Figuring out how to grab students’ interest is a daily project for instructors across the world, no matter the subject or education level. At the same time, the proliferation of mobile technology provides new and ever-changing challenges to establishing and maintaining focus for students and professionals alike. Gamification taps into students’ motivation by providing them with external rewards, allowing their brains to create a link between a reward and completing their tasks.
Benefits to gamifying education
The introduction of gamification to education provides a rewards system that builds students’ confidence and demonstrable understanding of subjects with a flexibility that makes it applicable to learners of any age. In fact, finding ways to engage students in learning early on is essential in supporting long-term habits that can support social and emotional development, allowing them to carry the benefits of their education into their future. By employing educational children’s games in learning settings, motivating children to stay curious and invested in learning can start at any age.
With technology that now focuses on children as a target audience from more than just a recreational standpoint, integrating the technology that students are exposed to helps them develop a vocabulary and understanding of both its limits and its possibilities. From apps that can animate a paper drawing to augmented reality science tutorials, the capabilities of our current technology are so vast that giving children a clear understanding of how to use it is crucial. Beyond making sure that children are equipped for the future, the ability to engage through technology is an essential skill for everyone, regardless of whether or not they grew up in the age of smartphones. Gamification can help take the often intimidating task of learning the facets of new and quickly changing technology and make it both enjoyable and easy.
In addition to capturing the interest and imagination of those who are already exposed to technology, the use of gamification has the opportunity to effectively aid students who have learning disabilities. Students with dyslexia, for example, can often still play video games and are often described as highly creative thinkers and problem solvers. By utilizing gamification, student engagement and motivation can be highly improved as they advance in school, aiding not only in their education but in their mental and emotional health as they build the skills to work with their learning disability throughout their life.
The increase in access to advanced technologies in the form of apps, tablets, and smartphones has strongly supported the developing marriage of games and education. With this increase, we have the opportunity to make education accessible through technology students see around them daily, and in ways that can adapt to how they learn as individuals. From classroom technology such as smart boards to the development of potential prescription games, we are fully immersed in technology. By teaching students to actively engage with this tech in a way that sets them up for success, we can foster more technologically literate, education-driven adults.
By building rewards, motivation, and engagement into the act of learning itself, gamification can help to instill the idea learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom, and when it does it doesn’t have to be boring. Teachers have already found a variety of ways to engage their students by bringing established gaming devices such as the Nintendo DS into the classroom to help teach a third grade class math, and building experience points into homework. Kahn Academy, for example, assigns mastery points to their free courses and awards badges and honors as learners progress. By providing milestones or badges or titles that can be acquired through acquiring points from learning, gamification allows easy access to enjoyable learning that keeps students motivated.
From seeing the molecular structure of a plant to providing an interactive way to learn how to build and run a team, the application and value of gamified education cannot be underestimated. By increasingly introducing gamification to education of all types, teachers and trainers are able to provide a pathway for people to learn skills that they may have given up on otherwise, or simply not retained. As the need for active engagement has become more obvious, there has been an increase in the development of augmented reality (AR) educational apps, which provides us with a tool that can effectively break down concepts and present them in a type of real-time, hands-on learning that has not existed before. AR educational apps range from Starfinder, which lets students find constellations and other elements of their night sky, to Elements 4D, a chemistry app that allows students to interact with chemical compounds and physically combine them while witnessing how they react in real-time.
What does this mean for the future?
While the concept of gamification may not be new, we have already seen it employed in unique and far more prevalent ways, partially thanks to the development of technology and our immersion within it. Universities offer online terminal degrees, augmented reality and artificial intelligence are with us everywhere we go in our phone apps, and that technology has become tailored to engagement and user retention. With this immersion, learning, not just gaming, has become available to everyone, and with it the ability to shape how we interact with information in the future.
Broadening the spectrum of gamified learning is not only a powerful tool to capture the attention of students, but to help create adults who can approach large scale problems in new ways. Strong evidence suggests that playing video games can actually increase creativity in people who play them, in ways that they apply to other non-creative tasks. By melding games into educational resources for people regardless of age, the benefits of increased creative thinking and engagement are available to students and professionals alike.
Already, students who experienced the first release of the popular Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing game in 1987 are taking their places as the teachers of tomorrow, and bringing with them a technology-focused and gamified background. As these adults find their own path to becoming professors and educators, they are bringing with them a growing knowledge of teaching techniques that are changing how we learn. As they apply the concepts of gamification to education, they are helping create a future shaped by creative, nonlinear problem-solving.