The material in this article is derived from:

Enhancing Secondary Science Content Accessibility With Video Games Matthew T. Marino, Kathleen Becht, Eleazar Vasquez, III, Jennifer L. Gallup, James D. Basham, Benjamin Gallegos

TEACHING Exceptional Children

Vol 47, Issue 1, pp. 27 – 34

First Published July 18, 2014

The assumption of the article is that science is inherently difficult for children with learning differences because of its specialized vocabulary and its “theoretical nature inherent in scientific concepts and processes”. The article is helpful to all science teachers because both its argument, findings, and recommendations could be applied to any kind of student, not just those who are exceptional. A recent report (2017) from NPD said that fully 22% of kids’ product sales were made up of video games, electronics and apps. They also report that 91% of them play video games. While the article is specific to science and exceptional children, read the notes below with all children in mind:

  • Video games teach persistence because students believe they can be successful in them
  • Games are repetitive and promote content learning
  • Learning can happen with single players, teams, cooperatively, and competitively
  • Performance in games is a better predictor of what a student knows than pen and pencil tests
  • Levels of difficulty are intrinsic to games and thus students are engaged in material of increasing complexity the longer they play
  • Failure is an essential part of learning and thus trying again is a key skill practiced
  • Playing and reflecting on the playing are equally important and must both be included
  • Social skills must be explicitly modeled and taught in video game play

A list of video games in the Article’s Table One is included here:

Lausanne Learning’s mission begins with Engaging Students and the use of gaming is a powerful tool in that regard. The Institute of Play actually founded a school called Quest to Learn based on the use of gaming. Here are two examples of how this school uses gaming in science:

For instance, in ninth grade Biology, students spend the year as workers in a fictional bio-tech company, and their job is to clone dinosaurs and create stable ecosystems for them. By inhabiting the role of biotech scientists, the students learn about genetics, biology and ecology. Sixth graders use Dr. Smallz, where they play the role of designers, scientists, doctors and detectives as they explore cellular biology and the human body.

Clearly, whether you would consider gaming an intrinsic or just helpful part of teaching science, it is a movement that now has materials and practitioners showing its usefulness and applicability. If you haven’t begun to use gaming in science, maybe it’s time to give it a good look.