A new survey has offered data about the importance of using digital games in the classroom and how those games can transform the world of education.
Conducted in 2013, the Games and Learning Publishing Council surveyed 694 K-8 teachers, looking at their use of games within the classroom. Researchers asked questions to discover how they used these digital games, if at all. The findings were publicized in the report Level Up Learning: A National Survey on Teaching with Digital Games.
According to the findings, 74% of the teachers surveyed reported using digital games as a means of instruction. Of those teachers, 80% say their students play games at least once a month, and 55% say games are used on a weekly basis in their classrooms. Teachers report using the games for a multitude of reasons, including delivering local curriculum (43%), state/national curriculum (41%), and assessing students on supplemental (33%) and core knowledge (29%).
The study did not find gender playing a role in who is more likely to use games in the classroom. However, younger teachers, teachers at low-income schools, and those teachers who play digital games on their own were more likely to report using games in their classrooms.
Moreover, those teachers who used games more often in their classrooms were also more likely to report larger improvements in their students’ core and supplemental skills.
Of the teachers who report using games with their students, four out of five of them primarily use educational games, compared to just 5% who use commercial games. Only 8% report using a hybrid game that is entertaining but has an educational purpose.
Most teachers report using short games that can be successfully completed within a single class, instead of immersive games that require more time but offer students the ability to deeply explore and participate. Report authors suggest this may be due to time constraints, or ease of application to curriculum standards.
Those teachers who did not report using games in their classrooms were more likely to say they were “not sure how to integrate games” into the curriculum. Game-using teachers appear to agree, with 80% saying they wish it was easier to integrate games, and only 39% were happy with the amount of educational games available.
However, because teachers are learning to use these games from other teachers, they may be missing out on the range of educational games available for classroom use.
While 71% of the teachers surveyed reported games being beneficial for improving their students’ math skills, only 42% state the same for science skills, despite current research that suggests digital games help boost skills in that area.
The authors of the report suggest creating an industry-wide framework for digital games to allow teachers to gain a better understanding of which games are best for their students’ individual needs. Teachers need to also become aware of the alternative methods at their disposal for integrating game play into their classroom routine, such as to assign game play for homework and then using class time to discuss the game.
The authors also suggest offering more training for teachers in the use of digital games so that they can maximize their benefits for their students and that training resources should be made available online.