NewsWinter 2013

Let the games begin to teach kids

As a first-year sixth grade teacher, Ben Bertoli ’11 had already learned the importance of catering to each child’s individual learning ability. While some are visual learners, for example, and others are hands-on types, it is important to provide something for each one. Bertoli wants to do just that—by bringing video games into his classroom. A passionate gamer himself, Bertoli is the developer and CEO of ClassRealm, a platform for teachers to introduce games in their classrooms to promote a creative learning environment. ClassRealm is a teaching tool that can be customized by teachers to motivate students to turn in their homework, be attentive, and demonstrate excellent behavior.

“I felt there isn’t enough recognition for the good things that kids are doing,” he says. The classroom management system is built on role-playing. It can be used to set certain goals and track them through time.  Students earn points and achievements via a range of school-related tasks that can be determined by the individual teacher.

Quest for learning

Parents can track students’ progress through ClassRealm, too, following their many adventures online and creating personalized side quests. “When you think about it, schools are already kind of like video games,” said Bertoli. “If you do well on tests and quizzes, you are rewarded with letter grades. Those who earn all A’s, never miss school, or never get in trouble are usually rewarded. Gamification takes that aspect of education and expands upon it.”

This all began as a simple idea introduced in Bertoli’s own classroom. Teaching sixth grade at Danville Middle School in Central Indiana, he used ClassRealm as a motivation tool for his students. Not only were his students having fun while learning, but they began working harder and participating in class more often. Recent graduate Courtny Cotten ’10 is chief creative officer and graphic designer of ClassRealm, while adjunct professor Dave Matthew serves as the chief technology officer. The paper version of ClassRealm was launched to the public in August, and Bertoli hopes to be able to launch the online version soon. And thanks to an active ClassRealm blog and Twitter account, it’s easy for users to request information and keep up with all the options it offers in the classroom.

Interactive & fun

As Bertoli told wired.com in a recent interview, “Gamification pushes students to perform better in class and even outside of school. The real reward of learning something new is the knowledge you gain, but many students don’t quite grasp that concept at a young age. Gamification is a way to make learning more of a fun experience for students and can help teachers track student data and achievements,” Bertoli says. “The important part is that it promotes learning and makes education more enjoyable for students.”

See the blog at ClassRealm.com or follow ClassRealm on Twitter (@ClassRealm).

Marty
the authorMarty