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Educational Games

Page history last edited by Gayla S. Keesee 13 years, 1 month ago


Games and games-based learning have been a part of education for decades. However, with new technological advances, digital games have recently emerged as a new teaching tool. Neuroscience has proven that "Games are tailor made to fit the very different tasks animals and humans will face." (Frost, Wortham, and Reifel, p. 66)



An educational game is a game designed to teach humans about a specific subject and to teach them a skill. As educators, governments, and parents realize the psychological need and benefits of gaming have on learning, this educational tool has become mainstream. Games are interactive play that teaches us goals, rules, adaptation, problem solving, interaction, all represented as a story. They give us the fundamental needs of learning by providing - enjoyment, passionate involvement, structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interaction and emotion. "Play has a deep biological, evolutionarily important, function, which has to do specifically with learning." (Prensky, p. 6) 


"The first step towards understanding how computer games can transform learning and education is changing the widely shared perspective that games are “mere entertainment”. It it more than just a multi-billion dollar industry and more than a compelling toy for both children and adults, computer games are important because they let people participate in new worlds. They let players, think, talk and act - they let players inhabit - roles otherwise inaccessible to them. These virtual worlds are what makes games such powerful contexts for learning. In virtual worlds, learners experience the concrete realities that words and symbols only describe" (Global Conflicts Press Kit)


The 2007 Horizon Report first focuses on the implementation of social networking and mobile phones explosion in less than two year and has been correct. If the trend remains, then in 2011 according to the Report we should see a massive increase in virtual worlds, scholarships based on videos and game creation, and lastly within the next two year Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming. These forms of education through teaching, learning, and creative expression will be the cornerstone of educational gaming in the near future. Interactive gaming on a single level is currently in use social networking with educational gaming will become a revolutionary form of education. 


According to the 2010 Horizon Report, games are a way for students to experience the struggles and successes of collaboratively working towards a solution to a complex problem set within an interesting storyline. It also points out that although games have been a staple in classrooms for years, “…they are single-player or turn-based rather than truly collaborative." The report defines three types of educational gaming  - "games that are not digital; games that are digital, but that are not collaborative; and collaborative digital games." The primary focus of this discussion is digital games that are not collaborative and some collaborative digital games. Not collaborative games are single player type games and collaborative digital games are multiplayer games requiring players to interact with each other. Some Examples of digital games that are not collaborative are Typing Instructor, Cell Craft, and Simcity. An Example of collaborative digital games are World of Warcraft, Moonbase Alpha, and Americas Army. 


Collaborative digital games allow students to work with others and develop deep thinking and problem-solving skills rather than just memorization of a topic. One example of these types of games are massively multiplayer online games. Rather than a single dimension of play, Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) include a number of “sub-games or paths of engagement that are available to players” (Horizon Report). The various levels of engagement require students to work both on their own and within a group to accomplish a pre-determined goal within a storyline. The games are challenging and often force students to research the topic further outside of the game in order to understand and succeed.




Many scholars understand the advantages of games in learning. Some of those that strongly support that Serious Games should become a integrated part of learning in the classroom are Marc Prensky, Clark Quinn, Carly Schuna and the numerous authors behind the Horizon Reports. 


The article “Serious Games for Serious Topics” by Clark Quinn at eLearn Magazine studies the fact that serious games create a hands-on, minds-on opportunity that allows players to actively focus, create and change a scenario while simultaneously learning about consequences of choice in the situation. As students become more engaged and committed to succeeding in the game, they become more willing to learn about the scenario the situation is taking place in. They begin to care about learning more about the topic and how to solve the problem. As the article points outs, “It’s the difference between watching a nature documentary and going backpacking in the wilderness.” (Quinn) Rather than just memorizing new material like you would watching a documentary, serious games allow students to become active participants in discovering new ideas, information and solutions to problems while also allowing them to feel the tension and suspense of the crisis. This development of real interest through digital games can already be already seen in several businesses. America’s Army, a digital game created to help boost military recruitment numbers, is one example of businesses using a game to help develop employee interest in a topic. “Since its release, different versions of the war game have been downloaded more than 40 million times since its download.” (Holmes)


