Games: purpose and potential in education

Let my playing be my learning, and my learning be my playing. -Johan Huizinga

Games and play are typically overlooked (Prensky, 2001) by many as a way for students to learn. As defined by Sharp (2012), stealth learning is “when an instructor uses clever, disguised ways to introduce learning objectives through non-traditional tools, such as games, to encourage students to have fun and learn”. Game-based learning allows teachers to incorporate ‘stealth learning’ in the classroom. Like game-based learning, gamification is a way to infuse play into the classroom. Gamification is “applying typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity” (Davis, 2014).

Based on Prensky (2001), game based learning can be used for:

  • Material that is dry and/or technical
  • Challenging subject matter
  • Audiences that are hard to reach
  • Developing critical thinking skills
  • Strategy development and communication.


Some of the benefits of gaming in the classroom include increased memory, class performance, social benefits, and improving the transfer of learning (Sharp, 2012). The social benefits of play include building social competence and confidence in dealing with peers (Singer et al., 2006). Playing games is also essential to children’s ability to regulate their behaviors and emotions (Singer et al., 2006). By playing games, students learn that rules are a part of our daily lives (Sharp, 2012). However, unstructured playtime may be limited in today’s standards and outcomes driven classrooms. For example, some schools have reduced or cut out recess altogether, while others have reduced lunch break hours. Interestingly enough, a Quebec elementary school has introduced a one-year pilot project on a near-complete ban on homework, with the goal to ease pressure on parents and to improve student performance (Shingler, 2014).



Davis, V. (2014). A Guide to Game-Based Learning. Retrieved 5 December 2014, from

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Game-Based Learning. Retrieved from

Sharp, L. (2012). Stealth Learning: Unexpected Learning Opportunities Through Games. Journal of Instructional Research, 1, 42-48. Retrieved from

Shingler, B. (2014). Less work, more play: Quebec elementary school bans homework for the year. Retrieved 9 December 2014, from

Singer, D. G., Golinkoff, R. M., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & MyiLibrary. (2006). Play=learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

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