I know the title for this “The Best…” list is a bit of a mouthful, and perhaps not that clear, but I couldn’t come-up with anything better.
There are quite a few online games with educational value that have players compete against others on the Web. Many of them, however, don’t allow the players to choose whom they are playing with, and are just connected anonymously.
I have reservations about students playing these games for three reasons:
1) Many of the others playing the games are native-English speakers, and are at a competitive advantage when playing with my English Language Learner students. Games are not a whole lot of fun when you’re losing all the time.
2) Most (though not all) of those games have safeguards built into them to ensure anonymity, and also have some controls on inappropriate content. However, one not uncommon way for players to take advantage of that anonymity is to use nicknames that are inappropriate.
3) I think it’s just plain more fun when you’re competing against your peers in class as opposed to some faceless person out in cyberspace.
Happily, there are several online games with educational value that allow users to create private “virtual rooms” that allow you to choose whom you play against. It’s pretty intense, exciting, and fun in the computer lab when everyone is competing against each other, and after each question is answered you see a “leaderboard” on the screen showing the position of each player.
Of course, I have to say that I feel that most of these kinds of games are played best in the classroom with students divided into groups and playing “face-to-face.” However, it can also be a nice change to do something like this on occasion in the computer lab.
In order for a game to make it on this list, it:
* needed to have educational value for English Language Learners and other students.
* allow for very easy creation of private “virtual rooms” where you can control who can enter the game.
* be free-of-charge.
Here are my picks for The Best Online Games Students Can Play In Private Virtual “Rooms”:
Gut Instinct is from the BBC. It has questions divided into three categories — English, Math and Science, and is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners, and maybe even Early Intermediates. Students can super-easily create their own virtual “rooms” for between two-and-thirty people where they can compete with their peers. All they have to do is all type in the name of their room (or “league”), choose their avatar and nickname, and the game begins.
Mia Cadaver’s Tombstone Timeout is another BBC game very similar to Gut Instinct, though this is one focused on math and science. As in Gut Instinct, in “Mia Cadaver” you can create a private “virtual room” where only your students compete against each other. Everybody just types in the name you’ve given the room, and the questions begin. After each question is answered the screen shows the overall ranking of everybody in the room. Students love it!
iSketch is another online pictionary-style game. You can create your own private rooms, plus have a chatboard while you’re playing.
Drawception is a cool online game that combines the old Telephone Game with drawing. Unfortunately, you have to “earn” the ability to create private virtual rooms by getting people to “like” your drawings. I’ve emailed them to see if an exception can be made for teachers. I’ll let you know if and how they respond.
Readers might also be interested in these previous “The Best…” lists related to learning games:
The Best online games websites for English Language Learners 2007
The Best Online Video Games For Learning Language & Content Knowledge
The Best “Fun” Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too
The Best Websites For Creating Online Learning Games
The Best Online Learning Games — 2008
The Best Sites For Making Crossword Puzzles & Hangman Games
The Best Fun Sites You Can Use For Learning, Too — 2008
As always, feedback and suggestions are welcome.