When evaluating gaming technologies for their use in education, these 7 questions should guide you towards well-made decisions. The trick will be in making a decision that strikes a balance amongst all your answers.
Although there are many factors to address prior to making any decisions relating to gaming in education, I consider the below 7 questions to be most important. This framework was adapted for evaluating gaming technology from my other site, K12 Mobile Learning. The framework should be similar for evaluating the adoption of any new tool in education.
1. What provides the most learning gains and opportunities?
Regardless of how innovative your instructional strategy may be, you must be able to show results from using it. What games are going to provide the most opportunities for gains in performance? If you can’t show how the game you’re going to integrate aligns with your curriculum, scrap it and look for something new. In my opinion, this is the first and most important criterion to consider. If this question can’t be satisfactorily addressed, start brainstorming for new ideas.
Aneesh Bhat has this website that dynamically updates great resources for gaming in the classroom. I would definitely bookmark it and refer back to it when determining what gaming technology provides the most learning gains.
2. What requires the least expenditure of student & teacher time?
Familiarity is big plus. Find something that’s not a foreign technology so that it can be easily integrated. Fortunately, one of the biggest “plusses” for gaming in the classroom is that students are familiar with the technology, creating a less steep learning curve.
3. What requires the least amount of school funds for purchase?
Obviously, affordability is a huge determining factor when deciding what software and technology to integrate in your school or classroom. Check your balance sheet before committing to major purchases, and keep in mind that expensive technology is also a gateway opportunity for companies to try and sell you even more expensive technology to supplement their product.
For assistance with funding, check out the following resources:
ARPA-ED: providing funds for innovative instruction.
3 Ways to Get Kinects for Your Classroom: directory of grants and resources for getting Kinects for your classroom.
Fortunately, the Kinect sensor is very inexpensive relative to what it can do. Game prices are also fair. What I’m interested to see is what price custom developers will charge for their software once more players enter the field.
For a growing directory of free apps, check out KinectEDucation’s Kinect Apps for Education.
4. Is there a large community supporting it?
Remember Sega’s Dreamcast? It had great potential, but ultimately failed because of the lack of support. Make sure the software or hardware you’re evaluating has wide community support that will promote longevity. This also extends to the development of lesson plans.
Conclusively, try not to integrate anything that has waning support. Don’t adopt a platform that isn’t growing or at least stable in support.
5. Can scalability be supported?
Can you (as a teacher or administrator) ensure that support will be provided once your proposed technology is a standard classroom tool? It may be easy for you to use, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easy for everyone to use. That’s something I’ve had to learn with emerging Kinect developments. This is an evolving field and PC software development is just emerging. Give it time, though.
Simplicity should be a goal, along with a strong support team to address unforeseen issues.
6. Does it respect privacy laws specific to education?
Ensure your proposed technology doesn’t violate FERPA or any other local and federal policies. No matter how good your technology may be, if isn’t aligned with privacy laws (or all laws for that matter), it isn’t allowable. Anything promoting violence should probably be avoided. This has been a sore spot for many administrators considering the adoption of games in the classroom. There’s an unfortunate association with video games and violence. Yes, there’s a lot of these games, but it’s not requisite for active engagement.
7. What’s the expected life cycle before necessary upgrades?
How long until the product’s next iteration is released? With Kinect technology, I don’t think that this is a major issue to really consider, but when you’re spending big money, it’s always smart to check out the market.
Please consider this is not an exhaustive list. Additionally, this only reflects my personal opinions as to what qualifies as the most important criteria to observe prior to integrating gaming technology in education.
What other factors should be considered? Share your thoughts on KinectEDucation’s Facebook page.