One of the greatest challenges when looking for appropriate gaming opportunities in middle years and high school classrooms is finding games that connect with curricular outcomes. Despite having a large selection of gaming consoles at my disposal (Original X-Box, PS2, Nintendo Wii), finding useful gaming experiences is difficult without buying games and playing them first. Reviews can sometimes be found online, but offer only small amounts of insight into the type of impact it could have in the classroom.
My gaming consoles pose other challenges as well. In a class of 20 students, onlyindividual students or small groups can play at the same time. These consoles will be most effective when instructing large or whole groups when introducing topics or exploring big ideas. Though this can be challenging in certain situations, games such as SimCity Creator and The Amazing Race for Wii could be useful tools when learning about urban settlement patters and discovering places around the world. Online computer games and apps on iPods and iPads may be more effective when learning about specific outcomes targeted by games.
Due to these obstacles it has become apparent that the new iPad I received through my school’s technology budget may be the most effective way for students to learn through. Students continue to bring more wireless devices into the classroom, increasing the accessibility for more students at the same time. This almost eliminates the challenge of how many students can play games at the same time. Online games and a large number of apps are also free or inexpensive, creating more opportunity for students to use them.
Finding appropriate games in the App Store is sometimes a daunting task, but downloading free games will at least let you try the game to see how well it fits with what you’re teaching. A simple search of “Ancient History Games” for Grade 8 Social Studies will bring up a number of free apps with upgrades available for a small fee. Free apps can be installed and tested before deciding whether or not it will fit. Geography games are easier to find and more plentiful, but most are focused on locating countries and states in different areas of the world (lower level thinking) as opposed to solving problems (higher level thinking).
A good source for high school and middle years level apps is http://www.bestappsforkids.com. This site includes educational apps for all levels and most subject areas. Many apps with good connections to geography and map outcomes were included. Some apps I will be trying include:
Geo Challenge 3 – With passports, students travel around the world learning where countries are located.
Geo Walk HD – ($2.99) Students explore various parts of the world including descriptions of various animals, plants, buildings, history, etc.
Your World – There is a free version and an upgrade for $1.99. Students place countries on a rotatable globe.