Digital games are being used more often to teach students. An impressive 74% of K-8 teachers were using digital games in their classrooms. That number is astounding! However, another interesting tidbit reported by a study conducted by Joan Ganz Cooney Center indicated over 80% of teachers play games in their free time. Jordan Shapiro, gaming author, categories four different gamer-teacher profiles and identifies their potential classroom integration habits.
posted by: Ryan Schaaf
Games are being used much more widely in schools than they were when I first started writing about them 2 or 3 years ago. As of fall 2013, 74% of K-8 teachers were using digital games. 55% of these teachers have students playing digital games at least weekly, 9% daily. The games they are using are mostly designed to be educational, with only 5% playing commercial games, and 8% playing hybrids (commercial games adapted for education like MincraftEDU orSimCityEdu).
These insights come from Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop, who recently released a study surveying K-8 teachers in order to understand how they are implementing digital games in their classrooms.
It seems the majority of teachers (82%) play games in their own free time and that there is a relationship between personal game play and in class game use.
Here are four different gamer-teacher profiles that the study identifies.
The Dabblers (20%):
Dabblers “play digital games less often than their peers” and “report relatively low levels of comfort when using digital games with their students.” This doesn’t seem surprising. One must be well acquainted with the skills one’s trying to teach. In the Guide to Games and Learning that I wrote for MindshiftKQED, I explain how important it is for teachers to play the games they are using to teach. Just dabbling won’t lead to success.
Dabblers report facing “moderate barriers” to implementation and “moderate levels of support from parents, administrators, and fellow teachers.” But I’m curious what they mean by support. Because they also report low access to professional development resources and the best kind of support that schools can offer is training and resources. Certainly Dabblers understand this, they have 15.9 years of classroom experience on average.
Interestingly, although they don’t necessarily have high confidence in the efficacy of games, Dabblers are more likely than the others “to indicate positive or no changes” rather than “negative changes” in student behavior and classroom engagement. Perhaps they are using games so rarely that they seem innocuous, just another moment in a much busier day.
The Players (23%):
Players are “avid gamers, but teach with digital games the least often of the four profiles–just a few times a month.” At first, I assumed this group must be fanboy gamers who wanted to preserve the purity of games as entertainment–that once you add educational content it is no longer a game, but suddenly work. I was wrong.
It turns out the Players “demonstrate concerted efforts” to implement digital game based teaching methods, but they report many barriers and “the lowest level of support from parents, administrators, and fellow teachers.” Perhaps these are folks who grew up playing Mortal Kombat under the early video game stigma. Maybe they’ve internalized some level of paranoia about external authorities’ perceptions of gaming in general. I’m just guessing.
The Players are the “most likely group to say that games haven’t changed student behavior or content delivery.” And on average, they’ve spent 14.5 years teaching (the national average for K-8 teachers).
The Barrier Busters (22%):
“Digital games are a common pastime” for this group. Barrier Busters use games with their students regularly–at least weekly. They “express high levels of comfort employing them in instruction.” But these Barrier Busters “face a high number of barriers.” Still, they take advantage of more professional development opportunities than the others. They use the largest variety of games/devices, and they use them both for content delivery and assessment.
I imagine these to be the rebels, the revolutionaries. These are the new rule-breakers. Gone is the old stereotype of the hippy English teacher, standing on desks and suggesting that students choose their own grades. The new cool progressive teacher found him or herself during the Silicon Valley boom. These teachers are entrepreneurial disruptors, not tie-dyed liberal activists. The Barrier Busters are motivated by innovation and the idea of overcoming barriers while taking the initiative to seek out opportunities for self improvement.
They have been teaching, on average, for 13.6 years and are “more likely than other groups to notice changes in student conflict after introducing games–for better and for worse.” It seems likely, however, that the more one implements games, the more changes one will see.
The Naturals (34%):
Naturals play games often and teach with them often–at least weekly. This group seems to take games for granted. It is not an innovation, just another teaching tool among many. Maybe they’ve already stepped into the future and integrated games, as fully as the chalkboard, into their image of what it means to teach.
Naturals “uses games to deliver core content more often than supplemental content.” Games are not a special side activity they sometimes use, but a central part of their teaching repertoire. Naturals report “the fewest barriers and the highest levels of support from the school community,” which may speak more to their perceptions than it does to the actual school circumstances.
Not surprisingly, Naturals have been teaching less than the other groups, only 12.3 years, on average. And their perception is that games just work. More than the other groups, they see the efficacy of game-based learning “in improving student knowledge, skills, and motivation.”
The full study, with great insights about how digital games are being used in the classroom is available here.
Jordan Shapiro is author of FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss, and MindShift’s Guide To Games And Learning For information on Jordan’s upcoming books and events click here.