The ability to make education fun is the hallmark of a great educator. Teaching is a critical skill, but getting your students interested in the first place is another struggle altogether. Enter Matthew Farber, author of Gamify Your Classroom.
Dr. Farber is a seasoned middle-school and university educator, an Edutopia blogger, co-host of BAM Radio Network’s Ed Got Game, a Certified BrainPOP Educator, PBS Local Digital Innovator, and overall trailblazer in the field of Educational Technology.
In Gamify Your Classroom, he provides an in-depth look at implementing game-based learning into everyday teaching. The book surveys best practices culled from extensive interviews with leading professors, game designers and researchers. He explores both digital and tabletop games alike, and combines his findings with his experience teaching middle school students. Most importantly, there are practical lesson plans at the end of each chapter, which you may like to implement in your own curriculum planning.
To whet your appetite, do check out this podcast in which Dr. Farber elaborates on a few key points, including the following:
On what makes a game
“A good game is a series of meaningful choices, with quantifiable goals. It should challenge learners and offer freedom and space to play, and to feel like they can explore the rules.” Indeed, Dr. Farber’s concept on what makes a game is very much in line with our beliefts which we’ve written about before in our blog on Teaching Hacks: Why Games Matter In The Classroom. Games get kids to theorize and come up with conclusions based on tangible items (or as Dr. Farber puts it—choices), instead of merely having to memorize formulas. At the very core, it allows kids to be kids!
On redesigning schools
“Games are designed experiences, and players understand that they’re playing a designed experience… Bring students in as co-designers or participatory designers, into the conversation.” He cites a board game cafe setting as an optimal classroom, where patrons have a menu of choices, choose to engage in a concept, and are able to raise questions anytime.
On how he makes class fun and engaging
“Teachers can’t be afraid to fail. Don’t fear the administrator, try something new… Set up the room – don’t have a desk, students sit in groups of four, so there’s no ‘front’ of the room.” This is a wonderful echo of what we’ve once covered in our previous blog covering teachers’ guide to classroom management that elaborated on the importance of seating arrangements.
The podcast also covers a wide range of amazing games you may want to explore with your kids! Forbidden Desert is built on cooperation rather than competition. Sushi Go opens the mind to forming multiple solutions instead of a single answer to a single problem.
Indeed, games can pave the way to teaching much heavier topics. Dr. Farber has used One Night Ultimate Werewolf as an introduction to the Salem witch trials, Pandemic to segue into the Columbian Exchange, and Minecraft to simulate the settlement of Jamestown. All examples of pretend play in which kids can develop a deeper appreciation for their subjects.
To learn more, get a copy of Dr. Farber’s Gamify Your Classroom (click on the link to purchase his book on Amazon). To get inspired incorporating games in your math lessons, give Zap Zap Math a go. Our gamified learning platform is now being piloted in schools and classrooms around the world, and helping millions of kids practice and learn math in a most fun and engaging way!