I have long believed that spring presents an excellent time for educators to explore new ideas and try some new digital tools in the classroom. As we look to boost student engagement with the content and keep up the momentum through the end of what has not been an easy or typical school year, trying some different ideas or adding some games into our classroom might just be the boost that we are looking for.
About five years ago, I was traveling across the state of Pennsylvania taking students to a student technology showcase. In a short period of time, they were bored, not communicating with one another, and needed something to do. I came up with the idea to play Quizlet Live! on the bus. It did not require a board to project the questions, and students were able to collaborate and build their teamwork skills as they played the game and passed the time on the bus, learning!
There have been other times when I have been out of my classroom and used Quizlet Live! or another one of the game-based learning tools to engage students in a learning activity together and to be able to track their progress. Using these tools has been a great way to engage all students in a learning experience together, regardless of remote, in-person, or hybrid learning.
Throughout the year, whether we have been entirely virtual or hybrid, thanks to these tools, we can play a game, and I can provide meaningful and timely feedback to students. These are also beneficial for asynchronous learning experiences or providing additional enrichment activities for students. These tools can enhance the ways that students collaborate and communicate while also helping them build essential SEL skills.
Read more: Adopting the asynchronous mindset for better online learning
5 Awesome online tools for game-based learning
As we have used these tools a bit more, I've noticed that students engage more with the content, and feel connected to one another, even if not in the same physical or virtual classroom space. Through the feedback they receive after playing a game or completing an activity, they can better track their progress and set new learning goals.
The use of different digital tools for game-based learning also enables students to become more self-aware of their specific needs through the feedback they receive. Educators can quickly access and review the data and adjust lessons accordingly and in more personalized ways.
Here are five tools to explore before the end of the year:
Bingo Baker is a quick way to create or find bingo cards for use in class or virtually. It has thousands of cards available to choose from, or you can quickly create your own with images or words. To play, cards can be printed, or you simply share a link with students that will generate their own card on their device. During the game, the “caller’s card” is created to help with playing the game. Students can generate new digital cards after each game. It is a fun option for students in the class and students at home.
Blooket is a new game that we started to play this past year, and it has been a favorite of my students. There are multiple modes to play, whether as a live game, or for student-paced or homework practice. Students stay engaged because of the different playing modes to choose from. In Gold Quest, students can swap gold, and at varying points of the game, their items are randomly reduced by a percentage. While some students get a bit frustrated at this sometimes, it definitely helps to keep them all engaged in the game because there is no way to tell who will end up on the leaderboard. It promotes conversation between them, and it's a great way to have students practice the content they are learning.
Read more: Why students love a game-based learning experience
Educandy is a fun website that I came across last year, and that has been a fun experience for students and educators. Educandy offers eight options for creating activities to help students develop vocabulary skills and more. Some of the options include anagrams, multiple-choice questions, word searches, and several other game options. Getting started with a few example games is a good way to experience what Educandy offers before making your own. Simply share the game code with students to have them play a game at their own pace.
Gimkit is one of many game-based learning tools that has been a favorite to play with my students each year. As with other similar tools, it allows them to have more personalized learning experiences because it promotes increased content retention through the repetitive questions that are asked and multiple ways it can be played in or out of the classroom. A new feature is Gimkit Draw, where students choose a word to draw, and classmates have to guess it as it appears on their screen. There are many modes to play in Gimkit, and educators have access to great data to guide instruction.
Puzz Grid is a newer game that I found that was fun to try and also fun for students to create their own. To promote collaboration, try using breakout rooms and have students work together to create their own PuzzGrid game. It is kind of like “connect four” and helps students to practice the vocabulary and collaborate! I had students use my email address to send the grid to me so that we always had access to the link to be edited if needed. The game offered a more engaging way for practice that pushes students to not only think about what the words mean but to think more closely about their connection.
Read more: Practical examples of using edtech to successfully teach vocabulary
All in all
These are just a few of the many possibilities available for providing our students with engaging ways to practice the content that they are learning. Having some extra tools in our teacher toolkit is helpful, especially as we continue to navigate challenges of hybrid or virtual learning and seek new ideas to keep students connected and engaged in learning through to the end of this school year.