This Tuesday, the education minor hosted a “Gaming in Education” event with speaker Jared Fishman, ‘03. Fishman is a Binghamton alum who is currently teaching sixth, seventh and ninth grade history at Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York. He is the recipient of the Mary Lambos Award in teaching and the M.H. Davidson Family Chair in History. He co-founded the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society, a nonprofit that helps teachers incorporate games into their curriculum. He has held countless seminars, workshops and conferences to spread awareness about the advantages of gaming in the classroom.

Fishman clarified early on that the kind of gaming he implements in his classroom is physical, not digital. He indicated that physical games do an excellent job of fully engaging the students and helping them interact with each other in ways that are different from digital games. Fishman’s games are most akin to strategy board games or role-play games. While game-based learning is an “alternative” teaching method, Fishman does not denounce traditional methods of teaching such as readings, discussion, note-taking, essays and tests.

“There is nothing wrong with tradition,” Fishman said. “There is a reason that methods concocted centuries ago are still implemented today.”

Yet, the tried and true methods are not always the most memorable.

“You may have heard the statistic that kids retain about 10 percent of what we teach them,” Fishman said. “But I will tell you, the kids who graduate and come back to my classroom remember the Black Death simulation in sixth grade.”

The “Black Death simulation” is a class game project in which students pair up with partners and choose a region of Italy to inhabit. They then do research to construct their own historically accurate town with drawn pictures and models for a presentation. After being supplied with historical information about the Black Death, students create 10 laws to combat the effects of the coming plague. The result is a Dungeons & Dragons-esque game in which various mechanisms (rolling 20-sided dice, the quality of their laws and responses to events) determine how each town holds up against the plague. This is only one of many games that take Fishman’s teaching content and condenses it into a meaningful, engaging format for students.

“Much of the time, the kids don’t realize that they are working harder and learning more,” Fishman said.

Fishman referenced numerous studies proving the positive effects of game-based learning. Some of these benefits include increased creativity, active learning, collaboration, intrinsic motivation and appropriate levels of competition. Fishman noted how game-based learning helps bring “boring” content to life and spares students from lectures.

“Game-based learning is student-centered, not teacher-centered,” Fishman said. “I am the least important person in the room. The game is all about the kids.”

In the question and answer section, Fishman responded to a question about how game-based learning influences gender inclusion.

“Gaming is unbelievably gendered … [Some girls in my classes] feel like games aren’t made for girls, and that’s heartbreaking to me,” Fishman said.

He went on to explain that many game designers used to market almost exclusively to men, leaving a lasting impact on the game industry. However, he noticed that gaming in the classroom allowed many middle school girls to take leadership roles. They also have gaming affinity groups at Hackley School, where girls can thrive in a safe and supportive environment.

In a turbulent time for educators, Fishman advocates for game-based learning as a valuable and equitable way to engage students and help them learn in ways that make them smile.

“If we want to be really unsophisticated, [games] are just fun,” Fishman said.