If learning was a sport, would students WANT to play? I'm taking it for granted that being a student isn't a walk in the park and that teaching is as hard as casting a shadow on the surface of the sun. That said, what makes learning fun or difficult? What's the hardest thing about teaching a subject to a student? What is the hardest thing about learning a subject from a teacher? I'm trying to determine if games used in learning will ever be more common and useful than pretty flash cards and tower defense toys. I hope to start a real conversation about this over the next few weeks.

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I use many games in my 9th grade Language Arts classes.  Some may like one game as opposed to another, but they like the social interraction fo sure. I have games that pit individuals against each other and I have games that have teams facing off. The less competitive students...

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I use many games in my 9th grade Language Arts classes.  Some may like one game as opposed to another, but they like the social interraction fo sure. I have games that pit individuals against each other and I have games that have teams facing off. The less competitive students tend to like the team games better than the individual ones; but, the more competitive students like the individual competitions. Some kids just love them all. After I use a game to solidify information that we've learned about, I usually ask the students if the game helped. Eighty percent usually say it helped them to learn the material. That's where finding a balance between using games and other best teaching practices come into play.  In the business, we like to call it differentiated instruction.

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There are definitely ways to use games as teaching methods.  The main reason they are useful is that they distract students from the boredom of what they are learning and allow them to focus on the fun.  Jeopardy games, spelling bees, fraction baseball and the like are all just diversions.  They do not actually teach anything, they just allow students to practice in a different way.  Adding the element of competition makes students more interested and helps them try harder.

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To me, the major drawback about games is that they are only useful in a limited set of circumstances.  The vast majority of the things we teach simply can't be taught through games.  Therefore, it's very hard to imagine games being more common than other methods of teaching.

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