Playing educational games also help us and children with focus, self esteem, and memory. Educational games can help a child focus because they are being patient while waiting to achieve getting to the next level. Playing these games help their self esteem because sometimes they get a quicker reaction from the game system and they can really see how they have accomplished something. In the games there are milestones that the children will have to reach and at the end of each stage they receive something that they will have to have in the next stage. This is also where their focus comes into play because they will take their time to make sure they do things correctly so that they may go on longer in the game (Schuna)


A primary advantage of educational games is that students can work on multiple skills and subjects across the curriculum at once. The 2010 Horizon Report expands on this idea and includes a long list of benefits from “open-ended, challenge-based, truly collaborative games” such as MMOs. Using games of this type can open opportunities for students to work on skills in all areas of traditional education while at the same time including research skills, problem-solving and leadership. 


In conclusion, Prensky argues that children are naturally motivated to play games. Serious Games are interactive play that teach students goals, rules, adaptation, problem solving, interaction, all represented as a story. They give them the fundamental needs of learning by providing enjoyment, passionate involvement, structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interaction and emotion. "Play has a deep biological, evolutionarily important, function, which has to do specifically with learning."(Prensky, p. 6) 


     1. Games are a form of fun. That gives us enjoyment and pleasure.

     2. Games are form of play. That gives us intense and passionate involvement.

     3. Games have rules. That gives us structure.

     4. Games have goals. That gives us motivation.

     5. Games are interactive. That gives us doing.

     6. Games are adaptive. That gives us flow.

     7. Games have outcomes and feedback. That gives us learning.

     8. Games have win states. That gives us ego gratification.

     9. Games have conflict/competition/challenge/opposition. That gives us adrenaline.

     10. Games have problem solving. That sparks our creativity.

     11. Games have interaction. That gives us social groups.

     12. Games have representation and story. That gives us emotion. (Prensky)  



In his video for BigThink.com, video game designer Jesse Schell outlines a few of the problems schools face with integrating serious and MMO games into the current curriculum.


The first point he makes is that “games don’t fit well on a time table.” It’s hard to determine how long it will take a student to accomplish sub-goals and ultimately finish a game, which can pose a problem for teachers wanting to outline how long classroom units should take. While we could set a deadline for when students must end the game and move onto a new unit, we also run into the problem of students feeling discouraged from not successfully finishing a game. If we allow students to stay on a game until they finish, we run the risk of some students falling behind others. It also creates much more for the teacher to keep track of.


Schell goes on to point out that because each group plays their own game, they’re likely to encounter a completely different experience from someone playing the same game, but making different decisions two seats down. This difference in experiences also mucks up the traditional teaching method of each student learning from the same material with the same experiences. It also leads into another problem that Jesse points out- if each student is learning and experiencing something different, teachers will have a much more difficult time keeping track of who has learned what. These are issues that can be solved, but schools need to be informed of them before introducing these games to the curriculum.


Another disadvantage of using games as part of the curriculum is the chance of over-use. When students and teachers begin to rely too heavily on the use of video games to learn or review material, they risk losing the skills that allow them to function outside of a digital source. (Zafar) These skills have been in decline since many children and adults are becoming addicted to video games. "Video gaming problems are often defined like problem gambling or alcoholism."(Zafar) Social Interaction must be physical as well as mental and this is one of the shortfalls of Educational Gaming without classroom interaction.

Examples of Classroom Uses: 


The New York City school Quest to Learn is a great example of how curriculum can be structured to allow for students to work collaboratively on units and work together to solve problems. They also frequently use games to help students experience and have a deeper understanding of the material they study. (Horizon Report)


This video from EduTopia demonstrates a classroom of students successfully using a technological game-like program to integrate multiple educational subjects into an interesting collaborative learning experience. 



