How to use games in the classroom?

For centuries games have been used as a part of learning. Chess was used for teaching strategic thinking and card games in social gatherings during the Renaissance. The idea of kindergarten came from Friedrich Fröbel’s concept of “learning through play” which is one corner stone of Finnish Early Childhood Education too.

Education experts state that games can introduce goals, interaction, feedback, problem-solving, competition, narrative, and fun learning environments, elements that can increase learner engagement and sustain motivation. Moreover, games can be used regardless of education level and learning style. Multiple subjects can be combined in the same game, creating a flexible teaching tool.

Gamification and Game-Based Learning (GBL) are often used synonymously. However, being aware of the difference between these tools can help choose the approach that is better able to serve teaching purposes and obtain learners’ needs.

Gamification could be commonly defined as “the use of game design elements, game thinking, and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts”. It integrates game elements like point systems, leaderboards, badges, trophies, or other elements related to games into “conventional” learning activities to increase engagement and motivation, to inspire a particular reaction or behavior, to promote competition or to support learners in tracking their progress. Gamification elements draw on human needs to collect, compete and succeed.

Game-based learning is usually used to inspire learners by adding fun to the learning process. Usually when the subject is complicated and harder to understand, assessment is difficult or there is a lack of interest and motivation problems within the learners. To study while playing makes the learning process more exciting and tt has a positive effect on cognitive development.  When students enter into a stream state playing, their concentration is higher than usual. The result is active learning instead of passive learning.

What Are the Benefits of Using Gamification and GBL?

Researchers in their comparative study specified benefits of gamification as

  • higher than before engagement
  • increasing motivation levels
  • enlarged interaction with the user and
  • better loyalty

The most common benefits of game-based learning mentioned by specialists are: students learn new concepts and practice skills in a risk-free environment, the progress in the game is directly related to their understanding of the subject being taught, it’s suited to teaching difficult concepts since the lesson is both fun and challenging and students stay engaged for longer.

How to Make Lessons Interesting for the Students of the 21st Century?

The necessity of curriculum modernization can have many solutions. Still, specialists consider that it is essential to keep students engaged and be sure they are learning how to be critical, confident, and creative as these 21st century skills they believe are necessary for future work life.

Including gamification or game-based learning strategies into lessons doesn’t require significant modifications in teaching, but it requires a student-centered approach to learning and trust that learning will happen eventually. The Finnish educational model uses these modern methodologies of game-based learning and gamification in all levels of education and it has been ranked #1 in teaching the skills of the future.

Examples of Game-Based Learning

Game-Based Learning is increasingly used for example in an Economics course learners might find stock-trading quite theoretical and hard to understand, but when rehearsing it in practical online stock-trading competition with an application, they might understand better what stock-trading is all about. Or English course learners might role-play as environmental activist and car industry employee as they engage in real-life debate about global warming.  However, GBL also has a mark worthy disadvantage. It requires creating new training modules, thus, it can be expensive and time-consuming to develop.

Examples of Gamifigation

Gamification is used for example a Math course might be gamified via a badge system: learners could be awarded a “Pythagoras” badge after they have made 10 calculations, a “Galileo” badge after 20 calculation, “Newton” after 30, etc. Students can see the badges that their peers have earned in ideal gamified learning environments to create a sense of comradery or competition.

Meanwhile, gamification isn’t a suitable strategy for all types of teaching. It’s more appropriate for content that can be memorized or doesn’t require major behavioral shifts. Among this method’s negative outcomes, the studies mentioned the increased competition, task evaluation problems, and design features.

Sources: Why GBL?, Gamification and GBL

Written by Polar Partners’ Education Export Intern Sona Toivonen