Game-based learning is defined as “the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.” More than 5 million people play games about 45 hours weekly on average while in the U.S. 1.2 million students do not graduate high school yearly.
With this in mind, game-based learning is a tool that can be used in education to engage students who might be resistant to traditional education but who are accustomed to an interactive learning experience through gaming.
Though traditional education seems to contain some of the elements central to gaming, such as receiving points for completing assignments, receiving grades or “badge” and moving up a grade or going to the next level at the end of each year, many students are not engaged by traditional education.
Two scholars from Columbia University’s Teachers College, Joey J. Lee and Jessica Hammer, wrote an article about the benefits of the gamification of learning. According to the article, “Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother?”, when students have the chance to experiment with the formal rules, emotions and with their own social roles, the game-playing elements work to engage students in their learning.
If the rewards associated with completing tasks are both fun and practical then students will be more motivated to participate and complete tasks.
Benefits of Gamification in Education
Lee and Hammer propose that the goal of gamification in education is to shape the students’ behaviors using rules systems that incorporate game-playing elements, as well as the students’ experiences as players and their cultural roles.
Gamification can impact three major development areas: cognitive, emotional and social.
Video and computer games maintain players’ engagement through active experimentation and discovery. To advance in most games, the student needs to experiment with all the elements of the game, observe the results and plan the next move. Each level provides the student with increasingly more difficult challenges that must be met before moving on to a higher level.
The challenges are tailored to the skill-level of each student so that each student develops at his or her own pace, and can choose his or her own path. This method can be successfully applied in an academic environment to engage students with their learning because it teaches students to think about learning differently.
If students understand their learning as a step to the next level and the reward to mastering that level as an even harder challenge, as it is with the best games, then students will be more involved and engaged in their own learning.
Playing games involves dealing with many different emotions—from joy to curiosity to frustration. It also involves learning to deal with failure in a positive manner by forcing the player (or student) to see the failure as a learning opportunity. For many games, the only way to learn is to fail repeatedly.
In the traditional academic setting, however, failure has major consequences that often even prevent students from trying at all. If students can work in an environment where failure becomes simply another tool to learn and improve, then they will also become more relaxed to take chances with their learning.
When playing games, players are encouraged to take on new identities and explore other facets of their own identity. This all serves to help create a strong identity for students, which can help them in their long-term learning. This is especially beneficial to students who struggle with an academic persona and who automatically think they will fail at school.
In a game-based learning environment they are encouraged to “try out” being a successful student. The rewards received for trying on these roles and achieving success can come both from the teacher and from other player-students.
The benefits from game-based learning are numerous; though perhaps the most promising aspect of this new development in education is that process by which it engages the student in learning ignites in them a passion for education.
About the Author: Thomas Klein is an education and online trends researcher – he also contributes to many education sources online, including this teacher certification program resource.
Reference: Lee, J. J. & Hammer, J. (2011). Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother?, Academic Exchange Quarterly, 15(2).