Photo via Sydney Morning Herald

How many times have you witnessed a student rereading a book or flipping through flash cards in order to memorize material? Perhaps you’ve even used this method yourself at one time. Few would label this method of memorization as “enjoyable”. A main issue with this method is that students quickly become tired of flipping through flash cards or reading the same material over and over; they become disengaged, and the chances of them retaining the information decrease significantly. Are there any alternatives to the methods of using flash cards or simply rereading material? Studies show that playing online educational games can be a great substitute.

There has been a great deal of discussion recently about game-based learning in the classroom, and the positive effect it can have on students. But, the question is, why is online game playing a successful strategy in the learning process? According to Psychology Today, “just as with video games played for pleasure and not linked to specific school skill practice, the progressive challenge and feedback works with the brain’s intrinsic reward system to motivate perseverance and memory”.  Science shows that this is the response from the brain's own dopamine-reward system. As the students begins to enjoy themselves and play the games more often, they retain the information more quickly. They avoid the headaches associated with rote memorization methods.

Students should play educational games that: provide ongoing assessment of children’s mastery, are enjoyable, and continuously update the level of challenge to suit the player; it is also helpful to utilize games that provide feedback.

Our customers in education say that it is helpful to utilize these games after they complete their lesson; the games they select specifically relate to their lesson plan, and students remember the information better after playing them. This is a helpful tip, but where can teachers find these games?

There are a number of free educational websites available, and many of these sites have interactive games. You can find a list of free education sites (including ones with interactive educational games) on the BoardShare website. Common Sense Media is a great site for finding educational websites and games, and for looking at education website reviews. They give overall ratings, how well the games on these sites help students learn, and appropriate ages for each game.

It is important to remember that every student learns differently; a method that works well for one student may not work so well with another. However, it is important to stay aware of current studies addressing different learning methods, so that every student can succeed.