179 – Board Gaming with Education – The Family Gamers Podcast

Board Gaming with Education

Our podcast guest this week is Dustin Staats, from the Board Gaming with Education podcast!

Originally, the podcast was called “Board Gaming with English” – Dustin and a friend created the podcast when they were English teachers in Taiwan. Their goal was to teach how to play, while introducing grammar & vocabulary used in a game.

In short, the podcast’s original goal was to help English learners through games.

Many teachers are already using “game based learning” and “gamification” in their classes, without necessarily knowing those terms.

What We’ve Been Playing

Dustin just came back from the Game Level Learn conference (all about using games in education) and one of his favorite games played after the convention is Wavelength – it plays in the box and is very intuitive.

Splendor – a newer classic game that is very accessible.

Bon Appetit! – review coming soon.

Drop It – always a favorite. (Our review)

Get the MacGuffin – a great filler game for any number of players. (Our review)

Visitor in Blackwood Grove – has been a big hit at Monday game nights. We discuss how to play and why it’s constantly compared to E.T. (Our review)

Azul and Miyabi – both excellent puzzley games by Michael Kiesling.


Board Gaming with Education

How did it start? Dustin was already using games and gamifying his classroom management, but then he discovered the modern board gaming hobby when he moved to Taiwan in 2016.

He began bringing some of these games into the classroom, and modifying them to make them suitable for his classroom. Could other English teachers and English learners benefit from what he discovered? A podcast was born.

Later on, Dustin began to realize that teachers in other disciplines could benefit from this work as well.

At first, the podcast was a tool for English learners to use to improve their vocabulary while learning a fun game, while being a tool that English teachers could also use (ie. assign an episode as homework). Later they began to bring on experts and game designers to help other teachers learn how to use games in their teaching.

Dustin’s favorite moments from guests on the podcast:

Challenges of using games in education (what doesn’t work).

How to incorporate games in more streamlined ways.

Companies that do “games for education” in more focused ways.

Activities that can be used along with games to target specific learning outcomes.

Favorite games to use in an educational way

Let’s reframe the question: Efficient vs. inefficient use of games to teach. In learning a language, literally anything with words will help teach language, but some games have more impact and less frustration.

Taboo vs. Trapwords

In Taboo, you need guess a word, avoiding words from a related list. In Trapwords, the other team creates the list of “illegal” words; this means both teams are thinking about the word and the related words, and both teams are listening. Dustin has modified the game further to make it a three-team game, with everyone involved.

Examples of surprising games

Noah’s Ark: Don’t Rock the Boat is a simple balance game (place animals on the boat). There’s no real language learning other than the animal names. Dustin modified it for one-on-one tutoring, requiring a student to create sentences using each animal.

In general, word building games (Scrabble, etc.) are NOT good for English education. There’s not enough scaffolding or support to promote actual learning.

Wordopolis is a bit better. It’s like a word search that also lets you substitute letters (creating more words) as you go.

Andrew introduces the game TAGS – a 4×5 grid with letters/sounds on one axis and categories on the other. Name things that fit the cross-section, then grab that marble. “A vocabulary vomit.” Not necessarily the best game for language learning, but it could trigger peer teaching.

Anitra suggests Anomia Kids, which offers a scaffolding – use starting sounds, with pictures instead of reading.

Do you have recommendations for parents?

Intrinsic motivation is the key! Work with whatever kids are interested in. (AKA: why comic books can be a great tool to get kids reading.)

What else have you done on the podcast besides English-learning topics?

Covered PAX Unplugged as an educator.

Why use games in school?

Talk to game designers (specifically for educational games).

Talk to teachers about gamification.

Give us one last recommendation for using games.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective – used for reading comprehension, and it gives great intrinsic motivation: solve the problem! Dustin needed to simplify the language to keep it at an appropriate level for his students.

Just play a lot of games! And modify them if necessary.

Find Dustin & Board Gaming in Education online:


or search for “Board Gaming With Education” on your podcast player.

Facebook: @BoardGamingWithEducation

Instagram: @BoardGamingWithEducation

Twitter: @bge_games

Email: podcast@boardgamingwitheducation.com

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