Game-Based Learning

Using Farmville to Teach Standards

How to use Zynga’s Farmville as an Educational Tool

February 24, 2011

Today's guest blogger is Linda Deneher, a one-on-one tutor and student at an online Master of Educational Technology program.

When I was given the opportunity to create a thematic unit for a course in the Master of Educational Technology program at Boise State University, Instructional Message Design, my goal was to create a unit that was informative, could be standards-based, is accessible online, and appealing to our learners. Farmville was chosen to be the focus of the unit because success requires the application of math, it is played online, and the fact that it is a game causes it to be attractive.

Farmville + Facebook =

According to the All Facebook website, Farmville, a Zynga product accessed through a Facebook account, has approximately 31 million daily users and 80 million users who play at least monthly. The goal of the game is to plant and harvest crops, trees, and animals with players gaining coins used to purchase seeds for future crops, trees and animals, as well as decorations used to customize player's farms. The mathematical features of the game provide a virtually unlimited resource for the creation of standards-based lessons for learners who must be over the age of 13 to comply with the game's terms of service.

Standards Covered

Numerous California Curriculum Standards for grades eight through twelve can be covered by the integration of game features. Along with working for coin rewards, the game also provides random gifts. These random gifts can provide data used to cover the Probability and Statistics standard. Algebra can also use the data provided by the game. Each crop and animal has a different rate at which they mature - rate problems are a standard. So is geometry and the farms are planes which can have their perimeters and specific areas of the various planted areas measured. The farms can be expanded in area, so standards-based problems regarding changes in perimeter and area can be covered.

History Social Science Standards

Standards-based lessons are not just limited to mathematics. History Social Science standards require that "Students analyze human modifications of landscapes and examine the resulting environmental policy issues." The game is focused on the modification of the natural landscape presented at the beginning of each game. In order to gain the maximum amount of coins, most learners choose to modify their farm environment by placing as many crops, trees, and animals as possible in the smallest amount of space. This crowding, if done in reality, would result in a significant impact on the environment.

Discussion of the impact of the Industrial Revolution, another standard, can be covered as the game makes it possible for players to purchase farm equipment that increases the rate of harvest by four times. Another game feature is that it is possible to have the farms set in different environmental regions, for example grassland, a desert, or an area covered by snow. The discussion of environmental regions and their relationship is a standard. Principles of Economics can be covered because the game provides players with the option of purchasing buildings that allow them to use their crops to create goods for sale. Ingredients can be purchased from other players leading to discussions about competition for resources, and profit as an incentive for entrepreneurs.

English Standards

All of the above-mentioned standards based lessons can be used as writing prompts for the English Language Arts standards. Farms can serve as primary sources of data and the development of each farm can be used to discuss sequencing. Writing assignments require organization, focus, evaluation, and revision, all of which are standards. Screen captures of the farms can be used as visual aids, and the data can be used to create charts and graphs. These are standards. Players can create their own manuals for explaining how to play the game, yet another standard. All this information can be presented orally, which is covered by the standards for Listening and Speaking. Farmers can be interviewed, supporting information is easily available by observing farms, descriptions, and persuasive arguments for choosing a specific plan of action for farming can be presented.

For Remedial Learners

Grade level standards are not the only ones that can be used. There will be learners who have not mastered standards presented in early grades, and this lack of mastery can impact their success in school. Remedial standards-based lessons can also be applied in learners' work in the game. Gaining the attention of any student can be problematic, but remedial learners also face frustration due to lack of success. Having their lessons based on a game that millions of people find fun may make their lessons more interesting resulting in a greater degree of focus and interaction.

Linda Deneher started tutoring the summer she was nine years old. A friend had flunked 3rd grade because he did not understand syllables and could not read at his grade level. By the time school started in the fall, his reading had improved to the point where he was moved to 4th grade. This experience inspired her in a career as a one-on-one tutor addressing specific needs. She is currently in a online Master of Educational Technology program at Boise State University.

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