Can we play or do we have to play in the classroom?

Do Until a few years ago, the terms "gamification" and "learning through play" were not my favorite. The reason for this is quite simple. There are a bunch of bad games that have a STEM or learning label on them. These are mostly quizzes. It is almost impossible to find a game that would satisfy the two basic criteria of a good game in class, and that is to be fun and that something can be learned from it.

Teachers have been under pressure for years to examine and mark students within 45 minutes two or three times a week (at least two oral examinations), hold loads of lectures (everything according to the outcomes and standards), organize an activity (project-oriented teaching must not stop), and, to refrain from further enumeration, you probably know what is demanded from you. 

Then, we can pose a question freely – do we have time for a game which would not lead us to the goal (in this case it is the acquisition of learning material)? Well, are there any games which would completely fit in our subject and through which students could learn in another, “untraditional” way?

My answer is no. I am still searching for such a game and I do not give up.

But I rightfully claim that we will not lose much if a class is dedicated to something like this. Syllabuses are overabundant; they demand too much from educators, but we can sometimes relax and we have to relax. It is not terrible if we lose one or more classes, if we reduce the educational part on behalf of the funny one. We will compensate for it and, by the way, we will also learn something, which has not probably been prescribed by the outcomes, but is beneficial in any case.

In a few following paragraphs I am going to present my three favourite games and the reasons why they should be used in the classroom. 

Let’s do it one by one.

Terraforming Mars (FryxGames)

There is no better game which can inspire you to think about the future. This game includes the elements of economy and strategic planning and learning about new technologies of the future and all this is with the aim of a huge scientific venture which asks their players to make a planet from Mars, on which we can live. )

What we can learn: From the economy and income and resource management, to my favorite part - tickling the imagination in order to imagine the future.  

Disadvantages:The game can last much longer than 45 minutes. There is also a so-called faster version, which is played in a certain number of moves, but somehow, the longer one is more fun for me. You can remember where you left off and continue next time, or look for the computer version of the game, which is much faster. 

What the class should look like:Definitely with a discussion about how we envision the future. This game gave me inspiration for one of my projects with students on the topic of planet colonization. planet

Dr Eureka (Blue orange)

I myself did not believe that my students (otherwise high school graduates) would like Dr Eureka so much that they would come to school on Friday afternoon so that they could continue to play it. It seems simple, you have 3 tubes with 6 balls (two red, two purple and two green), and it's up to you to transfer them until you get the same combination as on the card, and then you get another card. Simple, but also contagious. 

What we can learn: A phenomenal game that requires both coordination of movements and logical thinking. Ideal for younger classes.

Disadvantages:This is more a skill development game than a learning game, but we will forgive it.

What the class should look like:Just let them organize themselves.

Jenga  (Leslie Scott)

Perhaps the most famous game of all mentioned so far. A pile of tiles arranged in the shape of a tower, and the goal is to move them to the top. Jenga has been around since 1983 and is not losing on popularity. 

What we can learn: I usually use this game when I teach about balance. Although it could be used in a lesson on friction.  

Disadvantages:I would like to find a version of the game that would be more complex in terms of science, and less in terms of skills and handiness. 

What the class should look like:Make the students just conclude when the tower is stable; When it is possible to pull out the tile, and when not; What are all the forces involved in the process of extracting the tile; Would anything change if we pulled the tiles out quickly, instead of slowly?

I admit that I am still waiting for that ideal educational game, one that is not a quiz like Hembizikewhich I am the author of. Finally, I would like to mention a few more games that I would like to have in my collection, and which, with certain changes, would be great for learning and relaxation classes.

Wingspan (Stonemaier Games) a wonderful igra If they ever make a version with birds from our region, it would be perfect for biology classes. 

Dixit (Libellud) is an indescribably good  igra especially for language classes (Serbian, but also foreign languages) because the player is required to describe his card through some association, while other players try to guess. 

Pandemic (Z-Man Games) I love this igru because all the players play together as a team. Each player gets a character who has their own unique abilities, and if you want to win, you will have to make a coordinated decision on each step.

These are some of the games which you can use in the classroom. Creating a board game is not an easy process, no matter how it seems simple. We, educators, are still waiting for the best one.

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