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Teaching with Games research results in the classroom

Research Summary by Carolyn Allen

Teaching with Games was a year-long project for FutureLab that investigated the place of mainstream commercial computer games in the classroom.

The "Teaching with Games" report aimed to provide practical and informed evidence of the implications and potential of the use of these games in school, and an informed strategy for future educational development requirements, based upon collaborative discussions between industry and the education community.

Sponsored by Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Take-Two and Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), the research project final Teaching with Games" report is online at

Teaching with Games focused on using commercial off-the-shelf games in formal education. Key findings included:

  • A generational divide in game play is still evident, with 72% of teachers not playing games for leisure, compared with 82% of students playing games outside lessons at least once a fortnight. Boys were more likely than girls to play games for leisure.
  • Younger students also tend to be more regular players of computer games than their older counterparts. For instance, pupils aged 11 and 12 are significantly more likely to play computer games every day (46% and 41% respectively), than 15-16 year-olds (25%).
  • An average of 62% of students say that they would like to use computer games in the classroom; 89% of these (approximately 55% overall) think it would make lessons more interesting. Younger students were most likely to want to use computer games in school: 66% of 11 year-olds compared to 49% of 15-16 year-olds.
  • Amongst all students, there are a number of perceived benefi ts of playing computer games outside lesson time. More than two-thirds (69%) say that it improves computer skills, while roughly half (53%) think that it would help improve their reactions or problem solving skills. 24% think that it improves subject knowledge, and the same percentage thinks game playing improves skills such as working in teams.
  • Although the perceived consequences of playing computer games are largely positive, students also identified a number of negative potential effects. For instance, 30% of students overall believe that playing computer games could lead to increased violence and aggression.
  • Teachers and students have similar perceptions about the advantages and disadvantages of using games. Both groups believe that games play improves computer skills and general problem solving abilities.
  • However, teachers are more likely to believe that students can gain subject knowledge from computer games than children - 62% compared to 24% - while more children believe it improves social skills – 24% compared to 17% of teachers.
  • The majority of teachers and students surveyed reported that they thought games would motivate students to engage with learning.
  • Student motivation might be more likely to arise when students were using games familiar from their home environment and when students were able to have some degree of autonomy in playing the game.
  • The main barriers perceived by teachers to the use of games are not those of the curriculum or of assessment, but the technical issues that may need to be overcome.
  • Technical support staff play a significant role in supporting teachers to overcome the variety of technical obstacles that arise when using games in a school context.
  • Curriculum and assessment influence selection of the age of students allowed to use games in lessons.
  • Many teachers found that the fixed length of lessons to be constraining in both the planning and implementation of games-based learning in schools.
  • The range of gaming ability among students has an impact on teachers' lesson plans. In general, there seemed to be an expectation that students would be more competent using the game in class than they were seen to be.
  • Teaching success is more dependent of the teacher's knowledge of the curriculum than their ability with the game.
  • The context in which a teacher works - their experience, teaching style, familiarity with the curriculum followed, and the wider culture of the institution -- have the most impact on the success of integrating games.
  • Using games in a meaningful way within lessons depends far more on the effecrive use of existing teaching skills than it did on the development of any new, game-related skills. Teachers were required to take a central role in scaffolding and uspporting students' learning through the games.
  • For the game to be of benefit to teachers, it need only be accurate to a certain degree; there may be wider inaccuracies within the game model, but these could varry.

A number of factors are significant in influencing the process of integrating games in school educaiton.

  • The technical infrastructure of the school (personnel and facilities)
  • Professional factors: time and space organization, collaboration/knowledge sharing collaboration, best practice in lesson planning, classroom rituals.
  • Ease of distribution of the games
  • Individual teachers' personal experience of game play
  • Cultural expectations of children's attitudes to and expertise in playing computer games

These factors need to be taken into account by teachers, school leaders and game developers before potential can be fully realized.

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