The use of games at school is no novelty. In the academic age of our parents, teachers were already using them. With the popularisation of PCs in the 80s and 90s, videogames began to be used and designed with educational ends, but were far from being an accepted part of official study programmes.
Today, however, things are changing. The development of education-focused technology, along with the creation of new electronic devices (tablets, smartphones, etc.), is having a direct impact on videogame creation. And this is affecting classrooms. All of which means that videogames are now being appreciated for their academic value and, as such, are being taken seriously by schools.
Two educational methodologies for videogame incorporation
There’s now specific methodologies which allow videogames to be incorporated in the educational process in a professional way. Two of them are Gamification and Game-Based Learning. Gamification refers to the use of the principles or dynamics of a game in unexpected contexts – in a school classroom, for example – in order to capture attention or encourage commitment. In reality, gamification is being used in various fields, with everything from commercial to political ends, but today we’ll just focus on education.
Schools whose educational model is based around the principles of gamification already exist. One example is state school Quest to Learn in New York, although this is an exceptional case.
This methodology has been so well received that, as of 2012, the Gamification World Congress is celebrated. In 2014, it took place in Barcelona, and featured talks dedicated to education.
For its part, “game-based learning” involves adding games to the learning process in order to improve it. Various tools and techniques to facilitate the incorporation of games into education have been developed. The web portal Edutopia offers a considerable amount of information about this.
EDsurge’s article shows what game-based learning can do to increase students’ achievement. It also offers interesting resources which can be applied to classes. Those interested can even consult the International Journal of Game-Based Learning, which aims to compile and distribute academic studies on the topic.
But is this really being used in schools?
Some governments are pushing the implementation of these models via their respective ministries of education. In Scotland, for example, there’s even an exclusive section on the government website dedicated to the topic of game-based learning.
A study investigated by the researchers of * New York’s City University* found that maths videogames can improve student motivation levels, although, of course, it depends on the use students put them to. The study, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology and resumed in Science Daily, also demonstrated that those students who participated in the game under competitive circumstances performed better.
During the study’s completion by key stage 5 students (aged 16-18), the researchers focused on two types of motivational orientations:
a) Mastery goal orientation – students focus on learning, improving and developing skills.
b) Performance goal orientation – students focus on validating their skills.
In an interesting report by CNN about gamified learning in a school in New York, as well as examining the effects of this educational methodology on students, parents (who no longer hear their kids using traditional terms such as science, maths or history) were also involved. The use of new phrases such as “The Way Things Work”, “Codeworlds” and “Being, Space & Place” definitely confuses the older generation. Little ones, however, were clearly excited about their status as explorers on a mission to make determined discoveries rather than just plain students.
An infinity of games and videogames, different results
With the development of technology and its marriage to education, today you can find an infinity of educational games and videogames to be used on diverse electronic devices – from the TV to your mobile.
Specialised companies such as IXL offer educational technological tools for all stages of education and with adapted editions for countries in Europe, Asia and North America.
But diversity and choice imply risks. That’s why the use of games and videogames in the classroom should take place following a specific research methodology and considering multiple factors such as the school’s access to equipment, group sizes, school key stage, available budget (in the case of videogames), teacher qualifications and academic regulation, among others.
It’s important to remember that the aim of the game is learning, and not just having fun. After all, those who suffer the consequences of a bad choice or interpretation of educational games are students. Failing to make the most of these new tools, however, means limiting students’ potential to assimilate knowledge and develop their skills.
The mSchoolsprogramme is a multi-faceted mEducation initiative by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, in collaboration with The Generalitat of Catalonia, Barcelona City Hall and GSMA.
Launched in 2013, mSchools supports students and teachers effectively integrating mobile technologies into the classroom. Mobile enables access to up-to-date materials, improves collaboration and strengthens learner engagement, opening up new ways of teaching and learning that improve achievement and employability.
The mSchools programme brings together private and public institutions to help students build important new skills and prepare them for today’s digital world.
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