How I Taught Myself to Make Video Games
How to Make Learning a Game
There are countless online games that are designed to teach people of all ages just about anything there is to learn. There are also plenty of ways to go about designing a new, custom computer-based game. Meanwhile, there are a handful of tricks to use in the classroom to make everyday learning feel more like a game.
Using Free Online Learning Games
Play free online games.There are countless websites that allow you to play free games to help learn math, vocabulary, and more. Many of these are geared towards young children, though some will explain medical practice techniques or advanced business principles too.
- For young people, check out the PBS kids website, and explore Funbrain for a plethora of games aimed at K-8th grade students.
- More specific skill-training or cause-oriented games exist too. For instance, ElectroCity can teach anyone about energy use, sustainability, and the environment, while Fat World explores addressed “food politics” and helps players learn about the importance of nutrition and dietary behavior. Finally, HumanSim provides interactive simulations of advanced healthcare practices.
- In short, whatever you’re looking to learn, there’s almost certainly a free game available online to help you learn it!
Explore MIT’s Education Arcade.MIT has developed a series of games to assist grade-school through high-school level learning on STEM topics. It includes lessons on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics that fit into modern education curriculum. Specific games can be played on computers or phones, within the classroom or on student’s own time.
- To play most games, you’ll need to choose a username (which may be public) and a password, and have access to an email account to confirm your registration. If you’re under 18, get your parent’s approval before registering.
Play The Radix Endeavor.Part of the Education Arcade, this is an extremely immersive role-playing game, with similarities to some of the most popular massive multiplayer online games in the world. The first time you visit the Radix website, register as either a teacher or player and follow the prompts.
- The Radix Endeavor is designed to benefit middle and high school students in particular, and exposes players to concepts such as geometry and genetics. Progressing through the game requires players to figure out how to breed different cattle so the offspring have certain traits, or to measure and position different lengths of fence.
- The game starts slow, as you have to explore an environment and learn about new tasks you must accomplish to progress. Once you build your character and begin accomplishing tasks, learning opportunities abound.
- Teachers can assign specific tasks to individuals or teams, and can track player's progress.
Start to learn a new language with Duolingo.Download the Duolingo app on your phone or go on the and create a profile to begin learning one of the growing number of languages available there, including Spanish, English, and Klingon. Duolingo has courses designed for classroom use as well.
- Duolingo is completely free for personal use, as well as for teachers. Teachers have the ability to use the program to assign students work and track their progress.
- After registering, choose the language you wish to learn and the amount of time you want to spend learning each day. The app will remind you to complete lessons each day.
- Duolingo will track your level of fluency. Be aware that Duolingo’s “fluency” rating - nor even the content of its lessons - should be considered 100% accurate. Still, it’s a great way to start learning a new language.
- Duolingo's website and app can help you memorize vocabulary as well as memorize anything you want through a flashcard-like interface.
Creating Your Own Learning Games
Use pre-made or custom flashcards.If you’re wondering how to make studying whatever it is you’re trying to learn a bit more fun, flashcards are a great place to start. While there’s a good chance you may be able to find a deck of flashcards for what you’re studying online, there are also many programs that will help you create your own custom cards to help memorize information of any type.
- The phone and computer-based app Tinycards, for example, offers both options. The app is entirely free, and offers pre-built decks to help you learn languages, geography, history, medical terminology, and more. You can also use Tinycards to build your own deck of flashcards.
- Cram, Anki, and Mem-note are great programs as well. All are free, but require registration to use, save, and track your decks and learning progress.
Take MIT’s free, online game-building course.There are plenty of websites that will teach you how to build a basic game to help learn basic concepts. Of course, many of these types of games are already freely available online! MIT, on the other hand, hosts a free, nine-week online course on building educational games.
- Enroll in the course and spend 6-10 hours a week completing coursework and projects that will teach you to create in-depth, effective learning games.
- Visit the edX website to register and begin the course, called Design and Development of Games for Learning, for free.
- As with many edX courses, you have the option to pay for a Verified Certificate upon completion. While taking the class is free, the cost for this certification is .
Include elements that will make your game effective.If you’ve set out to build an online game of your own, know what you can include to make your game both fun and effective. Foremost, get the action going as soon as possible. For example, don’t make players read through a how-to section, let the initial action show them how to play.
- Further, up the stakes with a bit of risk. If they have something to lose (such as a “life”) players will pay better attention and stay more engaged with a game.
- Include some sort of progress indicator, such as traveling across a map or collecting “coins.”
Tie in some emotion.Even a predictable narrative will tug at many players’ heartstrings. For instance, have the player "help" a princess rescuing a prince from a pack of rabid llamas by progressing through increasingly challenging educational tasks.
- In turn, a subconscious emotional attachment to the narrative increases the likelihood of remembering the associated educational content that players are working through.
Encourage children to enjoy learning.One of the best ways to do this is by talking to them about what they're interested in. More specifically, ask questions to increase their curiosity about the things you experience and discover together.
- For instance, if you are outside together and you see a bug, ask them something like, "How do you think this bug was born?" Similarly, if a child conveys an interest in trains, ask, "Do you know how trains are powered?" You'll probably wind up learning a bit yourself.
- Further, make a point of reading to young children. Not only will this expand their imaginations, it will also improve vocabulary and language comprehension, and will increase their interest in reading.
Making Classroom Learning More Game-Like
Encourage everyone to participate in the lesson plan.Spend a day where the class (or other type of learning group) talks about what types of lessons they learn the most from. Assign the group the collective task of designing the next session’s collaborative lesson.
Offer second chances.If you’re leading a class or other learning session and a participant offers an incorrect answer, ask them to try again. Say something like, “Was there another possibility you were considering?”
- Second (and third) chances encourages participation, confidence, and learning by reducing pressure in learning environments.
- If someone gets stuck, say something like, “How does everyone else feel about that?”
- As either a teacher or a student, remind yourself and others that mistakes are simply a part of learning something new.
Separate a class into teams.Instilling a sense of teamwork in a learning environment not only makes learning more fun, it encourages participation and collaboration. For instance, you can easily set up a jeopardy-like scenario in which teams you ask a question and allow teams a few minutes to talk about the answer.
- Even better, have teams ask each other questions about course content and encourage them to try to ask challenging questions.
Make class progress visible.Have the class determine how they want to track their progress through a section of the course. Offer ideas, such as suspending a bunch of plain spheres from the ceiling and decorating them one at a time, as the class learns about planets one at a time.
- Another easy, fun option is a some type of progress bar. For instance, make a thermometer that slowly “heats up” by installing a clear, vertical tube that students can slowly fill is crumpled red paper as they complete chemistry assignments.
Provide incentives for individual participation.People are often motivated to participate or complete a task when there is a reward for doing so. It can equally effective to provide incentives just for doing something, as opposed to doing it correctly.
- For instance, everyone that participates verbally over the course of a class session gets to add a marble to a jar with their name on it. You can give out extra marbles to those who help work through especially tough problems cooperatively.
- Come up with an award to give in exchange for the marbles at the end of the term, or use them to determine participation points.
Video: Create Educational Games and Quizzes for the Classroom
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