Creating a new path to personalization and engagement.
GUEST COLUMN | by Matt Cole and Alex Inman
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic upending traditional education, many teachers were forced to get creative and tap into new and innovative methods that would maintain a healthy level of engagement and interaction for their students during remote and hybrid learning. That’s because 65 percent of households in the U.S. reported their children were learning online at one point in October 2020.
While the majority of teachers and students have returned to class for the 2021-2022 school year, remote and hybrid-learning models have had a lasting impact due to the reliance on technology tools.
This also includes the integration of games into lessons, which has become an effective method to encourage participation among students.
With the growing popularity of e-sports combined with the continuous addition of new classroom technology, the concepts of gamification and game-based learning are a couple of tactical teaching trends that are here to stay due to more intuitive and interactive learning experiences.
‘…gamification and game-based learning are a couple of tactical teaching trends that are here to stay due to more intuitive and interactive learning experiences.’
Gamification vs. Game-Based Learning
To determine how to integrate games into the classroom, we must first understand the difference between gamification and game-based learning because students’ needs vary based on their age and stage of development. Gamification is a strategy that integrates game-elements, including points and leaderboards, into the lesson. On the flipside, game-based learning is learning through a game.
While gamification is more subtle, it can be used as a technique to motivate students. For example, there are games such as Class Dojo and Classcraft, and others which add a timed component to instruction. This could prompt engagement and more interaction by offering a reward, or points, in return.
Game-based learning incorporates game elements while also creating an immersive experience for students. For example, instead of a school trip to Greece, which was put on hold due to the pandemic, students in Canada played the Assassin’s Creed video game as part of their history course curriculum. Kahoot! Is also another example of game-based learning.
An Avenue to Higher Student Engagement
Whether by incorporating game-based learning or gamification into the classroom, educators can change how students think about solving problems and provide an avenue to higher student engagement. While “student engagement” can be difficult to define, these concepts typically spark curiosity among students and provide intellectual entertainment, because “playing” can appear interchangeable to “learning” for the student.
The psychological element to games differs depending on the type of game that is being played; for instance, some games are designed for teams, which lead to increased collaboration, while others are designed for individual competition, which lead to more personalized learning approaches. In either case, the situated cognition has changed.
This theory, that the process of learning is a product of environment and social interactions, is put to the test with games. The elements of challenges in games have the potential to motivate students through incentives, such as badges or points. Repetition has the potential to instill knowledge and create healthy habits to complete the game or finish the action.
A New Lens Into Comprehension
As new technologies continue to be introduced to the classroom, educators can capture more data by adding game-based and gamified elements, including scores, points, or polling. These new capabilities enable educators to track and measure students’ development and progress, while also being able to provide immediate feedback to the student. Each student is forced to come up with a solution in his or her own way. This instant feedback creates personalized learning experiences and ultimately provides a new lens into comprehension.
More classrooms are being outfitted with interactive displays, which can deliver that feedback in real time and guide the teacher to understand where or how the student is excelling or struggling. It also helps students visualize their academic progress and can keep the classroom energized and fun.
For example, Classroom Escape Rooms are designed to guide students through learning materials, such as one unit on ancient Egypt, which quickly becomes a challenge to uncover historical secrets to escape King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Puzzles like this can build excitement, create a sense of urgency, and provide a fun collaborative environment.
Gamified Learning in the Classroom
Furthermore, as the gaming industry continues to boom and video games become the new playgrounds, video game companies are working to change the perception of games as being purely for entertainment and are adapting games that are classroom specific and accessible to educators. One example of a game that’s been created for students is Minecraft: Education Edition, which originally launched in 2016. Educators in more than 100 countries have integrated the virtual-build game into teaching and learning due to the game’s innovative problem-solving elements.
While many disagree on when and how gamification first emerged, it’s important to note, game-based and gamified learning are being leveraged more in the classroom as advancements in technologies continue to evolve. While it has proven to offer a pathway to greater student engagement and collaboration, not all students will respond in the same fashion, and it’s important to analyze elements that resonate with students.
Lastly, technology has propelled gamification and game-based learning, and as more game-based elements and games become widely available, educators should offer these elements and activities in a variety of ways to ensure students are learning skills and healthy habits – not patterns.