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Considering the Customer: Board vs. Digital Games for Teaching

By Kelly Smith - Jun 30, 2014

The value of games in education lies in a set of features that make games a truly powerful means of instruction. From helping to understand new concepts and ideas to providing a context for the practice of knowledge, games offer multiple ways to engage students. And whether it’s math skills or foreign language vocabulary, this kind of engagement is a crucial factor in knowledge retention.

There is a wide variety of educational games available on the market, so teachers’ choices must be careful and well informed

. We’ve explored and contrasted two kinds of games – board and video – pointing out their benefits in the learning process, the ease of their application in the classroom, as well as their advantages or potential drawbacks that teachers should take into account before employing one of these gaming styles in their curriculum.

Board Games

Board games are great in engaging students – by offering a playful, yet competitive environment, they help to focus on content and reinforce the learning experience. The board itself is a practical method for visualizing information.

By playing, pupils can organize the data they have learned into conceptual frameworks, rendering it more concrete. Some board games also require pupils to play in teams, fostering collaboration and problem-solving skills.

Classroom Use

Board games can be easily incorporated into the curriculum. Chances are that the majority of students are already familiar with the board game interface and can easily adapt their gaming skills to a learning context.

Advantages & Drawbacks

The greatest advantage of board games is their low cost – teachers won’t need any specialized equipment and can purchase just one game set to be used by everyone. Apart from using board games as a filler for downtime, teachers can request that students create board games themselves – check this guide for some creative ideas.

The only risk in the classroom use of board games lies in organization. Before introducing a board game, teachers need to plan the activity very well in order to guard themselves against potential chaos.

Video Games

Learning Benefits

Video games attract everyone’s attention and can be used in multiple ways: researching, measuring performance, developing IT skills, simulating real-life or imaginary situations, as well as training a wide variety of competencies.

All are highly interactive – a feature that naturally stimulates learning. As shown by a recent study, video games can also enhance students’ motivation to learn. Playing video games trains various skills, from strategic planning and critical thinking to social and collaborative skills. They also foster creativity, promote relaxation and can combat anxiety.

Classroom Use

Video games are a novel kind of classroom experience and the curriculum may need to be redesigned to incorporate them properly. Pupils will need to be equipped with tablets or PCs, which are often sources of great distractions, so teachers should remember to make the objective of the game clear to everyone.

Advantages & Drawbacks

Biggest drawback? It goes without saying – cost. Video games require electronic equipment, which needs to be purchased prior to incorporating them into the curriculum.

Mature teachers might benefit from additional training in order to become tech-savvy enough to manage the gaming experience without any hitches. Technical problems will also require the assistance of a technician, and generate additional costs.

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource.