Can Learning Really Be Fun and Games?
For those wondering what a game-based classroom looks like in a traditional school, take a peek into Ananth Pai’s third-grade class in Parkview/Center Point Elementary school in Maplewood, Minnesota.
Using his own money and grants that he applied for, Pai has managed to round up seven laptops, two desktops 11 Nintendo DS’s, 18 games for math, reading, vocabulary, geography, and 21 digital voice recorders.
Students compete in games with other kids across the world, learn about fractions and decimals by riding a virtual ghost train, for instance, work on their reading skills on sites like Razkids, figure out whether they can make a living by growing flowers, learn about their constitutional rights with the Go to Court Game, and so on.
If parents are wondering what their kids do with the Nintendo DS in the classroom, Pai’s students will tell them about Brain Age 2, the word scramble game, or Math Blaster, which helps students practice their multiplication.
In the video interview above, Pai talks about how he realized that with a 20-1 ratio in a third grade class (a luxury at this point in many American public schools), it would be difficult to help each student progress at his or her own level.
So he found websites he thought would work best for his class, and connected them all to his own site. Take a look at how he’s organized the curriculum: Simple and intuitive.
He’s divided Literacy into Decoding, Reading, Syllabication, Writing , Vocabulary & Spelling, Grammar, Literary Devices, and Genre.
Similarly, Math is divided into Geometry, Number Sense & Computation, Algebra, Data Analysis, Math Challenge, Math Dictionary, Easier Math Dictionary, and other general games.
He’s also got sites and games for categories like Inquiry, Skills for Life, Health & Well Being, and Would You Like Hot Chocolate With That?
Pai says that in a matter of four months, the class’s reading and math scores went from below average for third grade to mid-fourth-grade level.
When Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad and CTO of Best Buy visited Pai’s class recently, he was struck by not just the fact that technology was being used, but how Pai organized the class.
“He groups the kids on how their brains learn,” Stephens said.
From what I can tell, this is what learning should look like.