Educational Games May Be The Future For Online Learning
I am on the Funbrain web site hovered pensively over my space bar. Two cartoon figures in the game are hitting a tennis ball back and forth as a math problem flashes up on screen.When the ball hits the net an answer will pop up. When the correct answer pops up, I have to press the spacebar to make my character, a pig named Oinkster, jump for the ball before his opponent can. Each victory is a point, and the game is first to three. The competitive part of my brain fires up. I vanquish all three of my opponents and clock the game within half an hour. Which makes sense. I’m a 27-year old man doing 8th grade math. I round out my time on the website playing the Grammar Gorilla. My gorilla gets all of the bananas. This pleases me to no end. This notion that learning has the potential to be actual, real fun feels out of step with the slow-ish grind of my own years of schooling. But educators everywhere are starting to realize that a good game can go a long way. It’s not just the students that approve, too. The evidence shows that the “gamification” of the classroom makes sense if done well. Games represent a cost effective, low-liability learning option. They are actively engaging and the pace of learning can be tailored to the individual student. They provide immediate feedback, assessment options and transferrable real world skills. The psychology of a well-designed, reward-based game can compel students to learn about even their least favorite subjects. Maybe most importantly, they put students rather than teachers in control. A recent episode of the Infinite Learning Machine spotlighted how many different and surprising directions classroom games can be taken in the classroom. Minecraft is a huge innovator in this field, with 42 million users. The game focuses on creativity, building and establishing an environment that your characters may survive in. Teachers can use the game to strengthen communication skills, engaging classes in common projects to explore how societies function and to study ancient civilizations. Minecraft have developed an instructional site especially for educators interested in this. The company has recently entered into a partnership with the United Nations to develop a version of the game where players can visualize urban development and the consequences of political decision-making. Taking the idea of game based learning to the complete opposite end of this spectrum, is something like NYC Haunts, a partnership between the NYC Hive Learning Network and the New York Public Library. It designs location-based games, employing mobile technology in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. Each player in the game is a “ghost detective” who has to work with locals “haunting” the community to resolve their issues. The games are designed to work in and around public libraries and engage players with books, teaching them lessons about history and global issues. For any traditionalist, who feels like this is all a result of teachers letting kids welch out on hard work, a collection of research published by Online Schools suggests that game based teaching is hardly a radical idea at all. It is a reflection of merely shifting the delivery of learning in line with children’s interests: * Nine out of 10 children between the age of 2 and 17 have played electronic games. Children are oriented today in digital technologies and are used to using them as a primary form of expression. * Paul Howard Jones, a Bristol University neuroscientist, showed that gameplay stimulated the brain to produce dopamine, which channels the attention span and helps to create connections between neurons in the brain. * A Scottish study discovered that of 19 schools surveyed, gameplay helped improve engagement with problem solving, communications, collaboration and negotiation. * Students and teachers are satisfied alike by gameplay: 70 percent of kids thought games were a good idea in the classroom, and the majority of school administrators felt it both helped personalize instruction and improve engagement. A survey of schools in the Northeast showed that students that had used digital technologies in learning scored five and a half points higher than those who hadn’t. So this is a space that will grow, with compelling evidence to propel it. It’s still hard not to feel jealous about it all, as someone who did the majority of his schooling in the 90s, battling through math quiz after math quiz, and spelling test after spelling test... What's your opinion of the gamification of online education, is it the future or a fad?