“Turn off the TV and get some fresh air!” Parents have uttered these words time and time again in an effort to get their children to stop staring at the television screen and enjoy the outdoors. While no one can argue the benefits of getting fresh air and exercise, there are other reasons for children to keep an eye on the screen. The computer screen, that is. Social media video games have become extremely popular and sophisticated. They are created for all age groups and can be used on computers, iPads or mobile devices. Elementary school age children can learn from a variety of games that are educational, fun and designed just for them.
One such educational social media game is called Club Penguin. Created by Disney, this is an example of an MMO, or Massively Multiplayer Online game. Large numbers of people can play at one time and interact with each other. Parental controls can also be set. In addition to games, children can take part in creating and uploading artwork, following recipes and reading blogs about different penguin adventures. This also gets children used to looking at a blog interface as well as learning the purpose of a blog.
Fantage is another MMO game for children. They can create and customize their own avatar. They can play a variety of games on all different subjects, including math, language, geography and problem solving. Students can compete against each other online. This is not just a learning activity, but also an exercise in team building and sportsmanship. Teachers and parents can get involved. For students who are shy, they can choose the, “No chat” option. This will allow them to play without speaking to others. After a point, they may feel comfortable enough to talk and to “break out” of their comfort zone.
Older students might enjoy a game that is more focused on science and research. Atlantis Remixed is an MMO game that takes place in a multi-user, virtual 3D environment. The animation is stunning, the colors are vibrant, and the characters are realistic. This highly engaging, interactive game is geared towards students, ages 9-16. The goal is to get them excited about the world they are entering so that they may explore, discover and take risks. The reward comes not in the form of a good grade for a project well done, but rather in the satisfaction that the student achieved his or her goal in the game and that they were recognized and appreciated by their peers.
Teacher support is crucial in any social media game. Depending upon the age level, games should also be repetitive. In this way, children learn by playing the game numerous times. An award of some kind should be given out at the end, whether it is in the form of a certificate, digital badge or a sign that says, “Congratulations!” A good online social media game will have tracking and statistical information built into it, so that you can see your performance and measure it against others. Teachers will want to make sure that whatever social media games their students are playing, that they conform to state standards and the Common Core. A customizable game will come in handy for the teacher in case there is anything they would like their students to focus on, or, to not have access. Some games tend to be lengthy. Teachers must keep their eye on the clock to make sure that their students complete the game, or at least a portion of it, within the time frame allotted. Overall, the social media game needs to be fun, exciting, educational and safe. Social games have the ability to raise one’s self esteem, while introducing students to new cultures, different viewpoints and experiences. Keeping all of these factors in mind, students can learn by leaps and bounds – all while raising their game!