With the rise of mobile devices and apps for learning, browser-based games don’t enjoy the popularity they once did.
But that doesn’t mean there are some examples worth checking out–especially for learning or in schools or classrooms where iPads and other mobile devices are accessible.
Learning is an inherently social process–we construct knowledge based on our experiences and interactions with the world and other human beings (McMahon, 1997). Collaborating with others can help students form opinions, develop questions, consider alternative perspectives, and think critically.
Additionally, collaboration is one of the top employability skills in the United States. Many jobs that graduating high school or college seniors will assume require frequent collaboration with people who come from different cultures, backgrounds, and levels of experience.
Engaging and interactive digital games are a great way to enhance learning and support the retention of new skills and knowledge. We’ve included 16 of the best free browser-based games below, which are suitable for all K-12 students.*
*Note, some of the games–like Dungeon AI–aren’t entirely scripted and so can become inappropriate depending on user input. As with any tool or learning resource, adult supervision is necessary to make sure that the student a. safe and b. actually learning something depending on how the game is played.
1. Dungeon AI
8. Cool Math or Math Playground
The exclamation point is included for a reason! Kahoot is one of the most popular digital team-building sites among students and teachers alike. Teachers can create a variety of multiple-choice quizzes to gauge student knowledge on any topic imaginable. Upbeat music and a timer increase the stakes, and a leaderboard is displayed after each question is answered. In the vein of working smarter versus working harder, teachers can also browse from a collection of pre-made quizzes from educators all over the world. Kahoot quizzes are known to generate an electric buzz in even the most timid of groups, and are highly suitable for collaboration among students.
Quizlet is like Kahoot’s fraternal twin — it shares similarities with Kahoot, including a library of pre-designed formative assessments. Launching a Quizlet in the start or end of class is a great way to check for understanding new content. Students can also create their own quizzes to study vocabulary or important dates/facts.
They can create flashcards, play timed games, and associate images to words. Quizlet also allows the teacher to sort students into random or assigned groups with animal team names. When a question pops up on the screen, students must work together in their groups to identify the correct answer.
Every time they choose a correct response, their team icon moves forward in what appears to be an exciting horse race among the number of teams. Teachers can re-assign team mems at any time and adapt the rules to challenge students. For example, students might have the option to collaborate verbally in the first round but then refrain from doing so in the second round.
11. Breakout EDU
Breakout games are similar to escape rooms — students in groups must collaborate to answer questions and solve puzzles in order to move to subsequent clues, which will eventually lead them to ‘break out’ of the game. Teachers can purchase physical Breakout EDU kits or draw from a library of curated games in all content areas. Many teachers have created their own Breakout EDU games tailored to their students’ individual needs. The games are aligned with standards for any subject and grade level. Schools or teachers may purchase a subscription from the Breakout EDU site, or find free versions through searching online.
The game of Werewolf takes a standard murder mystery and amps up the fun, collaboration, and level of critical thinking. Students will draw blindly for a variety of roles, including the werewolf, the doctor, or a villager. The single werewolf is the ‘enemy’ who attempts to ‘eat the villagers. The doctor and other designated roles have special powers that can help the villagers (as a group) determine the werewolf among them.
Werewolf is a great icebreaker for the beginning of the school year. Additionally, the teacher can adapt the roles to fit the content area. For example, instead of a werewolf devouring villagers, you can designate a virus that attacks a region, or have leaders competing for power within a government.
The moderator is a key figure in this game and an appropriate role for the teacher. They control the transitions and which clues are visible to which group members. They know who plays each role and can add challenges to the game, as desired.
It’s easy to create a virtual BINGO game designed around a topic of your choice. Teachers may use BINGO for icebreakers or formative assessments. Using My Free BINGO Cards, teachers can draw from a compendium of ready-made, customizable BINGO games for up to 30 players.
Their BINGO system invites players to the game, automatically randomizes BINGO cards, calls them out, and verifies the winner. Students may compete against one another as individuals or small groups, depending on the objective of the lesson.
14. Shark Tank
Just like the Shark Tank TV show that bears this game’s namesake, students can collaborate to design a new product or service and advertise their idea to the teacher (or another group of students) who act as the ‘sharks.’ The sharks’ job is to pose questions to the collaborators, which compel them to justify their decisions, explain their strategies, and engage in metacognitive thinking.
If a product or service doesn’t apply to the content area, teachers can have the collaborators create a solution for a problem, like a conflict in a novel, an international crisis, a medical disease, or a mathematical conundrum. Regardless of the content, the activity is conducive for teaching students how to give and receive feedback, work with diverse partners, and advocate for their ideas.
A WebQuest is a virtual scavenger hunt wherein student teams search through primary or secondary sources to locate key information. WebQuests are great ways to frontload a new unit or topic of study. By nature, they encourage students to slow down and search for keywords and phrases within a document, image, or other media file.
WebQuests are also ideal for showing teachers what their students already know about a given subject. While a WebQuest can be completed individually, adding a collaborative component prompts students to compare their information, delegate responsibilities, and engage in other important problem-solving skills. WebQuests are generally free and available all over the internet, though many teachers prefer to create their own. Check out some engaging examples of WebQuests within the science realm.
Remember the show MTV Cribs, where celebrities took viewers on a tour of their lavish mansions? Cribs — the digital team building game — is a great way to promote student bonding at the beginning of a semester. Students may submit a slideshow of pictures featuring their living space (or other favorite places to be).
A moderator will randomly present the slides while the other group members rely on context clues to make educated guesses about whose living space is featured. Students have control over which areas of their living space are visible, and can also attempt to mislead their peers. At the end of each slide, the featured student can explain the importance of significant objects or spaces.
There is no maximum number of students who can participate in this activity — more students make it more difficult to guess whose slides belong to whom, and fewer students provide more time for featured students to explain the importance of their space.
Most of the aforementioned digital games can be played individually, but including a collaborative component stands to increase engagement and accountability. Students will benefit from sharing and discussing perspectives, providing and receiving constructive criticism, and getting to know their classmates on a more personal level.
McMahon, M. (1997, December). Social Constructivism and the World Wide Web – A Paradigm for Learning. Paper presented at the ASCILITE conference. Perth, Australia.