The following video from CBS's "The Early Show" is a look at another classroom successfully using a collaborative game to discover ideas about history and war.



Resources for Classroom Use:


The following is a list of educational games that could be included in classrooms. They are divided by type of game and educational subject.


Non-Collaborative Digital Games



Leapfrog Reading Software - This is a commercially-based company that provides hands-on electronic based books for learning to read interactively. Can be given to children and self teaches reading if the child know the basic concepts. Used to teach younger students but IEP and children with disabilities will enjoy also.



Placespotting – This is a geography-based game using Google Maps. A picture is shown with clues or description of events and the students must find the location. Can be played in class or homework.



Calculation Nation - Developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the site offers students in elementary and middle school "online math strategy games that allow them to learn about fractions, factors, multiples, symmetry and more, as well as practice important skills like basic multiplication and calculating area — all while having fun."


Online Math Learning- Presents an online Math assistance by subject and grade that includes videos, games, activities and worksheets that are specific to grade level or subject.



Cell Craft- This is an educational very fun game created by Digital Media & Learning Competition and Dr. Jed Macosko at Wake Forest University and Dr. David Dewitt at Liberty University. It teaches about the cells, their structure and how a cells survives a hostile environment.


Social Studies/History:

Global Conflicts - Global conflicts is an "award-winning" series of educational games designed to allow students (ages 13-20) to learn about various conflicts around the world and the underlying themes of democracy, human rights, globalization, terrorism, climate, and poverty. Each game includes a teacher package with a PowerPoint presentation of the episode and the related topic, minimizing teachers´ preparation time. Each game presents different historical, religious, social, economic and political reasons behind the conflicy. The games also come with a teachers’ manual, a topic overview, student worksheets and online resources.

Betwixt Folly and Fate, an immersive 3-D role playing game that places players in 1774 Williamsburg as one of four characters. As players pursue their characters' goals, they explore a large portion of eighteenth-century Williamsburg, Virginia, roaming the streets and meeting people in shops, taverns, the Courthouse, and private homes. The town is populated with dozens of characters, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. Players may also bargain for goods with shopkeepers and try their hand at several colonial games.


Multiple Subjects:

Quiz Hub - A bank of quizzes, puzzles and reviews to help students drill material.


Collaborative Digital Games 

Gamestar Mechanic - Teaches students how to create a game while playing a game.



DimensionU- Math, Science and Literacy Video Games - "DimensionU is a video game-based learning resource for K–12 students. In DimensionU, students can access 3D multiplayer educational video games that help them hone their math and literacy skills, connect with friends, and compete and collaborate while learning." (DimensionU)


Mithril, a multiplayer online role-playing game developed by students at Stanford University. Mithril draws on the look and feel of MMOs but is math-based; players must master mathematical concepts in order to cast spells, defeat foes, and progress in the game.” (2010 Horizon Report)


Moon Simulation Survival:

Moonbase Alpha- After a lot of research NASA created this game free for classroom use. Downside is you must download it on Stream, which is not available on Public School Computers. Using the Unreal 3 Engine (UDK), Moonbase Alpha allows for single player and team play using VOIP chat.


Multiple Subjects:

26 Learning Games to Change the World - A list of games put together by Jeff Cobb at the Mission to Learn website. Many of the games will donate to charitable causes for playing and students learn more about the issue or topic behind the game as they play. Includes everything from Darfur to Politics to World Hunger to Business.


Food Force 2- Is a freeware game based on the earthquake in Haiti. The purpose of this game is to provide humanitarian relief to haiti. This game was created to educate and motivate people to solve world hunger and social problems. 


Miscellaneous Sites:

These websites are bank sites, meaning they contain lists of potential links to sites of games and references.


Homeschool.com’s Top 100 Educational Web Sites of 2008 - This site includes multiple references, along with games.


50 Great Sites for Serious, Educational Games - Numbers 9-20 along with 25-50 are best for classroom use.


Virtual Learning: 25 Best Sims and Games for the Classroom - Collaborative games separated by subject.




