Monday, May 20, 2013

Turning Homework into a Game

By Sean Scarpiello

For many young students, classes such as Math and English are boring because they are not very engaging to students. When I was in elementary school, teachers would hand out a worksheet with long division problems or grammatically incorrect sentences and expect us to complete these assignments for homework. While completing each question, homework quickly became dull and tedious. The boredom caused us to  ask ourselves questions such as “who cares about this?” and “when are we ever going to use this in life?” In retrospect, I can find many reasons why each subject learned was important and how we integrate each subject into everyday life. Therefore, we need to find ways that keep students interested in the fundamental in subjects such as math and grammar in school while showing them that they have practical uses in life. So, how can we do this?

One way that would keep students extremely interested in their work would be turning work into a game. Essentially, educators could make class assignments into video games that keep student’s minds busy. These games allow for students to complete assignments on a brightly colored computer screen with interesting characters and educational goals, rather than having students stare at a black and white worksheet with only numbers and math equations. Within these games, there can be many different platforms for learning. One such platform could be a journey type of game where students must navigate different levels while answering questions on class material. These types of games could be much like the classic Mario type of game, except answering math questions can unlock doors to move the student through different levels. These sorts of games would be great because students will want to move onto the next level, gain different achievements, and score higher than their friends. Therefore, even students who are not extremely interested in what is being taught will still persist through the game so they can gain points and see what lies ahead. On the other hand, if these same students who lack enthusiasm for a subject are simply given a boring worksheet of problems to complete, they will lose interest entirely and miss any incentive to complete the worksheet correctly.

These sorts of journey games can also be used to teach history as well. Students could play as characters such as George Washington during the Revolutionary War or Lewis and Clark as they traveled across America. This then allows students to not only focus on the history behind these events, but also focus on subjects like geography and even math or science. Students can learn to calculate the number of years from today that the Declaration of Independence was signed by following George Washington’s journey, or they can learn all the states and their capitals by following Lewis and Clark’s journey. On top of this, students will see that no subject exists on its own in the real world, as there is much overlap. Student can then begin to use these ideas during their daily lives as they unknowingly learn that math problems come in other forms than on tedious worksheets.

One last way journey games can help students is by building up their problem solving skills. By affording students the opportunity to learn through real world applications of problems, students will feel accomplished after solving a problem that really exists. For example, a typical long division question may ask how many times does the number 20 go into 320? On the other hand, a word problem presented in a journey type game for students could be phrased like this: If George Washington has 320 troops and there are 20 troops in one squadron, how many squadrons does George Washington have? Here, we can see that the same question is being asked, but students are presented with the challenge of identifying the numerator from the denominator, while applying math concepts to real problems. This allows students to find meaning in their answers, instead of just calculating numbers which haven't been assigned qualitative values. .

In all, we can see that by utilizing a journey-based video game in schools, students can have homework assignments that are much more interactive, interesting, and fun to complete than the traditional worksheet. These platforms for learning also allow students to see overlap among different subjects in class while developing their problem solving skills in real world applications. If educators could implement this type of learning into homework assignments, students would be more engaged in the material and look forward to going home to get to the next level on his computer based homework assignment.

Sean Scarpiello

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Unknown said...

Nice and informative post totally enjoy reading it.

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