As the abilities of technology continue to grow, it is crucial to think of ways to modernize curriculum so that we can better meet the needs of this generation. How can we utilize the power of technology to transform the traditional educational route? Nadine Ebri, a District Technology Specialist from Jacksonville, Florida, believes game-based learning is the most effective way to modernize education.
Learning Through Minecraft
Nadine’s passion for game-based learning oozed from her as she told me about Duval County Public Schools’ Minecraft lab in Jacksonville, where she hosts field trips for students throughout Duval County. “Basically, teachers select a lesson in Minecraft and I modify it to meet the Florida education standards and the needs of that class. I may teach coding, math, or any subject through the use of Minecraft.”
The lab is a Gen-Z dream decked out with LED lights, posters, and 36 computers. “It’s so important to create the right environment. When students come in here they’re being immersed in a gaming environment which helps them be engaged and excited to learn. I have classes where teachers apologize for student behavior beforehand but in the lab, the students are in a dream!” Nadine believes this behavioral change is all due to the environment and the avenue that the students are learning through.
One of the main benefits of game-based learning is that students are actively learning. They have a character within the game where they have the ability to choose between actions resulting in different consequences. “The learning is coming from actually playing the game. They are coding and solving problems within the game, and I am just there to help facilitate the learning. The game does the work.” Nadine noticed from her time in the Minecraft lab that students are more willing to make mistakes. “Having a character, and making decisions within the game removes the student’s ego and fear of making mistakes! They take more risks and really try to find the answer through unconventional ways.”
The Gift of Accessibility
Game-based learning not only engages students better but also grants so much more accessibility for all types of students. “Students come in from all walks of life and really thrive in this environment. For example, I had a student who used a wheelchair and she was able to play hide and go seek with her friend within the game. This is an activity that typically she would not be able to play outside of the game, however, it is possible within game-based learning! We had a student who was partially blind and we were able to magnify everything so that he had a better experience.” It’s really difficult to make a piece of paper accessible to all, but we can meet the needs of each student through digital game-based learning.
Nadine’s use of game-based learning also helps her to be more culturally responsive in her teachings. “I don’t just mean race and nationality, but also neighborhood culture, and even the culture of specific classrooms. Each one is significantly different…When I was a classroom teacher, it was really important for me to ask every class “how do you want me to teach?”’ Because everything from approach, material, and methods will change depending on the class’s culture!” Using game-based learning allows Nadine to be flexible and adapt each lesson to fit the needs of the students!
Nadine’s work with game-based learning exemplifies how it’s an incredible approach to transforming traditional educational routes. It aids in keeping students engaged and interested, gives students access to new experiences, and helps teachers to be more culturally responsive in their teachings.
Nadine Ebri is a District Specialist in the technology department in the Duval County Public School System. She received her Master’s in Educational Leadership and is currently a doctoral student at the University of North Florida where she is researching what barriers teachers face when incorporating game-based learning. She has received multiple awards for her work as an educator both locally and nationally. She also serves on the Minecraft Education Edition Advisory Board. To stay up to date with Nadine and see more of her educational life, you can follow her on Twitter.