Game Rubric: Assessing Student Learning in Virtual Simulations and Serious Games



Ellis, Ken. “Animation as a Pathway to College and a Career.” EduTopia.org. 16 Sept 2010. The George Lucas Educational Foundation. 5 Feb 2011.  <http://www.edutopia.org/stw-career-technical-education-classes-model-video>


Frost, Joe, Sue Wortham, and Stuart Reifel. Play and Child Development. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall, 2008.


Holmes, Jamie. “US Military is Meeting Recruitment Goals with Video Games – But at What Cost?” Christian Science Monitor. 28 Dec 2009. 31 Jan 2011 <http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/1228/US-military-is-meeting-recruitment-goals-with-video-games-but-at-what-cost>


Johnson, Laurence F., Alan Levine,  and Rachel S. Smith. The 2007 Horizon Report. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium, 2007. <http://www.nmc.org/horizon/2007/executive-summary


Johnson, Laurence F., et al. The 2010 Horizon Report: The K12 Edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium, 2010. < http://wp.nmc.org/horizon-k12-2010/chapters/game-based-learning/#0


Krumholz, Honey. “Classroom Games Serve Many Purposes Here’s How to Use Them!!” Priceless-teaching-strategies.com. n.d. 5 Feb. 2011. <http://www.priceless-teaching-strategies.com/classroom_games.html>


“Massively Multiplayer Online Game – Definition.” WordiQ.com. 2010. 5 Feb. 2011. <http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Massively_multiplayer_online_game>


Prensky, Marc. "Fun, Play and Games: What Makes Games Engaging." Digital Game-Based Learning. McGraw-Hill, 2001. 30 Jan. 2011. <http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Game-Based%20Learning-Ch5.pdf>


"Press Kit: Global Conflicts." Serious Games International. n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2010. <http://www.globalconflicts.eu/media/sgi-presskit.pdf>


Quinn, Clark, and Lisa Neal. “Serious Games for Serious Topics.” eLearn Magazine. 30 Jan. 2011  <http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=opinion&article=96-1>


Schell, Jesse. “Playing Games in the Classroom.” BigThink.org. 23 July 2010. 3 Feb. 2011. <http://bigthink.com/ideas/21012>


Schuna, Carly. "The Advantages of Learning Games for Kids." 21 Aug 2010. LiveStrong. 3 Feb. 2011 <http://www.livestrong.com/article/214084-the-advantages-of-learning-games-for-kids/>


Zafar, Amina. “Video Game Addiction: Does It Exist?” 16 Sep 2010. CBC News: Health. 30 Jan. 2011 <http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/09/13/f-videogames-addiction-health.html>


Comments (Show all 42)

Danielle said

at 10:44 pm on Jan 28, 2011

Maybe it's just because it's getting kind of late, but add you to what? I'm following both of your blogs, so you can find me that way. My school email is in the link she left on Blackboard on the 1902 sheet, but I didn't think she wanted us to use Email as our main form of contact. Last I knew, Kalella hadn't requested access to the site so that's probably why you're having trouble finding her. Her email is also on the 1902 sheet in the link. I'm number 5, she's number 10.

ButchAbling said

at 12:01 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Just using email(IM) as a way of getting everyone here on the same sheet of music. If someone logs into email you can collaborate using IM instantly as a chat.

I agree that we just need to start editing this page #1. #2 next person jump in and add to what ever the first person type. We can work it like a chain letter- adding, revising each draft till we all agree. The sooner we get this puppy going the better.

Danielle said

at 1:49 pm on Jan 29, 2011

I'm all for that. I went the through the Professor's blog last night and picked out any posts with labels like "Educational Games" and "Games" I can post the links I got from that here or everyone can search her blog themselves. I'll add you to my Google IM list in just a minute.

