Online gaming is extremely popular. More than two out of every three people in the United States play video games, according to a study reported by the Entertainment Software Organization
The good news for educators: Games aren’t just for fun anymore.
Teachers have used digital gaming to teach and reinforce critical life lessons for a while now. An early example includes the Civilization game series, which teaches history. A more recent one is Walden, a Game which completely immerses players in Thoreau’s iconic literary work.
The best games teach players new ways of seeing, understanding, and working through challenges. They can also teach kids important life lessons like the value of persistence, honesty, and diligence.
How Games Are Used in Education Today
Gaming in education takes many forms, from small experiences for one or a few players to state-wide collaborative events. However, they typically take two primary forms:
- Games designed for entertainment used in an educational setting to support lessons
- Educators adopt features of game design to bring learning to another level.
The first example may seem frivolous, but it’s not. Playing a game and learning a concept can be very similar. It takes persistence to achieve a new video game level, much like mastering an educational concept or passing to a new grade. And similar to the classroom, games typically provide feedback when players are unsuccessful. The theorist James Paul Gee has written extensively about experiential learning and gamification in academics.
Even games that seem completely frivolous, such as action games and puzzles, have been shown to provide educational benefits. These seemingly simplistic skill-and-drill games are often criticized for focusing on the most basic aspect of learning. However, they typically leverage goals, storytelling, and rewards, which are proven learning tactics.
The second form of gamification in education is more formalized. Educators apply gaming theory and game design elements in an educational setting. The goal is to bring learning into the real world and make it more engaging and fun.
Gaming is the Classroom
Classroom game activities can take many forms, just like regular games do, for instance chess, The Sims, and online racing. There are many elements games may include. Designers pick and choose among them because they encourage players to take different actions and appeal to a range of players. Researcher Dr. Nick Yee proposed one way to characterize game elements:
- Action: Offers objectives
- Social: Encourages competition
- Mastery: Scores activities
- Achievement: Provides rewards
- Immersion: Encourage roleplaying
- Creativity: Allows for customization.
When educators and academic content creators adopt these features into a lesson, even if the result isn’t necessarily a game, it’s been gamified. Some of the most common elements, such as scoring and badges or decorating a classroom to match a lesson, or tasking students with unusual projects, have long been a part of education because they make students want to learn. They don’t feel forced to learn.
Imagine taking that to the next level.
When implemented well, a fully gamified lesson delivers the same learning objectives as a traditional one. However, it makes the learning process more engaging, fun, authentic, and memorable. Gamification is a tool that can build motivation and interest in learning.
Examples of Gamification in Learning
It can be challenging to understand how gamification can be used to support education. Here are some top-tier examples.
Most students don’t like studying math. Games like Waggle, make it more engaging and fun, offering students rewards and upping challenges at an appropriate pace.
Code Karts is a technology game that teaches the basics of coding. It empowers kids to create their own computer programs, making this complex concept more accessible.
Kids vs. Plastic National Geographic educates on environmental stability in a fun interactive way. It demonstrates how plastic ruins the habitats of many animals.
An example of a different type of gamified learning is the Oregon Game Project Challenge. It’s an annual statewide competition where middle school and high school students work to design games together based on an annual theme. Designing games can teach lessons in computer science, graphic design, storytelling, marketing, sales, and more.
How to Add Gamification to Learning
There isn’t a single-way approach to gamifying learning. Here are some ideas on how content creators and educators can use it to make education more engaging:
- Develop avatars. Avatars are characters in a learning game. They allow students to imagine themselves in different learning scenarios. Some examples include seeing a historical event through the eyes of a character that was a part of it or acting in the role of an engineer, scientist, or professor in a workplace simulation experience.
- Provide awards. Grades and gold stars have been a part of education for a long time. It’s also integral to education, as well. At its simplest, awards can involve anything from handing out simple printed badges after completing an assignment to leveraging yearlong online leaderboards. What’s critical is that all students feel included in the awarding, not just the top ones. Reward healthy learning habits, not just achievement. Give students credit for staying focused or persisting through failure, not just for earning good grades.
- Turn learning into quests. Give students agency and motivation by turning learning objectives into quests, journeys, or experiences, which are central to the most popular games. These can be solo activities like speaking to a grandparent to learn about what life was like when they were children. Or they can be class-wide quests like a history-themed scavenger hunt to find objects and information about a period. This type of experiential learning typically sticks with students more than reading about things in a textbook.
- Keep it classic. There’s a reason why certain games, for instance, Scrabble and Monopoly, have stood the test of time. They have underlying structures, stories, and rules that people keep returning to for more. Of course, you can’t steal Scrabble to teach vocabulary, but you can leverage it as inspiration. Similarly, the structure behind Monopoly could be used to help teach a lesson in social studies.
In the end, the only limit is your imagination. What games do you and the kids you know play? Think about what makes them fun and consider how you can apply those concepts to learning.
Gamification and Meeting Education Standards Requirements
Games are a great way to bring lessons to life. However, how do you know if a learning game is any good?
More and more, states and school districts demand that games meet learning standards. That’s where EdGate can help.
EdGate works with leading educational software producers and content creators to ensure their games and tools meet the necessary learning requirements to enter the classroom. This preemptive planning helps shorten sales cycles and increase close rates. Additionally, the subject matter experts at EdGate can provide cross-curricular content alignment that allows for product line expansion opportunities.
Content correlation to educational standards isn't a new concept, but it's a labor-intensive practice, and it comes with unique twists when applying it to gamification. EdGate's patented technologies shorten the time to market with precise correlations that are updated as state and federal standards continually change. You can rest assured knowing your content will be approved for use in classrooms across the United States and many parts of the world.