With game-based learning, students learn on their own in an environment where they are willing to persevere.
To most parents, the fact that children spend 15 hours per week or more playing video and online games comes as no surprise. This number has increased drastically since the schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are often completely immersed in games, losing all sense of time and space but when it comes to learning, parents don’t see the same level of interest from their kids. With online mediums becoming the main way children are taught in these times, teachers and parents around the world are struggling to maintain students’ attention towards learning.
What if we could apply the same technology approaches and techniques used by the most popular video games to education, turning learning into children’s favourite new game?
How Gaming Can Make Learning a Reward, Not a Chore
Anxiety with math is often attributed to students’ dislike of the subject, but it is actually tied to their frustrations with the way it is taught. In a recent study, 68% of students surveyed said they’d like the subject more if they understood how to apply what they learn to their daily lives.
This points to a need for conceptual learning, which involves teaching a subject based on broader principles or concepts that can later be applied to a variety of specific examples, then continually repeated to reinforce the learning. So why not use gaming as a way to apply this approach to teaching mathematics?
Educational gaming has been around for decades, but with digital games becoming more popular now than ever before, this is a golden opportunity for educators and parents. According to a recent study, 74 per cent of teachers report using digital games for instruction and of those, 71 per cent report that game-based learning has been effective in improving their students’ mathematics learning. Games have the power to change learning from an act of passively receiving information to an active pursuit of it. Unlike a normal lesson, a fun yet challenging game makes learners want to come back and play every day. This repetition helps them retain the knowledge they have acquired and creates a foundation for them to build upon in the future.
How Educational Gaming Has Gotten Sticky
For digital game developers, success is defined by the term stickiness, which refers to users’ level of engagement with the game and how often they come back for more.
Today, gamification is giving way to a more effective and evolved means to incorporate games in education: game-based learning. There’s a clear distinction between mere gamification and game-based learning. While gamification makes regular learning fun through extrinsic motivators like points or badges, game-based learning uses a game to teach even difficult concepts in a fun and engaging way. For example, SplashLearn has a game for preschoolers in which players help cute characters called Oolzoos board or deboard a train based on the numbers that appear on the train cars. The game is engaging, interactive and fun for youngsters — it is sticky because kids at this age are drawn to interactive entertainment and it allows them to have a good time while learning the basics of addition and subtraction.
With game-based learning, students learn on their own in an environment where they are willing to persevere, solve problems and derive connections that would lead to long-lasting learning outcomes. The learning experience itself is the reward, rather than students receiving superficial rewards after finishing a lesson. This knowledge helps de-stigmatize game-based learning among educators who may have viewed digital games as a learning deterrent in the past. In fact, Metaari’s yearly Global Game-Based Learning Market report predicts that the game-based learning market will quadruple in size to over $24 billion in revenue by 2024.
We’re in a time when math skills cannot be the only things taught in a math class. The current pandemic has changed our lives, our routines and even the way we teach our children. In this uncertain time, it’s crucial to teach children uniquely human future-ready skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. Interestingly enough, gamers already get to practice these skills while playing digital games.
A child’s daily digital game habit already gives them unique skills, but parents and educators alike can introduce them to games that utilize those skills to help them learn and even build toward their future careers. Children don’t have to choose between learning or playing; both can and should exist cohesively to best help children prepare for whatever new normal the future might bring.