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Games inspire students

The CUNY Games Network allows professors to participate in interactive learning in an improved and more engaging way. The network was the brain child of four professors of the Borough of Manhattan Community College and is now starting to show real results.

This is not a new idea by any means; games have been used in educational fields for generations. In the 19th century, Friedrich Froebel created the concept of kindergarten, which, at the time, was based on learning through play. The centerpieces of his version of kindergarten were the gifts, which were educational toys like blocks, clay and weaving kits.

BMCC professors Joe Bisz and Carlos Fernandez used Diplomacy—a board game—in their remedial writing courses, as it is full of opportunities to use persuasion and rhetoric. The professors hoped this would help combat a lack of motivation and critical thinking skills among their students. The strategy game was particularly useful in teaching problem solving skills and explaining logical paragraph construction. Two other professors who were researching game-based learning joined the efforts. In 2008, the CUNY Games Network was officially launched.

Since its launch, numerous workshops and activities have been added to the network,  including board games, card games and digital-based gaming systems. One of the more popular games is Levelfly, which teaches the player how to learn and operate a management system. This is an example of gamification, which refers to the use of gaming elements in order to encourage engagement. Gamification is used often in marketing strategies.

The CGN has so far hosted three conferences during its event, the CUNY Games Festival, which seems to have had positive results. Attendance has increased steadily from conference to conference.

Members of SGN were awarded a grant of over $875,000 for the success of their gaming network. The grant is going toward the development of games that help students acquire basic math skills. Kathleen Offenholley, one of the founding members of CGN, is reporting great success with the first game.

“It’s amazing what happens when you play games with students, especially if they are scared of math,” Offenholley stated. “All of a sudden their brains get freed up to actually be able to think where they could not think before because they were stuck in old ways of looking at math.”

Three of the professors co-wrote “A Proof-of-Concept Study of Game-based Learning in Higher Education,” which found that the games increased the students’ enjoyment levels in their classes. Using games for educational purposes prompted the students to enjoy the classes that caused them the most anxiety.

The CUNY Games Network has a good chance of taking off, which is why professors should take advantage of this incredible program. CUNY needs to promote the program and start to integrate it into its curriculum, as using games is proven to greatly improve the students’ performance in their classes and increase their enjoyment and motivation for learning.

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