Saturday, March 23, 2013

4 and 5 Going on 21? 21st Century Learners and the Benefits of Edugaming in Kindergarten

I was recently asked to contribute a blog post to Microsoft's Partners in Learning Hot Topics Games-Based Learning blog. I thought some of my kindergarten readers might be interested in the content, so here it is! I encourage everyone to join the Partners in Learning Network for great resources, free software downloads,  learning activities, and access to a huge professional learning community!

As a Canadian kindergarten teacher, I spend my days immersed in the world of little people. Their brief attention spans, need for frequent movement breaks, and emerging 21st century skills require a variety of play-based strategies. Edugaming is an exciting development in education, yet the use of games in early years education is far from new. To engage today’s youngest 21st century learners, the addition of technology and social media to these games only makes sense.

Why games-based learning in the early years classroom?

Gross motor development: the Xbox Kinect console and games have huge potential for gross motor development in young children. Motor skills have consistently been identified as an area of concern in our community’s pre/post kindergarten screenings. Moving and manipulating in new ways with Xbox Kinect games is yet another tool to strengthen this deficient area in our kindergarten population.

Movement breaks: with attention spans of 5-10 minutes, young learners require lessons that incorporate movement breaks and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. As they work together to navigate challenges within the game, children engage another intelligence and develop key social competencies.

Curricular connections: links to all subject areas are possible when games-based learning is implemented in a thoughtful and intentional manner. A game such as Fantastic Pets can address science and social studies outcomes (characteristics/needs of living things, the world around me, etc). 

Games-based learning expert Dr. Richard Van Eck from University of North Dakota recommends that students play the game, engage in further study of the content, then play the game some more. This cycle gives students many opportunities to activate, acquire, and apply new learning.

Here's an example of a science/sustainable living lesson based on the Xbox Kinect game, Once Upon a Monster, that I taught with my colleague Leah Obach.

Tips for Teachers
-develop digital citizenship in your students as a part of games-based learning. It’s never too early!
-overwhelmed by the huge variety of games? Search online for the game title followed by walk through/cheat to see what the game looks like and how it’s played.
-no time to run a gaming centre while monitoring 20 other students? Train older students as experts. Mentoring younger students builds confidence and skills in them too.

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