Teachers are making frequent use of digital games in their classrooms, relying heavily on colleagues to decide which games to use, and seeing the greatest benefits in increased engagement among low-performing students.
Those are some of the early findings from an online survey released Monday by the Games and Learning Publishing Council and produced by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a nonprofit research organization that studies children's learning and digital media. Complete results from the survey, which covered nearly 700 teachers in grades K-8, will be released this summer.
Overall, 513 of the 694 teachers surveyed reported using games in the classroom. The majority of those who used digital games did so at least once per week, most often as learning tools for individual students or small groups of students. Fifty-five percent of teachers who used games said the greatest benefit was in helping motivate low-performing and special education students.
Given the surge of digital-tablet use in classrooms, the survey's findings on the devices students use to access games were surprising: 72 percent of the K-8 teachers who use digital games delivered those games to students via a desktop computer, while 41 percent used an interactive whiteboard. Tablets were the third most frequently used device category, at 39 percent, with Chromebooks or netbooks (9 percent) and mobile or smartphones (9 percent) following.
And how did teachers decide what games to use?
Word of mouth was the most significant factor: Nearly half of the teachers who use games said that "what other teachers say" about a given game was the most important factor in the selection process. For developers, it's worth noting that games that include tracking data about student performance or allow teachers to manage class use of the game were important in informing teacher selections—and that media reviews were not a major factor.
There were no surprises when it came to the barriers teachers face in using digital games in the classroom: The two biggest factors were time and money.