By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2018, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
The K20 Center for Educational and Community Renewal is an Oklahoma powerhouse of authentic resources for teaching and learning for Oklahoma’s educators and students in grades K-12.
The K20 Center is all about research-based initiatives that improve student engagement, critical skills and problem solving. The center has done extensive study and analysis on the effects of digital game-based learning — think of it as mastering subjects through video games. K20 offers 14 digital learning games, which have been shown empirically to be more effective than traditional learning tools such as lectures and videos.
Drew Rhodes, senior government teacher at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, teaches financial literacy using K20’s Mind Your Own Budget (MYOB), a fun and hands-on way for students to build financial literacy (and to meet Oklahoma’s graduation requirements). MYOB presents 10 scenarios with different challenges for the player. Each of the levels integrates multiple financial literacy standards.
“The game is relentless in showing students what actually happens when they don’t follow through with a budget to meet their goals,” Rhodes said. “It’s real. Each level touches on several financial standards a kid needs to understand.”
The scenario Simple Saver introduces basic budgeting and savings skills. College Coed adds in taxes, checkbook balancing, and savings. In College Grad, students meet loans, debt, insurance, and monthly payments. If they take out renter’s insurance and keep up with the bill, they discover that when their apartment is broken into and things are stolen, they will receive the money to replace that big screen TV.
“If students use scholarship money to buy a sofa that looks like Prince could afford it,” Rhodes said, “or a big-screen TV instead of paying for books and tuition, or if they go skydiving and can’t pay the electrical bill or buy tickets to a concert and have to eat junk food for the next month, they lose comfort points and won’t advance to the next level in the game.”
A third-generation teacher with nine years in the classroom, he says that game-based learning creates a different level of engagement
“When I talk to students about credit limits, bankruptcy, taxes, interest rates, and credit cards, they are like, ‘yeah, yeah, yeah,'” Rhodes said. “But doing assignments with the game scenarios makes it real. They see what actually happens when they make mistakes and realize the real consequences of their actions.”
“They’ll ask each other, ‘why didn’t you pass that level?'” he said. “That’s how kids learn, through practice and talking with each other. The game also starts up real conversations beyond financial literacy that help me mentor students and bring in the value of education to them. That’s a beautiful, hidden lesson in the curriculum.”
K20’s game-based learning tools range from one-hour classroom lessons, to an entire curriculum. Best of all, they are available at no cost for all teachers and students in Oklahoma. It’s simple to get started at the K20 website at k20center.ou.edu/games.
Every teacher, principal, and superintendent in Oklahoma should investigate how K20’s digital games can improve student learning and engagement in their schools.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.