The Games Students Play

Part 1: The Benefits

Game: from Old English gamenian “to play, jest, joke.”

We often assign the idea of incorporating play into an educational setting as something reserved for little kids but line up 100 adult students and ask the question “who would like to bring game play into our classroom settings?” and I guarantee that few if any would keep their hands down.

As poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman has said, “play is our brain’s favourite way of learning.”

For most of us this is true.

But does incorporating games as a part of a teaching strategy hold any benefits beyond a bit of fun? Play and learning are not diametrically opposed to each other. They are in fact one sexy couple!

Here are 7 reasons for a Trainer to incorporate games into lessons.

1. Utilise and Control Competitiveness

It’s not like we don’t already live in a competitive world. Competition is everywhere whether that’s finding work, bidding on a house, looking for that rare, limited bargain… Sheltering ourselves from competition can do more harm than good as eventually, we’ll be handed a loss whether we were actively competing or not. Dealing with competition in a healthy way can help us become more resilient after a loss and more gracious after a win.

When a person is scared of losing to a point of feeling locked up in body and brain, that person will usually avoid taking any risks, embracing challenges, and seeking new experiences.

Michael Jordan said it well when he said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life-and that is why I succeed.”

No trainer should encourage full-blown ‘Lord of the Flies’ or purge mentality competition of course but healthy competition that usually involves team support is ideal. What students in team comps are aiming for is less about working against other teams, (where sabotage, dirty tricks, verbal attacks etc. might rise,) but more about working in a collaborative way with their teammates.

Team support during games can transfer to support in other learning activities.
A good spirit of competition can help a student to outperform themselves.

2. Enhance the Enjoyability of Learning

Learning can be tough, at times boring, and sometimes frustrating, but if those negatives can be outbalanced with enjoyable activities, education can be fun.

Games promote positivity and a positive attitude towards learning enhances a student’s ability to retain subject matter.

3. Minimise Stress

Learning new concepts can be stressful. Stress is a killer. Literally a killer. It is the source of so many of our ailments. Why wouldn’t a Teacher/Trainer want to create a less-stressed environment. Games can help to do that. Games with challenging aspects prompt a positive type of stress called eustress to come into play. Eustress is the stress that excites us about taking on a challenge.

I believe that we will rarely if ever witness a student’s true potential if they are chronically stressed. Minimise their stress and watch them level up!

4. Improve Strategic Thinking

As most games require strategic thinking, including problem-solving and planning, applying a range of challenges within a game can help students to use their working memory and improve their thinking power.

5. Improve Memory

There are a lot of games that help to improve memory and considering the vital role that memory plays in a student’s learning I’d say using content specific games in a learning environment can be a huge brain booster.

Games made by the students can be particularly effective at improving memory. Students can improve their learning potential as they receive instruction, research and create necessary components of the game construction, teach the game and then share the game. As author Mitchel Resnick said, “As I see it, whoever’s doing the inventing is also doing most of the learning – and probably having most of the fun.”

6. Improve Attentiveness

How easy is it for the mind to stray during a classroom lesson? Super easy is the answer. By playing a game a student can find it easier to pay attention.

The attentiveness that is developed during gameplay can transfer to other tasks.

7. Expand Knowledge

Games can help a student to more easily engage with new knowledge which naturally helps expand their minds on the whole. Games can also help lock in and consolidate new knowledge when played after a lesson as a recall activity.

One last quote. I doubt you’ll disagree with it.

“When you have fun then you’re more interested in learning.”

Magnus Carlsen

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