Game-based Learning with SMART lab

At SMART we hope all students learn what they love and love what they learn, every moment of every day, in the classroom and beyond.

We believe games can help realize this vision. We’re not alone: an abundance of research highlights significant cognitive and non-cognitive benefits from teaching with games.

As our first small step into the world of game-based learning, we’re excited to introduce Monster Quiz, the newest addition to SMART lab.

In this post, I’ll cover the core design principles behind all our SMART lab activities.

Fun comes first

SMART lab activities incorporate game mechanics and thematic visual and auditory cues to impart a game-like feel that immerses students in an experience that treats fun as a first-class citizen. Fun is important:

  • A fun, relaxed mood where it is safe to make mistakes reduces the effect of stress on the brain’s ability to learn.
  • Rich sensory stimuli and novel experiences utilizes the brain’s plasticity and peripheral attention.
  • Stepping inside the “magic circle” of immersive games heightens attention, memory and drive.

Flow unlocks deeper learning

“Gamification” often relies too much on extrinsic motivators like points and badges. Yet, intrinsic motivators are probably more vital to fun, meaningful gameplay. Designing for flow — a state of optimal experience wherein one is completely absorbed in a challenging, fulfilling activity matched appropriately to skill — is key.

We’ve designed SMART lab activities to leverage intrinsic motivators like overcoming challenge and teamwork. We encourage reflecting on the game to complete the learning cycle and unlock deep learning. They are a lightweight way of weaving assessment for learning into your lesson, honoring the symbiotic relationship between student engagement and formative assessment.

Physicality shakes things up

Some SMART lab activities get students out of their seats, up to the SMART Board or with other students. Movement with a purpose is a potent way to revitalize memory, attention and cognition. Students finish the game recharged and ready to work, preventing behaviors before they become disruptions.

Focus on curriculum matters

It’s often hard to find games that work meaningfully with all parts of the curriculum. Teachers are forced into making compromises between frequency of use and relevance to curriculum.

We’ve designed SMART lab activities to let you customize the content and themes to craft a tight fusion between game mechanics and pedagogical scaffolds. The game you make is in perfect alignment with the content of your lesson, so when the game ends your students have interacted with and learned relevant content. Plus, they’re ready for the next topic you’ll cover.

Fast is essential

Serious games require a non-trivial investment of time both in the classroom and in teacher preparation. While the payoff is proportional to the time invested, the threshold for investment is often too high to accommodate.

We designed SMART lab so that with just five minutes of prep and eight minutes of class time you can foster fun, challenging, curriculum-focused collaborative learning experiences. It’s a standard part of the SMART Learning Suite, giving every teacher a tool to turn everyday moments into flow experiences. Our hope is that these small wins will encourage teachers to persist, be bold, and innovate with serious games.

Get your free trial of SMART lab and try our newest game-based learning experience, Monster Quiz

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About Michael Boyle

Michael Boyle is Distinguished Developer (software) at SMART Technologies. In his 11 years at SMART, he’s been at the leading edge of many product innovations at SMART, including the SMART Notebook Gallery, SMART Response, and SMART kapp. A native-born Calgarian, he holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Calgary, specializing in social and human factors affecting how people collaborate with technology. In addition to his work developing new products at SMART, his two young boys give him ample opportunity to apply his research in pedagogy and child development to the real world.

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