Games in Education

Using games for educational purposes is a controversial issue among educators and parents.  However, many educational researchers and game designers agree that new technology tools must be created to meet today's students' needs.   This page answers the three "big questions" for this project:

1. What are the educational opportunities and challenges to using games in education?

There are a myriad of facets to educational gaming, some of which are positive and others that present challenges to using games in the classroom. Educational games allows students to connect with their peers in new ways. They increases technical and media literacy, as well as collaboration skills. They provide an entertaining way to take in information that is interactive and not static and one-sided. There are, of course, challenges to using this new medium in the classroom. Many teachers and schools simply do not have the resources to be able to use technology efficiently in a classroom setting. Teachers must know how to play the games themselves in order to teach students how to do so. Teachers must also prepare effective ways of integrating the games into their regular lesson plans smoothly and efficiently, while knowing how to supplement gaming with educational lectures and activities that will enhance what has been learned. Many teachers and parents are concerned about the level of violence in video games, and if that will come into play when it comes to educational games being played at school. Finally, there is the issue of if learning that occurs during educational gaming is effective and sticks with the students as they go through other aspects of their schooling.

According to research, educational gaming endorses student-centered learning.  It brings together educational content, learning principles, and computer games
1, while meeting the needs of students who constantly interact with electronics by “speaking their own language with their tools.”2   Furthermore, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), games promote active learning, learning by doing, and learner-centered learning, all of which “compel the student to become part of the learning process–not just the object of lectures or reading materials." This focus on engaging the student in the learning process was professed by both Ohler and the FAS to be central to educational gaming and DST. FAS’s website has been useful for providing justification for the use of games in education.  The site’s endorsement by a national-level research group provides this information with credibility that teachers could use to support their work.  We are increasingly seeing that teachers who seek to use best practices in their classroom must embrace new techniques.

2. How do these problems relate to activities across different areas of life – not only in formal educational institutions per se, but also in informal contexts and activities of learning?

71% of all 8- to 18- year olds have a TV in their bedroom. 50% have a video game player as well. They spend 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media on a typical day (more than 53 hours a week)4. Games are created with natural learning in mind - they draw the player in, making them an active agent in the story of the game. Skills are learned on-the-go and progress as the game progresses. Players rehearse and practice over and over, they engage in communities together where they talk about how to pass certain levels or what TV shows they're watching. They chat while they play or watch. Everything about the well-researched and well-marketed world of video and game technology takes advantage of this curiosity, hands-on, intrinsically motivated type of participation that is so conducive to natural learning. Thus children do much of their learning in these informal, and often unsupervised, areas of life.

Also, there seems to be a relatability gap in reference to who can actually identify with these games. Most video games are made with the audience of males in mind, which makes the ideas of video games unappealing to other groups. Not only does it exclude genders, but it is also more difficult to plan for those of special needs. This might create the problem of others feeling left out, or rather not interested in the game itself, which is always a problem for developer. Another area that is effected is health. With all of the hours that are already spent in front of a television or computer, many may feel that suggesting to spend more time is perhaps not the best way to go. Video games seems to have a correlation between the increase in obesity and type two diabetes. Even though the children would most likely be spending a short amount of time in front of the computer, it is still time added on top of the 7 hours and 38 minutes of entertainment media being used on a typical day.

Schools need to leverage these tools for learning and model the way mass media has appealed to its public. Public education needs to embrace and use these tech-infused models of teaching, including games for learning, and actively use them in schools. Students who participate in positive, supervised media interaction will be better equipped for learning when their informal lives are filled with similar media.

3. Where do we think these technological and social trends are taking the field of education?

More and more educational gaming websites offer a wide variety of free resources intended to bring educators into the world of teaching with technology. They provide access to valuable and useful information relative to current and best practices in the field of education. A large variety of free classroom materials and support tools are also available. Educational games are designed to support K-12 schools to implement programs integrating technology in teaching. Educational games for kids are developed in the following categories: Math Facts, Math Games, Language Arts, Science Songs, Animal and Nature Games, Word Games, Art and Music Games, Logic Games, Memory Games, Hang-Eye Coordination Games, Preschool Games, Keyboarding Games and Geography Games.

As the field of education slowly catches on to the needs of new learners who are immersed in media technology from their infancy, we expect to see educational games, simulations, and web-based tools move to the forefront of education. The standards of K-12 education have included technology skills for several years, and schools are slowly learning how to incorporate these basic skills which are so applicable to real-life into every day education. Students who use computers, games, and simulations consistently in their education will be better equipped for professional life in the 21st century. Standards currently demanding technology savviness include the ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) standards for student, teacher, and administrator technology integration6, the United State's national education reform plan, NCLB (No Child Left Behind)7, and the drafts of the proposed Common Core Standards8. As core standards continue to recognize the need for tech competency and literacy, schools will continue to seek ways to integrate these basic skills into their curriculum. Games and simulations, because they are so kid-friendly and intuitive to use, will be natural resources as education forges the paths of technology use.

1.  Prensky, M.  (2001).  Digital game-based learning.  New York: McGraw Hill.

2.  (2011).  Retrieved July 31, 2011, from 

3.  Federation of American Scientists.  (2011).  Why Games?  Retrieved on July 31, 2011, from

4. Caine, Renate M. & Geoffrey. (2011). Natural Learning for a Connected World: Education, Technology, and the Human Brain. New York: Teachers College Press.

5. The Online Teacher Resource. (1999-2010). Retrieved on July 30, 2011 from

6. ISTE NETS Standards. (2011). Retrieved on August 5, 2011, from  from

7. Part D - Enhancing Education Through Technology. (2004). Retrieved on August 5, 2011, from

8. Common Core Standards Initiative. (2011). Retrieved on August 5, 2011, from from