Saturday, July 29, 2017

Game-Based Learning & Bloxels in the Classroom

With technology more readily available than ever before, teachers are turning to game-based learning to engage their students with tech tools. Game-based learning teaches standards and objectives to students through the use of games. “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world” (EdTech Review, 2013). It’s no surprise that many teachers are turning to digital gaming to reinforce concepts in the classroom. “Like novels, films, plays, and other media, games can be high-quality materials a teacher uses to enable students to access the curriculum” (Farber, 2016, para. 2).

Teachers know that many of their students are motivated by video games. For many students, the thrill of fighting off the “bad guys” and making it to the next level is bliss. How can today’s teacher motivate and engage their students in a digital gamified world? Bring the video games into the classroom! “There is a focused movement to reinvent the traditional classroom paradigm and rearrange the entire school experience — a trend that is largely being driven by the influence of innovative learning approaches” (Johnson et al., 2015, p. 38). The power of using technology for game-based learning is not only innovative, but challenges students to apply 21st-century skills; creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

 I recently discovered Bloxels at a local technology conference, IntegratED. I took on the persona of a child and became infatuated with creating pixelated pictures by placing small cubes into a grid. Bloxels is a hands-on way to create your very own video game. Using this Bloxels Gameboard, students are able to create scenery for backgrounds, characters, speech bubbles, levels, and just about any component you can think of that a video game would need. Once your design is created, simply scan it with the Bloxels free app, and voila! You now have a fully functioning video game created by young learners.

Wondering how Bloxels can fit into your curriculum? Bloxels was created with the teacher in mind. Bloxels EDU includes educational blog posts, lesson plans, a teacher’s guide, and ways Bloxels can be applied to the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.

Here are some ideas to motivate your students with 
game-based learning and Bloxels:

Book-Based Video Game
Put a digital 21st-century spin on book reports! Challenge your students to create a video game based on a book. Use the Bloxels Gameboard to recreate the setting and the book’s main character. Add text (white cubes) along the way to share important plot points or book trivia. Students can work in partners or teams to create multiple characters or settings.

Historical Video Game
  Create a video game based on a historical event or person. Use the Bloxels Gameboard to build historical sites and characters. For example, if you’re studying presidents, have your students use the provided cubes to build the character and places that represent important events during the president’s life. Make sure your students add text (white cubes) sharing important facts along the way.

Animal Lifecycle Video Game
   Bloxel characters don’t have to be people! After studying animal life cycles, have your choose an animal to build a video game around. Create multiple characters and scenes, each one representing a different stage in the animal’s life cycle. For example, a frog life cycle video game may include scenes of a pond and land, along with characters that represent tadpoles, pollywogs, and an adult frog.

Thinking about giving game-based learning a try but not convinced it’s worth the effort? Current research shows that game-based learning can have a substantial impact on student learning. A Vanderbilt University study of 1,000 students in seven states found, “Students who played the games outperformed their peers on standardized tests. Additionally, teachers saw dramatic increases in engagement and performance” (Polikov, 2017). So, if you’re struggling to engage your class or help your students retain content, Bloxels and game-based learning may be just what you’re looking for! 
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