Is game-based learning the future of education?
PlayShifu
24 Apr 19
7 min read

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Most kids from 1980 to 2000 know this to be true by heart, study and play have been archrivals, two extremes in most cultures. It created a rivalry between parents and kids where kids chose gaming while parents chose education. And, both education and gaming was seen as societal evils by children and parents respectively. Pac-Man, Street Fighter, Star Wars, Super Mario, Contra, Road Rash and so many amazing games that we could have spent half our lives playing.

But then, our parents say “what is the point of games?”

Enter the 21st century, a new consciousness developed. We started questioning anything and everything, both old and new. One of the topics that needed quick answers was schooling and education. We want new fun ways for our kids and younger generations to learn. Thus, game-based learning, the amalgamation of fun gaming and education, took to the mainstream.

But, what is game-based learning?

Game-based learning or games for education (educational games) are designed to balance the subject content and rich gameplay. The player is expected to learn concepts of the subject (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, etc.) while progressing through the games.

Typically, people who learn via games are found to retain their in-game learning longer than those who were taught the same concepts in traditional ways. Partly because they get instant feedback and re-tries. Games are also known to develop hand-eye coordination, strategic intelligence, and the ability to adapt and survive.

Why is game-based learning a big deal?

Games are a big deal because they are a medium like newspapers, textbooks, and the internet through which one can transfer content, only better with a touch of personalization and hands-on immersive experience.

There are many experts (from the educational sector) that favor the idea of game-based learning. Let me share some of what they have found out and how, before discussing the big deal with games.

  • Andre Thomas, a professor from Texas A&M, started creating educational games under the name “Triseum.” Their game series “ARTe” helps students learn about the history of art, and “Variant” teaches calculus through the gameplay.

Findings: Thomas and the team saw a 24.7% improvement in students’ knowledge on/of the topic just after 2 hours of play.

  • Lucien Vattel is the CEO of GameDesk, a non-profit organization that is reshaping the K-12 education practicing the concepts of game-based learning. GameDesk creates new learning techniques using AR VR-based games and embodied stimulations for educational institutions. Their program, MathMaker, with some schools in California have shown promising results.

Findings: Students that participated in the MathMaker improved their California State Math scores by 20% in a week into the program.

  • Dr. Chris Haskell, an assistant professor at Boise State University, led the creation of a game-based learning curriculum which has seen tremendous success. More than 900 teachers taught 13,000 students in 14 countries, and the results are staggering.

Findings: Chris revealed that 93% of the students passed with an “A” grade consistently while the traditional success rate is 71% of A’s, B’s, and C’s. Not just this, students are completing twice as much work with 30% of the time to spare.

  • Lewis Tachau, when he was just a 13-year old kid back in 2012 delivered a speech at TEDxStudioCityED on online gaming and if it is educational. He said, ” …. the people that I have met playing World of Tanks are so helpful. It’s like a brotherhood, and we all feel a responsibility to help one another. We offer our knowledge to anyone for self-improvement.”
  • And it is not just Lewis who highlights this aspect of games, building a sense of fidelity. Many experts on this topic have seen similar results too. When kids are put together in a game-like environment, they help each other to progress through levels. Group activities (co-op games) are also found to improve fluid intelligence among kids.

Games also improve the learning efficiency of students and make them more responsible for themselves and towards the community. Just recently, when Notre-Dame caught fire, the gaming community donated $500,000 to help in the restoration process of the legend, the historic cathedral.

Is game-based learning here to stay?

On a closing note, games are powerful learning tools. They provide a friendly, interactive, reflective, and scenario-based learning atmosphere which is perfect for the progressive world that is today.

The toys market is being flooded with educational toys in the last decade or so. Leading toy makers such as Disney, Lego, Mattel, Thames & Kosmos, etc. are all working hard to create games centered around STEAM concepts. Many new players like Osmo, Splash Math, PlayShifu, among others are also growing exponentially in numbers.

With all the encouragement game-based learning is garnering, it shouldn’t be long before we see games for textbooks.

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