot like good teaching practice no?

How can I use them in my class?

An Activity you could try to see if this works:

At the session we had the opportunity to play “Once Upon a Time” a story telling card game where each player needs to contribute to the story and still try to get to their ending. The game is only for 4 – 6 players so while they were playing, I asked the rest of the group to place plastic beans behind them as they saw a key competency being displayed. It was fascinating to see how each player no matter how well they did in the game collected a number of beans.

Why might this work?

It engages both the players and those who are watching with a common goal. It is also a really authentic context in which to demonstrate the key competencies and show students how they may use them in their day to day life.

If you want to see it in action, check out @ReidHNs1, who very courageously used this gaming method with his students on Tuesday! Go Reid!

Other Games I recommend you try:

Click on this Spreadsheet where I have listed a number of games, their links to the KCs and some other resources that may assist you in integrating these into your classroom programme.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you are interested in another person doing great work with gaming for literacy check out @PeggySheehy from New York.

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