Games Based Learning – making practice perfect

I started my twice weekly visits to schools today with a visit to Wallyford Primary School.

In a tour of classes I was fascinated to see a P7 class engaged in Games Based Learning  with each pupil using a Nintendo DS.  The pupils were using the machines to practice their mental arithmetic.

I can honestly say I have rarely seen such levels of personal motivation in an entire class of individuals. Many of them were trying to improve the level at which they were working so that they could challenge their teacher Paula Hart – I’m just glad they didn’t ask to challenge me!!

The point which intrigued me was that here were children who, if asked to engage in rote learning – such as I experienced as a pupil – would most probably switch off lose interest. Yet in this format – with appropriate levels of challenge, immediate feedback and no shame if they made a mistake – they were content to work on beyond what you might think would be their normal levels of concentration.

The point about practice only being worthwhile if it’s accurate practice came back to me as I observed the children. There is a tendency sometimes in education to set a task for children and as long as they are engaged for us to play down the importance of the outcome. Yet here – using the DS – there was no way that sloppy or careless work would be accepted.

Speaking to the kids there was no doubt that they loved this form of learning and I would certainly support any school who sought to use such a learning strategy as part of their balanced approach to teaching and the setting of high expectations and standards.


2 thoughts on “Games Based Learning – making practice perfect

  1. I wonder to what extent similar tools could help avoid the reluctance to practice basic maths skills, particularly in secondary?

    Often students see maths topics as things that you’ve either “done”, or you haven’t. If they’re perceived as having been “done”, then that’s used to defend reluctance to practise.

    The computer game makes it possible to fail in an almost completely private way, which must reduce the fear of failure that underlies a lot of maths disengagement.

  2. As a cluster we have done our best to embrace Games Based Learning over the last 12 months. We will be showcasing some of this work at the East Lothian Celebrating Success Event in October.

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