Danielle said

at 2:46 pm on Jan 29, 2011

I think I also pulled one or two of these from the Pink Flamingo Resource List which I found through her blog.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 5:14 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Check out the Elluminate Webinar sessions located in the Week 15 Communications module and the Week 11 module is supposed to have info on Educational Games (but I can't find what I did with it. I'll look and add). Adding resources are available by looking at the Horizon Reports. Google Horizon Report games massively.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 5:16 pm on Jan 29, 2011

You might want to add a page to this wiki entitled Discussions Games. That might be a better way to discuss your plans and provide resources BEFORE completing the final product. The Blogs group already did that. Just click the Create a Page link in the top right.

ButchAbling said

at 8:08 pm on Jan 29, 2011

I was hoping we could work drafts here to keep us all on the same page rather than creating a another page can we just use this as a discussion and completed product when we are done? We'll Label it when we get finished. Pleasssssseeee. It's taken a few days to get 3 of us so far onto here.

Danielle said

at 10:30 pm on Jan 29, 2011

I think it might be easier to make one collaborative post if we can add our individual ideas to the discussion page rather than just changing what was already there. We could each come up with an introduction, for example, post it to the discussion page and then combine our points to form one inclusive introductory paragraph. I made a page earlier tonight, it's just a few higher than this page in the Navigator. It has some of the links she mentioned as well.

By the way, has anyone heard from Peaches?

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 6:09 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Would Leap Frog be considered an educational game?

ButchAbling said

at 8:09 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Yes very educational the problem is Very Expensive. I prefer free to play and avoid pay to play.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 7:47 am on Jan 30, 2011

Is Leap Frog a game or a game system? Think about it. I agree that free is generally preferable; however, developers need to earn a living also. I think that lower priced games or site licenses would work in education. Think how much we pay for textbooks. I collected a number of examples of educational games on another wiki for a project I'm working on with K-12 teachers and community college instructors to develop interactive 3D learning objects. http://i3dlearning.pbworks.com/w/page/5390176/Learning-Objects,-Educational-Games,-Animations

Check out these resources for definitions of educational games:

ButchAbling said

at 11:40 am on Jan 30, 2011

I really like your links. Expecially the gaming.psu.edu's information about Educational Games. The PBworks one also has a lot of good links that my google searches has not picked up on. I like the serious games article(3rd one) expecially the write-up about EVEonline. “Once you have managed a virtual corporation that spans the universe, you can easily manage a real corporation that spans the earth.”(Eve CEO). As it was saying How do we get Casual Gaming turned into Serious(educational) Gaming. This is my only problem with Leapfrog is they put the same game out on a different platform that you end up throwing away. If they really wanted to impress me put out a game system that's realiable and just change the software.
I'm hoping to take one of your classroom classes(working a rotating shift is killer) and woud love to learn from you directly. This is the biggest problem with online classes.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 6:09 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Remember that you need to cite your sources both in-text and in the reference area. Otherwise it's just your opinion...

ButchAbling said

at 8:17 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Don't be sorry jump in and get your feet wet and have some fun doing it. Just throw in some ideas on these drafts and like Prof. Keesee said include some references.

ButchAbling said

at 9:40 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Just make sure you copy, edit, save on your PC then paste changes one at a time.

Kalella Moore-Lewis said

at 9:43 pm on Jan 29, 2011

Ok thanks.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 7:30 am on Jan 30, 2011

These do not count as references.

Also, please make sure that you include in-text citations. Quite a bit of information has been added, but I don't know where it came from.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 6:48 pm on Jan 31, 2011

Take that back. They count as references, but they need to be formatted correctly. The Priceless Teaching Strategies site is actually pretty good.

ButchAbling said

at 1:28 am on Jan 31, 2011

Feel free to Edit, cut, or modify anything I post. My intentions is for a final product you won't hurt my feelings.

thurstop9745@... said

at 8:29 pm on Feb 1, 2011

Bah-hum-bug! I am trying to embed the video for the smart board but it is not doing it! Help please!

