May 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Cool Tools: Create your own learning games for free

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SLJ1102_TK_CT1(Original Import)A quick web search for “educational games” or a variation thereof will yield thousands of results. Some of those games might suit your students’ needs, but you could end up with nothing. So rather than spending hours searching for a great learning activity, why not create your own game? Better yet, have students help devise one that they can play with their classmates.

Designing and building games used to require specialized programming skills, and for complex games that’s still true. But now there are some excellent services that allow nonprogrammers to build some nice games. Used in the classroom, these services allow students to focus on creating games that are factually correct, informational, and fun to play without requiring you to address programming skills.

Wondering how to work game development into your classroom? After a unit of study, instead of requiring student presentations, have kids develop a game around what they’ve learned. Imagine one based on math concepts or vocabulary terms, or a game featuring historical events. Here are five free tools you and your students can use to accomplish those purposes.

Sharendipity (beta.sharendipity.com) makes it possible for students and teachers to quickly create and share simple video games. Sharendipity’s drag-and-drop creation tools can be used to craft a game in as few as four steps. For new users, the tutorials section provides clear directions and helpful game ideas. Games created on Sharendipity can be embedded in your blog or website.

YoYo Games offers a free (for PC) game development tool called Game Maker 8, which enables users to develop simple video games using a drag-and-drop editor. Game Maker 8 gives users the ability to customize backgrounds and actions throughout their games. For the first-time user, YoYo Games offers a series of free tutorials (www.yoyogames.com/make/tutorials). Game Maker 8 is available in three versions: Lite, which is free for Windows users; Pro, which unlocks advanced features for $25; and a Mac version ($25). Game Maker for Mac can be used free for up to 10 hours before payment is required.

ProProfs Brain Games (www.proprofs.com/games/create-game) allows you to build interactive crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, word searches, hangman games, and sliding puzzle activities. You can embed your games in your blog or share them via email, Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. If you don’t want to take the time to create your own game, you can browse the gallery. Any of the gallery games are also embeddable.

Purpose Games (www.purposegames.com) allows users to create custom games, share, and play them, all free of charge. There are two styles available on Purpose Games. The simpler of the two is a fairly basic multiple choice game. The other style uses images and maps on which players must name the places represented by placemarks on the image or map. Purpose Games gives creators the option to make their games public or private. If you select the private option, only the people to whom you send invitations will be able to play your game.

Developed by a teacher, ClassTools.net is a free service for educators to make their own educational games, which can be shared via email or embedded in a web page. ClassTools.net provides 15 easy-to-use templates, which make educational game creation a real snap. There’s also a selection of pre-made games, which teachers may find appropriate for use with their students.

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Author Information
Richard Byrne (richardbyrne@freetech4teachers.com), a high school social studies teacher, writes the award-winning blog Free Technology for Teachers.
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