The role of gaming in education is shifting dramatically.
Gone are the days when parents frown upon their children the moment they pull out their computers for a gaming session with friends. Of course, you should still control the amount of screen time they spend on their digital devices. However, gaming in a structured and supervised setting can be a useful tool in education.
Gamification of the materials taught in class is not a new concept. Yet, the use of computer games only just started to pick up. The earliest found example was only a few years back in 2003 (Annetta, 2008).
To systemise gaming in education, we would need to discard our preconception that computer games stereotypically contribute to obesity and antisocial behaviour.
A research project in the UK showed that there is a strong correlation between gaming and improving collaborative behaviour and critical thinking (Kirriemuir, 2002).
Some of us know from experience that gaming is a fun and motivating experience. It is through gaming that we might learn about programming logic, 3D design, animation, and even history.
This article will examine two ways gaming contributes to education.
It argues that computer games do not subtract from learning. Rather, they enhance the overall learning experience. They motivate students to inquire about topics they are interested in - which they discover through the help of these games.
1. Scientific Experimentation
Surely everyone has heard of Minecraft. After all, they have sold over 100 million copies worldwide and the number is still growing!
Minecraft is a great example of how gaming can enrich the learning experience for kids.
Call it an online, digitalised, and upgraded version of Lego.
While Lego is a simple building blocks game limited by gravity and space, "Minecraft gives users the added advantage of being able to play safely with water, earth, fire, trees, and other natural elements" (Karsenti, Bugmann, and Gros, 2017).
This makes Minecraft a suitable game to help students develop essential science concepts.
In the game, you would need to find different materials to craft items, including fire, farming plots, tools, and other items to accomplish a certain task. This trains them in scientific and engineering concepts, helping them understand these complicated topics in a simple manner.
To resolve challenges tasked to them, students also had to develop inquiry skills and research skills.
Of course, they could always opt to use trial and error to complete their missions. But the faster method would be to learn to find information on the internet. Perhaps visiting the Minecraft Wikipedia page might help? Or, they could go on YouTube for the latest videos on the subject? This is a crucial skill set!
That means students are not only exploring basic scientific knowledge in-game but are also developing independent research abilities that they can take with them wherever they go.
2. Critical Thinking
While playing a game in itself is already great fun, how about developing one yourself?
Additional research had been done in examining the potential of children developing their games to help them understand difficult programming languages. This is called constructionist gaming (Kafai, 2016).
The study found that students who were part of constructionist gaming experiences had a greater understanding of the content taught and developed better critical thinking after the exercise.
Besides, game-making activities have also been connected to better literary studies.
In a comparative study where students were told to be part of a game-making exercise, researchers found that students in the experimental group demonstrated "significantly better logical sentence construction skills" along with "better content retention" and greater "ability to compare and contrast information resources" (Owston et al., 2009).
These are all integral abilities that contribute to critical thinking and analytic skills!
Employing constructionist gaming into the curriculum, ESF Sports & Language offers classes in web development and building 3D games through Roblox.
They allow students to do hands-on coding and develop their programming straight out of their imagination.
Gaming Improves Scientific Understanding & Language Literacy
We are only scraping the surface of what could be a renaissance in digital education. Embracing the role of gaming is the first step to transforming our teaching methodology.
With so much potential in utilising computer games in education, parents should be equally on-board to allow their children to explore new learning tools.
Join one of our STEM or Language programmes now to learn how ESF Sports & Language assimilates gaming in our curriculum.
By Iva Liu
Annetta L.A. 2008. Video Games in Education: Why They Should Be Used and How They Are Being Used. Theory Into Practice. 47(3), pp. 229-239. DOI: 10.1080/00405840802153940.
Kafai, Y and Quinn, B. 2016. Constructionist Gaming: Understanding The Benefits of Making Games For Learning. Educational Psychologist. 50:4, pp. 313-334. DOI: 10.1080/00461520.2014.1124022.
Karsenti, T., Bugmann, J., and Gross, P.P.. 2017. Transforming Education With Minecraft? Results of an exploratory study conducted with 118 elementary-school students. Montréal: CRIFPE.
Kirriemuir, J. 2002. Video Gaming, Education, and Digital Learning Technologies. D-Lib Magazine. 8(2), pp. 25-32. DOI: 10.1045/february2002-kirriemuir.
Owston, R., Wideman, H., Ronda, N.S., and Brown, C. 2009. Computer game development as a literacy activity. Computers & Education. 53, pp. 977-989.