Finding the Right Educational Game with Playful Learning


Finding enough time to do all the diverse jobs an educator is tasked with in a day can sometimes feel like a mammoth task; preparing lesson plans, setting up educational games, organizing class lists, correcting assignments, maintaining classroom discipline, the list goes on and on.

Technology can help educators complete these tasks, but sometimes finding the right materials is tricky. Playful Learning is a free online portal specifically designed for educators looking for educational games to use with their classes. The site lists over 100 educational games that give detailed summaries with information explicitly for educators, such as implementation ideas and educational standards. The platform is a great resource for educators looking to use games in the classroom, not only because of the high-quality games listed, but also because of its time-saving educator-focused content.

To access the games listed on the platform you can either use the search engine, or click on the ‘Games’ tab and browse through different themes. These include content type, age, cost model, learning topic, assessment reporting, instructional levels and many more. Currently, the platform lists ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies games, but this list is growing daily. Once the games from the database have appeared, you can instantly see a summary of game information by putting your cursor over the game listing. Rather than having to click into every game, you can get a quick view of the game and make a decision as to whether it has what you need. To see detailed reviews, simply click on the game listing and you are brought to a page with more information.

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Each game listed on the site contains an innovative summary that differs from the usual game listing sites because of its focus on its educational benefits, teacher resources and practical implementation ideas. The listing begins with images of the game, and clear logos that give quick information about price, IT compatibility, learning curve level and overall teacher rating. Then the summary is divided up into various sections that give more detailed information about the game including:

  • Learning topics
  • Detailed game description
  • Learning goals
  • Standards
  • Additional information (i.e. Game Topics, Game Genre, Assessment/Reporting, and Instructional Levels)
  • Instructional aids
  • Case studies
  • Web articles
  • Teacher reviews
  • Implementation ideas

Looking at the listing for History simulation game Civilization IV, which has the most detailed summary on the platform, we can see how the rest of the game listings will look in the future. The ‘Implementation Ideas’ section has a step by step guide on how to use the game, and includes key standards that it touches on. The entry for ethical thinking game Quandary also features instructional aids and related web articles, and explains in plain English (rather than marketing waffle) what the game is good for.

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But the key part of Playful Learning is its collaborative outlook. The site is more than just a place for searching for game listings. They are building a community of educators who share lesson plans, ideas, practices, innovations and personal reviews to the platform. This is an important step for educational games as most of the work involved with implementing a game into a classroom is knowing whether it is suitable for a group of students, how it will be used in practice with existing classroom resources and understanding the best way to integrate it with core standards. Becoming part of a network such as Playful Learning can help you better understand the ins and outs of games you can use with your students, and get support from other educators dealing with similar issues.

Educators can get involved with Playful Learning by reviewing or rating a game, editing existing game information, posting an implementation, adding a new game or even becoming a game curator. Curators work to make sure that each game entry is properly edited and has up to date game information. This idea is supported by the ‘Groups’ tab, that brings you to a discussion forum on the games listed. Although the discussion section is only getting started, this community has the potential to help educators with problems that developers might not be attuned to, such as lesson planning, classroom management and content integration.

Playful Learning is committed to creating this community of educators by putting on game-based learning training events. Having recently received a $500k grant from the Gates Foundation to run nationwide teacher PD events on game-based learning, these events teach the basics of game-based learning, how to find tools for reaching classroom goals and have special guest speakers. The next event is at the end of September in Seattle with another running in Kentucky in October.

Although the site is still at a Beta stage and many of the sections are not fully completed, Playful Learning will be a major draw for educators looking for information about games that are impartial and come directly from other educators. Also, rather than having to scour the net for extra game resources, blog reviews and case studies, they are all in the one place, saving time and energy.

Take a look at the games listed on Playful Learning via their beta platform, and get involved in their network of educators.