Today’s technology has advanced far beyond what we thought possible at the turn of the century. One of these radical changes is the perception and use of video games. Video games are now more than just entertainment; they are essential educational tools used in classrooms. A survey by Joan Ganz Cooney Center found that 74% of K-8 (Year 8) teachers use digital games for educational purposes!
This can especially benefit Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). STEM video games harness immersive game development technology and combine it with pedagogical content. These experiences can go beyond the traditional syllabus points, promoting critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and creativity. This blog will explore STEM video games and their usefulness in the classroom. We have also provided a list of 9 popular STEM games you could introduce into your classrooms now!
What are STEM Video Games?
Educational video games leverage digital technology that today’s children are familiar with to achieve learning outcomes. STEM video games can leverage various genres but typically use simulation, puzzle and strategy game formats. One study from a school in India found that using educational video games to supplement learning has significant positive impact on student’s memory and knowledge of multiplication tables (something we could have all used growing up!)
Video games can provide an engaging and immersive environment where students can experiment and learn in a fun manner. Lessons that combine games and traditional learning methods stick with students longer, making education more engaging.
What are the Benefits of STEM Video Games in the Classroom?
Enhancing Engagement and Motivation:
As we have already touched on, STEM video games improve student engagement and increase motivation to continue learning. Many studies prove this - one such study by Reed Stevens and the University of Chicago showed how game-based learning improves student motivation. They found that learning through video games provided students with a sense of autonomy, challenge and relevance.
Promoting Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving:
STEM video games encourage players to think critically and solve problems within a given context. The Joan Ganz Cooney Centre conducted research that found educational video games promote problem-solving skills in children. STEM Games require students to analyse a situation, apply their knowledge, and make informed decisions. This process is beneficial for fostering higher-order thinking skills.
Facilitating Collaborative Learning:
Games that require student collaboration help develop communication and cooperation skills. Many STEM video games offer multiplayer or collaborative options, which helps encourage peer interaction through teamwork. A useful framework for designing and analysing educational video games is the annual Australian STEM video game challenge that utilises a Four P model. Peer Collaboration is listed as the root of a good STEM game.
Practising Real-World Skills:
STEM video games often simulate real-world scenarios, allowing students to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. For example, engineering-focused games may require students to design structures or solve engineering problems. A study by SRI International found that students who played simulation-based science games outperformed their peers in content knowledge and scientific inquiry skills.
Fostering Creativity and Innovation:
STEM video games often allow for open-ended exploration, enabling students to experiment, create, and innovate within the game's virtual environment. This freedom to explore fosters creativity and innovation, encouraging students to think outside the box and develop unique solutions to problems. A study of over 500 students aged 12 found that video games allowed children to be more creative, even outside the classroom.
9 Popular STEM Video Games Currently Used in the Classroom:
With all the research on the efficacy of educational video games, we can see the value in these experiences. So here are some examples of STEM games that have already actively made their way into classrooms and are changing education for the better!
Minecraft: Education Edition is the most popular sandbox game for students to build and explore virtual worlds. It offers a range of educational features and tools that promote creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving. Educators have used Minecraft for almost every subject, including science, mathematics, history, and art.
Kerbal Space Program is a space flight simulation game allowing players to design and launch rockets and spacecraft. It offers a realistic and immersive experience of space exploration and engineering. The game challenges players to apply physics and orbital mechanics principles to navigate and explore space successfully. It is also an excellent example of how games can teach highly specialised topics.
Human Resource Machine is a puzzle game introducing players to computer programming and algorithmic thinking basics. It presents challenges where players must use programming commands to guide a character through various tasks. The game provides an accessible introduction to coding concepts and logic.
In "Opus Magnum," players step into the shoes of an alchemical engineer in a beautifully crafted, steampunk-inspired world. The game teaches players about molecular structures and optimisation through challenging and intricate puzzles.
DragonBox Algebra is an educational game that teaches algebraic concepts through gameplay. It simplifies abstract algebraic concepts into visual puzzles and challenges, making them accessible and engaging for students.
SpaceChem is a puzzle game introducing players to chemical engineering and problem-solving. Players must design and optimise chemical reactors to create specific molecules. It requires critical thinking, logical reasoning, and an understanding of chemical reactions.
CodeCombat is an educational game that teaches programming concepts and coding languages through gameplay. It offers a gamified learning experience where players write code to control their characters and solve challenges.
Bridge Constructor Portal combines bridge-building mechanics with the iconic elements from the Portal game series. Players must construct bridges using physics-based principles to solve puzzles and transport vehicles safely. It enhances spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and engineering skills.
Tynker is an educational platform that provides coding courses and game-based learning experiences. It offers interactive coding lessons, puzzles, and projects that help students develop coding skills and computational thinking. Tynker has been used in classrooms to teach programming concepts and introduce students to coding languages.
"Counting Kingdom" is an educational game that primarily focuses on teaching children basic maths and number skills in a fun and interactive way. In the game, players defend a medieval kingdom from invading monsters using their maths knowledge to match and combine numbers to reach specific targets strategically.
"World of Goo" is a physics-based puzzle game that centres around building and navigating structures made of gooey balls. The game's primary focus is creatively constructing various structures to solve puzzles and overcome environmental challenges within each level.
Aren’t STEM games incredible?! Educational games are constantly being developed and improved with innovation and technology. STEM video games are in the perfect position to shape the future of education and help equip students with the skills they need to thrive in this ever-evolving, tech-focused world.
It doesn’t stop there; a meta-analysis of 33 studies has shown that digital games can positively impact STEM education compared to traditional methods. As we’ve mentioned, it can increase student engagement, improve critical thinking and help drive better collaboration.
Educators across the globe can catalyse learning by adopting these types of games into the classroom. There are so many educational games available for students, teachers, and parents to explore. We can help prepare children for the challenges and realities of life in a digital era, starting in the safe space of a classroom.
Do you have an idea for a new STEM game to level up your classroom? Book a free brainstorming session with me, and let’s chat!