Engaged and motivated students

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Engaged and motivated students = Positive school environment for all

With students now facing rigorous testing processes, it is useful for learners to establish a structured revision routine as this will prove infinitely valuable within their educational career. Not only will instilling a positive attitude to learning benefit students but it will prove advantageous to head teachers and other teaching staff. Engaged learners have the potential to constructively impact on the school in many ways; including improving performance and attendance, which in turn could positively affect exam grades, league tables and consequently enhance the school’s status.

To ensure this is achieved, schools have the responsibility to source new solutions for maximising the level of student engagement.

Here, Steve Fuller, an assistant head teacher from St. Wilfrid’s Church of England High School and Technology College, a school and sixth form college based in Blackburn, discusses the value games-based learning can provide. Steve also offers his top tips for schools considering introducing games into lessons, to ensure smooth implementation and thus maximising its benefits.

Computer Games, Schools and Young People, a report recently conducted by Futurelab, recently disclosed that the inclusion of games within education should be viewed positively and accepted as a valuable resource. As revealed, 35 per cent of teachers already utilise games-based learning, whilst 60 per cent of those surveyed are considering bringing this style of learning into the classroom. But whilst many teachers are open to this learning technique, there are those who may feel that games do not have a place within their classroom and that they are appropriate only for entertainment during free time.

To consider games-based learning as only belonging to leisure time is short-sighted in a modern day learning environment; instead head teachers and teachers should embrace gaming and accept the power of this medium. For disengaged learners who possibly have a negative perception of learning, schools should particularly utilise gaming and use it to communicate with students educationally.

Games + Education = Positive learning

I first came across games-based learning in 2008 after seeing a resource called i am learning being demoed. I was impressed and immediately saw its value and potential in appealing to students and consequently decided to implement it in school. We had previously been using another revision system but the students were not motivated to use it independently meaning teaching staff had to coax learners into using it and it started to have little meaning or impact upon the school. Essentially, instead of teachers dedicating time to teaching, time would be spent encouraging learners to use the old resource.

An effective games-based learning package should truly appeal to young people, meaning they want to access it regularly and don’t always recognise the depth of learning they are doing as they progress. As a head teacher and decision-maker, question yourself when sourcing a games-based resource; would students use this out of school? Is its educational and engaging value equal?

1. Talk to learners in a language they understand

Many learners have a negative attitude towards homework; therefore combining learning with games and providing a medium with which they are familiar and comfortable means the likelihood of them wanting to study increases. Children of today are immersed in a predominantly digital society; playing on their PSP or Wii is how much of their free time is spent and therefore games-based learning is a brilliantly motivating and innovative educational solution.

Games-based learning rejects the concept that learning has to be dull and tedious, and students voluntarily choose to study. Here at St. Wilfrid’s, our students frequently use our resource, and as they can do so as and when they wish, it is extremely effective. Though students dedicate a greater quantity of time to playing the games, it is time well spent because they are actually improving their knowledge. We can see a wealth of information about the students’ progress and also see the number of times they are logging on to revise during their free time - the results have proven phenomenal. Most encouraging of all is that cross-curricular attainment levels have improved.

2. Focused and personalised education with games-based learning

Focused revision and learning can be achieved more effectively with games based learning since learners can focus their studies on a particular curriculum area, depending on where their main weakness lies. With ease students can quickly access a specific subject and commence with their revision at a convenient time. Another positive aspect is that with a good games-based resource, education does not take on the style of parrot learning. Rather than simply establishing the right and wrong answers to a series of questions, a subject can be grasped in depth, enabling meaningful investment of time.

Constantly changing the type and focus of the questions students are asked means they can become confident in a curriculum area, as opposed to just establishing answers to a range of questions. Due to students being able to access a number of resources via various devices such as their mobile phones, it really provides a personalised and convenient solution for reluctant learners.

3. Engaging the disengaged

Accessible for the majority of learning abilities, games-based learning is capable of appealing to and engaging the disengaged. Those unmotivated by traditional learning methods may find games-based learning less daunting which, in turn, builds their confidence and supports them. As a head teacher, you need to be dynamic in the routes you offer and with something such as games-based learning, even the most reluctant of learners can be educated. I have seen students who are typically switched off become excited about a subject and genuinely want to improve their knowledge.

4. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail

If your school is considering implementing games-based learning, it is advisable to ensure that prior to its integration teachers are fully prepped. With the introduction of a new technology, learners may be extremely inquisitive, and since many young people already possess a strong technological understanding due to regularly using ICT, they are likely to quickly get to grips with how it works. In addition, teaching staff should be on-hand and ready with responses for those learners who are less confident with ICT. A technophobic and ICT-intimidated teacher is not encouraging for learners.

Furthermore, if students are presented with a genuinely involved and interested teacher, this proves motivating. With a number of games-based learning resources allowing the teacher to create personalised questions for students to answer this enables teachers to take control and become involved.

5. Enjoyment and learning go hand-in-hand

If the education delivered by a teacher involves games, and learners are therefore able to take enjoyment from their learning experience, this does not mean it is unproductive. With most games-based revision and assessment tools, such as i am learning, students cannot continue to progress through the levels of games until correct answers have been provided. This presents an incentive to learners to study and improve their knowledge, as in turn they will be rewarded with new gaming challenges. 

6. Adequate ICT facilities required to reap full benefits

The school needs to be sufficiently facilitated in terms of ICT hardware to ensure that online gaming can be successfully implemented. I witnessed a very successful science lesson in which students were able to access their own area of the resource for revision using a laptop and this was a positive way to maintain student attention and inject fun into the classroom.

If your school does not have access to the necessary hardware then the incorporation of games-based learning will prove futile so I would advise head teachers to consider this aspect.

Games-based education; modernising the classroom

Most importantly educationalists must consider and keep abreast of the rise in games-based revision and learning techniques and the role this has. Technology plays as increasingly prominent role within 21st century learning and it is becoming more apparent that gaming is here to stay. Rather than being fearful of it, I would advise teachers to embrace technology and accept its value in assisting all teaching staff; from the head teacher, to the teachers, through to support staff.

Learning and education should develop and modernise to reflect changes in society. As children’s ICT proficiency develops quickly, it is the school’s duty to deliver updated and appealing learning resources. If students actually want to use an educational tool, this can improve learning outcomes, offering an enriched and enjoyable, yet hugely effective learning path.

St. Wilfrid’s Church of England High School and Technology College uses games based revision resource, i am learning.
For more information visit www .iamlearning.co.uk

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