Question: What online games exist that support and encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborating with others?
The central focus of ISTE Standard 4 is helping “students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources” (ISTE Standard 4). While I was reading one of the required assignments, 3 Ways Coding and Gaming Can Enhance Learning (Kiang, 2014), I thought back to my own experiences as a child, and realized that many of the problem solving and critical thinking skills I developed were through playing board games. As technology has gained a larger presence since I was a child, many of these games, as well as others, that I played can now be played online.
The article Elementary School Students Level Up with Math Games (Roscorla, 2011) outlines a variety of math related games that students across the nation are using to help build problem solving skills. Sussex Elementary School, located within the Baltimore County Public School District, has been using a program called First in Math. Not only is it engaging for students, but it has motivated students and has resulted in an increase in math proficiency. According to the article, “in 2009, the school’s students were 69.8 percent proficient and advanced in math. But in 2010, that percentage jumped to 94.3” (Roscorla, 2011). Students in 5th grade at Berthoud Elementary School in Colorado use iPads to play Bismarck and SET, which are based off of 2 physical games (Roscorla, 2011). Students play in teams and play other teams in the building. Another program used in Baltimore in their Middle School is Lure of the Labyrinth. This game has a story line and students solve problems to advance to the next level (Roscorla, 2011).
I also realized that another game I researched in a previous post applied to this one as well. DreamBox Learning created fun, online math games for students in PreK through 8th grade (DreamBox, 2015). It is engaging for students and allows each child to work at their own pace. This is fantastic because students who require more time on a certain topic can take longer to complete that unit, while others can move to other math units. While this is not a substitute for teaching math, it is a great program to use in conjunction with a math curriculum. Additionally, DreamBox provides teachers and parents with real time data for each student, and it gives tips for fun math activities that parents can do with their kids. Through these games, students further develop problem solving skills and learn about a variety of techniques that may not be taught in a traditional learning environment. I found two videos that discuss the many benefits of DreamBox: http://www.dreambox.com/classroom and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAC_E6T76pc
An added benefit to online games that I had not considered was brought up in the Roscorla article. Roscorla states, “the students couldn’t come to school for eight days during a two-week stretch of heavy snowfall… Even though they didn’t have school, the students actually played math games to pass the time” (2011). Introducing educational games in the classroom can have profound effects on academic achievement, while encouraging students to develop problem solving skills that can be transferred to experiences outside of the classroom.
Kiang, D. (2014). 3 Ways Coding and Gaming Can Enhance Learning. Retrieved from edutopia.org/blog/coding-and-gaming-enhance-learning-douglas-kiang
Roscorla, T. (2011). Elementary School Students Level Up with Math Games. Retrieved from centerdigitaled.com/classtech/Elementary-School-Students-Level-Up-with-Math-Games.html
DreamBox Learning. (2015). DreamBox. Retrieved from dreambox.com