When it comes to game-based learning in an educational context it is tough to beat the Hour of Code. A worldwide initiative, specifically targeted at teaching children through play, how to program a computer is the first stop in quality game based learning. A significant effort is being made, by many invested parties, to address the future gap in technology skills. Tasks are scaffolded from the very beginning, with dragging and organizing blocks of colour; all the way to creating animations and proper coding challenges. Activities are interesting and educationally solid. Students lead their own learning through multiple stages and disciplines. Hour of Code captures their imagination and inspires them in new ways. While engaging with the program, they are applying mathematical, language and thinking skills.
Other opportunities which extend game-based learning include the use of Makey Makey and student coders graduating to the use of the Probot roamers. Makey Makey calls itself an “invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads through art, engineering, and everything in between”. The Probot roamer allows the user to program directional instructions for the robots to follow. The roamer might follow a track by receiving instructions such as following or creating the outline of shapes, to demonstrate cardinal directions and ordinal numbers.A strong educational tool, game based learning has many powerful attributes to develop student understanding. It fosters a sense of ownership and identity which in turn creates positive self esteem. Giving students challenges which they can address in a fun and relaxing manner is always a winning situation. There is a growing pool of resources but spreading these types of activities across the curriculum continues to be our next frontier.