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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Special Guest Post by Daniel Turner: The Gamification of Education


Author Bio: Daniel Turner currently works in community outreach for Teach.com, which serves prospective teachers, as well as current teachers looking to learn more, with a wide variety of motivational and informational resources that range from STEM Education to how to become a teacher anywhere in the U.S. Outside of work, Daniel enjoys movies, sports and all things Philly.

The Gamification Of Education

Video games have found their way into many classrooms, and gamification has become the new buzzword. Gamification can be defined as applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. In education, this can mean incorporating learning games into the curriculum, whether students are playing a teacher-created Jeopardy game to review for an exam or playing Dance Dance Revolution in physical education for exercise and improved coordination.

Gaming has become hot in schools, with students finding the curriculum to be more engaging and motivating when games are involved. Many students already spend a lot of time outside of school playing games so they naturally gravitate towards this learning tool.

How Gamification Works

Learning games have been around for a long time, but until recently most did not have social aspects. Forbes claims that it’s these social aspects of games that often draw people in, which can be seen through social media games where players become fiercely competitive while playing Words with Friends and connecting over watermelon gardens in Minecraft.

Children and adolescents are naturally competitive and respond well to the immediate feedback that games provide. Since students are not always internally motivated, teachers are relying on the “oldest tricks in the book” by motivating students through incentives to ramp up that motivation. Students are having a good time, but they are also retaining and mastering important educational content.

Why Electronic Games are Good for Learning

In a separate article, Forbes praises game-based learning for helping students to develop “ automatically” when it comes to being able to recall information or repeat tasks. Experts in every field rely on this important skill to be able to excel in their work. Professional athletes and surgeons alike have automatically down so they can focus on more advanced skills.

The increase in mobile learning devices has given educators the platforms that they need for students to develop these skills both in and out of the classroom. Students are not excited by rote learning experiences through reading textbooks and listening to lectures, but electronic devices offer interactive, hands-on experiences.

Games also appeal to multiple learning styles and preferences, giving more students opportunities for academic success. Education can be more individualized so that electronic pre-assessments can deliver the information that teachers need to tailor a student’s leaning path. Math games can be used in remediation, and students who have mastered content ahead of their peers can engage in individual or small group games at more advanced levels.

The use of portable devices and social media also motivates students to engage in learning beyond the traditional school hours.

Game-Based Learning in Action

USA Today reports that video games have helped a number of students with autism to be able to increase communication and social skills. In several schools, students have used Kinect sensors to create their own avatars, which interact and communicate with each other. The virtual world provides fewer threats than school hallways and cafeterias, so students feel more comfortable having these valuable interactions. Software engineering students from the University of Michigan have been designing Kinect games specifically for children with autism, like Tickle Monster which helps teach students nonverbal communication skills, like facial emotions and acceptable touch.

In addition to the many applications gaming offers for students with special needs, games can help all students master important academic skills like reading proficiency. The Oxford Student Online describes an upcoming game intended to popularize works of classical literature for children. A partnership between Oxford University Press and develop SecretBuilders, the games will entice children to read by putting classical plots and characters into a “digital format.” They are also choosing a different book each week and hosting numerous activities and contests, as well as a “Bookworms Club” to entice children under 15 to read great literature. Games will be offered on mobile devices like iPods and tablets.

The future applications of gaming in education are limitless. Soon, students might be playing first-person games based on Shakespeare tragedies!

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