There were 2 things this past week that reminded me how much I love using games as a learning activity. The first one was a webinar that I participated in from Zingerman’s Zing Train program on using Mini-games to train employees. The second was as I was putting the finishing touches on the Biz Ops Game™ (more on that in a bit). The Zing Train webinar reminded me how much fun it is to use games to engage employees when teaching them new concepts or trying to help them achieve a specific company goal. When you get everyone engaged and have fun doing it, it is much easier to have the learning stick and achieve the goal. I know this all too well – as in my graduate studies at UW-Madison I studied how video games are a great tool for teaching. But like any powerful tool that is new to the teacher – they need some time to get comfortable with it and to develop and implement it so that they can help learners achieve the outcome. Good games start with good design (as with any effective lesson). The good thing about games is they don’t have be complicated or extremely sophisticated to achieve the goal they are intended for.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when designing a simple game to achieve learning outcomes. 1) Know what your end goal is – what are the learning outcomes? Make a list of the learning outcomes and decide if a game can cover what’s on the list or if you need to focus on just a few of outcomes in the game. 2) Know what success looks like – what does the student need to be able to do or answer to prove that success was achieved in the game. In addition to the learning outcomes, it is important to have specific measures for success. 3) Create a story for the game- stories have a way of drawing the students in and will create a “safe” atmosphere so they aren’t afraid to fail which will help them to learn faster. In addition to the story, be sure to have a fun name for the game. 4) Decide how the game is played – (turn-based, facilitated, in teams, etc.). Think of games you have played and what made them fun and engaging – use these elements when you design your game. 5) Know how long the game will take (will it be one class period, several class periods or once a week for many weeks). 6) Create a scoreboard – students will have more fun if they compete with one another. You may also want to have an overall scoreboard with an overall goal that everyone is contributing to. 7) Decide what the rewards will be – everyone likes rewards when they achieve a goal – it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, it can be something as simple as a sticker or badge or can be allowing them to choose the topic for a day, or choose the music at the beginning of class.
To demonstrate how to put these tips into action I’ll come back to the Biz Ops Game™. The game itself is based on a simulation that was used in UW-Madison SBDC Youth Entrepreneur Camp. The simulation was developed for high school aged kids and is longer and more in-depth than what I wanted to use as a short activity for camp or in the classroom. I also felt it could have a lot more learning built into the short time period for the activity so I have built them in. I also turned it into an actual game with a game board and more game elements than the original simulation. The Biz Ops Game™ is facilitated by an instructor and can be played in approximately 90 minutes (or 2 class periods). The learning objectives include learning: 1) how a small business operates 2) how working cooperatively can help increase the chances of business success 3) what roles are necessary to run a business and what each role entails 4) that planning is necessary to run a business 5) how listening to the customer will help you create a better product 5) that quality is as important as quantity and 6) how to create record financial transactions and create a simple financial report. The game is played in teams of 4or 5 who create their own air transportation company where they manufacture and sell paper airplanes. The team who makes the most profit by selling ethically is the winner. In order for them to win, they have to work well as a team, listen to customer specifications and fly their airplanes on a runway. The scoreboard consists of their financial record which includes how much they spend on business costs, quantity sold, sales dollars and their net profit. The teams are rewarded on each of these areas with a badge or sticker for their name tag that they can wear at camp to show others that they were successful. In a one week class the basic business startup and operations concepts are learned and practiced but the possibilities of using the game in the classroom can really serve as a base for additional learning on business operations, teamwork and financial record-keeping. Also, once the game mechanics are mastered, the game can be expanded into the students creating and selling their own products which will allow for much more creativity and fun while learning business operations.
The Biz Ops Game™ is currently being printed and manufactured and should be ready to ship by March 1st. For more information: opt in at www.eseedling.com