Kinds of Educational Computer Games

Posted by Greten on 04 Jan 2012 under Thoughts

One of the earliest and popular contribution of computer technology to education is the use of educational computer games. I'm not certain when the use of computer games in education started since computers has been around for decades but only with increasing sophistication. Some people have probably already thought of using computers in education but just as computers themselves, its use in education was not that widespread back then.

Educational computer games, just like any computer games, used to be a domain of professional programmers. However, with the advent of web-based technologies such as Javascript and Flash, the development of games became easier. This has allowed teachers who have minimal programming knowledge to create games and interactive learning modules to aid in their lessons.

The web has allowed the students to access these games online to review and to practice the concepts that was thought earlier in class. Sometimes, someone who is not a student of the teacher can still play these games either enjoy it, improve their skills, get motivated to improve further, or all of these three at once. In a way, the teacher-programmer can help a student without being physically present and even without them knowing.

Most of the educational computer games that can be found in the internet can be classified as follows:

1. Guided Practices

The objective of this kind of game is to actually teach the students by guiding them in doing specific tasks that will either allow them to learn new concepts, processes or techniques, or reinforce what the teacher (or the related multimedia or interactive module) already taught. Games that fall under this are characterized by unlimited trials, either allowing you to commit unlimited mistakes or allowing you to try the game again without having to go back to the main menu.

educational-computer-gamesThis game may not be a part of an interactive learning module. If it is part of a learning module, it is likely to be found once or twice, superceded within the lesson and between the subtopics.


2. Banana Pill Exercises

I called it as such because it can be comparable to that old technique of making kids drink medicine that they don't like by putting it inside a fruit or if syrup, mixing it with milk, chocolate or juice. The key in making a banana pill exercise is to make it look more like a game than an exercise, while at the same time, putting the players/students into a situation wherein they will be practicing whatever you would like them to gain mastery. Of course, it is impossible to hide that the purpose of the game is to practice the students in a particular technique in math, science or any other subjects. However, if the students are enjoying it as a computer game, then it serves its purpose.

Most of the educational games that fall under banana pill exercise are not concerned with scores. If there is a scoring system, it is not usually in the form of correct-answers-over-total-items. There are also items that tend to repeat but that's alright as long as it helps to hook-up and practice the student.


3. Graphical Quizzes

These games have more in common with the traditional quizzes but can still be classified as a game. It has definite scoring system that measures the student's knowledge or aptitude. The game, as its name imply, is simply a graphical upgrade of the traditional quizzes such as multiple choice, matching type, etc. For example, instead of saying "Encircle the letter of the correct answer", the instruction will say "Aim your lasers and shoot the asteroid with the correct answer."

Depending on its content, the teacher can actually use this games as substitute to traditional quizzes, as long as it is done inside the classroom or computer laboratory. It can also be programmed as part of a learning management system that automatically notifies the teacher of the score obtained by the students.


Note however that not all educational games you can find will fall under these three. You might be able to find games that can be considered as falling under two or under all three of these classifications. You might also encounter games that fall totally outside this classifation scheme. Either that game is an innovation in the field of educational computer gaming (which is a good thing) or the programmer/teacher is trying something and isn't entirely sure of his/her objectives in developing such a different kind of game (still a good thing I suppose, as it allows teachers to learn from mistake).

It would definitely great for teachers to learn how to program their own games, but if they cannot, they could just surf the net and look for the games that suits the needs of their students. Many of these games are free to use. The could either download the games (if feasible) or ask their students to visit the site. You can use these games in the classroom or as take-home exercise for your students. However, you need to be careful if you intend to put these games in your own website or burning them in CDs for use of several teachers in several classes. In such case, you are likely required to ask permission from the owner or copyright holder of the game.

Last updated on 09 Dec 2018.

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Instructional design and educational technology for effective learning