ButchAbling said

at 1:11 am on Feb 2, 2011

Just edit to post the link. I think a Video would be too big for the project.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 8:07 pm on Feb 2, 2011

Click the Help link in the top right corner. In the search box, put in insert YouTube. You might also check out the Discussions Blog page. I think I provided the direct link there.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 8:05 pm on Feb 2, 2011

What about advantages/disadvantages related to classroom management issues?

thurstop9745@... said

at 1:30 pm on Feb 3, 2011

Why aren't they considered as educational games? There are games you can play with the smart board that are educational.

Danielle said

at 2:09 pm on Feb 3, 2011

She's saying SmartBoards aren't actual games, it's hardware. It'd be like listing a computer as an educational game instead of listing the games you can play on a computer.

thurstop9745@... said

at 6:58 pm on Feb 3, 2011

Oh, okay, I understand now...See I know a lot of games that children could play that are educational...but a lot of them I make up because I am teacher and i try to be creative so I wouldn't know how to research them. Does all of the games have to be technology based? and I added the part to the advantages but wasn't finished...my lunch break was ending.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 7:57 am on Feb 4, 2011

Since this course is Educational Technology 271, I would say that this page needs to deal with electronic/digital games.

ButchAbling said

at 12:51 pm on Feb 4, 2011

Final Product is due Sunday all post should be finished by Saturday. Go with the theme of Educational Games and lets put this final draft in order. Good Luck and May the Force Be with Us.

ButchAbling said

at 12:58 pm on Feb 4, 2011

You know what PBworks is missing for collaboration. If 2 people log in at the same time they have no way to communicate unless they do it outside of PBworks. I wonder if I can put a shoutbox in the document? I'll try later.

ButchAbling said

at 1:52 pm on Feb 4, 2011

Looks like the IM cost $20 per person per month in the Business account... :(

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 7:40 am on Feb 5, 2011

I agree that is a drawback with wikis in general. Google Chats is an option or using Google apps. More than one person can edit a Google doc. It also tracks changes, but it doesn't have a notification of changes feature like the wiki.

ButchAbling said

at 8:08 pm on Feb 5, 2011

I figured out how to add a IM service to PBworks but I'm pretty sure it would get us in trouble with the company. :(

ButchAbling said

at 9:54 pm on Feb 5, 2011

Looks good Danielle I say we call it quits after you submit that post. Today's my birthday and I'm taking a break. It's been a pleasure working with you I'll rate you as one of the top 5 people I've worked in online Collaborations. Hats off to you.

Danielle said

at 10:20 pm on Feb 5, 2011

The daughter is asleep and my husband's out for the fight so I'll probably keep working. Go have fun though!

Danielle said

at 10:45 pm on Feb 5, 2011

Okay, I'm done! I think it's good to go. Thanks for all the hard work!

Danielle said

at 1:06 pm on Feb 6, 2011

Butch, I went back and did some of the correction Dr. Geesee pointed out. I left the stuff on areas you worked on because I think you know that material more than me. If you fix I think we'll be done.

ButchAbling said

at 7:00 pm on Feb 6, 2011

Update all I could find. Hope your husband read a book to your daughter for the night. If he didn't tell him I said - "Do 50 push-ups!"

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 7:47 pm on Feb 6, 2011

When you include the authors in the in-text citations, you only include their last names.

ButchAbling said

at 1:39 pm on Feb 9, 2011

I was debating between putting it in the doc. or using the reference to put the pages I used. Sorry I just love references and I love being able to look them up for later use. I'm using some from this class for Active Play class and some from Active Play here. Expecially since both classes focus on Play studies and Phsycologists.

Gayla S. Keesee said

at 6:20 pm on Feb 9, 2011

Butch: You might want to create a Resources page for Educational Games. We might need to include a short annotation for each site...??? I like have a resource page to find additional information also.

Also, we might consider tagging these resources in Delicious with EDU271 educational games. Then we could put the tag feed under resources and others could see what we've tagged. Just a thought.

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