I think we first need to ask ourselves some questions about placing gaming into our classrooms.
Where could it fit in a lesson? Why are you using the particular game? Are you using the game as a hook to the lesson? Is it inquiry based or "drill and kill"? Is the game collaborative? Once we can answer these questions, I think we will have a better idea of the game itself and if it will fit into the best practices of online gaming.
I believe that gaming can truly be influential to inquiry based learning. One of the drawbacks we encountered in some of our research in class was that much of the current games we discovered were not directly strategy or inquiry based games. However, this should not deter us from incorporating their use into our lessons. There is a need for the drill, basic skills type knowledge for students to start with before they can even begin to move on to inquiry based learning; therefore, why not make this time of learning just as fun and enjoyable as the inquiry time with online games. We know that students are immediately attracted to the world of online games, it is just up to us as instructors to monitor appropriate use of these tools. Games can be used as that hook to spark students interest at the beginning of a lesson, a much needed review and polish up on those fundamental skills, or as a type of continued exploration of a topic or subject. All this to say, I believe that with the appropriate use of gaming, we can help our students enjoy learning at an even greater level.
Games need to have an accountability piece. We can't just say to students, "Go play this game until lunchtime." Instead we need to have a purpose and an assessment of student learning. Many software companies will give you built in assessment, but that really assesses knowledge based understanding vs. deeper inquiry based understandings. These understandings need to assessed using an authentic method. So, games within inquiry based learning experiences need to have assessments that can gauge student understanding with higher level thinking.
Games, I feel, are definitely a vital asset in learning more about specific subjects. However, they definitely have their place in the classroom. It's important to remember if a game is truly inquiry based or if it's going to be a input/output situation. Collaboration is definitely an important role that games need to have. Using strategy to solve a problem that's not a simple question would be the ideal game for a classroom learning environment.
Incorporating gaming into lessons has the potential for being very beneficial to enhancing those lessons. While most of the online gaming sites seem to be based on “drill” rather than inquiry, these sites can be useful in developing the core knowledge that may be needed in order to proceed further with the inquiry lesson. Student excitement will be increased with the additional use of games and may promote their ability to ask questions or strive to get the higher scores, which is often impossible to achieve using traditional teaching methods.
I think gaming definitely has a place in classrooms, with the correct amount of teacher moderation and the right type of game. There is great potential for problem solving and collaboration in gaming. Students enjoy playing games and many are valuable tools for reinforcing skills. For example, Lure of the Labyrinth provides plenty of opportunity for students to reinforce their Math skills in Pre-Algebra through solving puzzles, which encourages the use of critical thinking skills and also by playing a game, which allows for collaboration. Gaming is definitely a valuable tool if used wisely and I would recommend it as one of many tools to be used in the classroom.