What is game-based learning and why is it a big deal?

What makes game-based learning so important for the little ones these days and why is everyone talking about it? Read on to find out why.

At one point, not too long ago, learning and play sat in different camps. “Finish your studying and then go play!”

How many millennial children have heard some version of that?

Then came the age when kids started finding it hard to differentiate between the two. Because both were SO much fun! There’s a name for the mysterious innovation which caused all this confusion: Game-based learning. And, we are here to tell you all about it!

We can all agree that the world of both games and learning has changed incredibly right before our eyes, right? Through great research, immense advances in the field of technology, and the boom of digital age, both fields have made immense leaps and amazing game-based learning solutions have come to the fore. This has resulted in a multitude of brilliant game-based learning platforms.

steam stem skills education

Play is the learning language of a child from birth. As a baby grows, they repeatedly play in the same pattern to imbibe the learning in action into their growing brains. Therefore, it makes natural sense to use play as a way to learn, even as children grow older. And many methodologies of teaching do use play as an essential teaching tool. After all, play is having fun with experiences, right? Why can’t these have learning mixed in?

Games are incredibly beneficial when it comes to learning. Learning through games is found to help retain knowledge longer than the same concepts taught in traditional ways. This is because there is instant feedback. Additionally, there are the advantages of repetition through trial and error, which is vital to retaining information. Games like hopscotch, chess or ludo, among so many others, are also known to develop hand-eye coordination, strategic intelligence, and the ability to adapt. Let’s take a timeless childhood classic–hide and seek. It’s just hiding and then, finding, right? Oh no! There’s so much going on!

Sensory awareness: You listen for footsteps or anything else your eye can’t see!

Reflexes: If you’re playing in a bigger group, hand-eye coordination to keep track of all those hiding and then, move quick enough before they beat you to the den’s spot!

Adapting: Working without direct vision to accomplish a goal is a playful simulation of a classic survival skill

Processing data: If it’s a group of friends you’re familiar with, you try to tie up patterns. “Ah, Sally is scared of snakes, so she won’t be hiding in the bushes, maybe behind that gate though!”

The topics of schooling and education have always been a priority for parents and educators alike. We’re always on the lookout for new, fun ways for our kids to learn and for the latest tools and resources that will help foster holistic learning. Screens are here to stay in the lives of children now, and, with growing evidence that digital learning has many benefits for young minds, parents and educators are increasingly turning to healthy screen time for kids. Game-based learning helps reduce care providers’ guilt when allowing screen exposure for their little ones. Especially when that confidence comes from educator-backed digital game-based learning: the sigh of relief is even louder.

Educators think differently these days. Thankfully. Learning needn’t be filled with aversion. Instead, making it relatable and fun produces great results. And so, game-based learning found its way into classrooms! And the statistics speak to the success of this approach!

New research on how to better use digital game-based learning and best introduce game-based learning in the classrooms is aplenty and constantly evolving. So, then, what exactly is game-based learning? How does it differ from gamification? What are its advantages? Let’s explore these questions.

What is game-based learning?

Game-based learning means using games to engage the player’s attention to educate—for example, board games with educational value like Scrabble which enhances vocabulary or video games like Minecraft that teach strategy and critical thinking. It employs much research and thought into designing games that focus on building multiple skills in the guise of fun downtime. The player learns concepts of the subject (science, technology, engineering, art, math, etc.) while progressing through engaging gameplay.

Game-based learning is not new; it has been around for generations. Take chess or checkers, for example. These are educational toys of historical significance developed to stimulate both sides of the brain, foster decision making, critical thinking, patience, strategy development, and much more. These games have been used to intentionally support learning outcomes. And there are many examples of learning through games to consider like ludo or snakes and ladders. The power of play has been invaluable to learning for ages. For a long time now, both parents and educators have used this approach of combining teaching methods with gameplay in classrooms and at home.

Nowadays, the need for digital game-based learning has emerged as an essential part of learning methodology. With classrooms and curriculums shifting into digital formats, methods of play and learning have also seen the need for technological growth. And this is one of the primary reasons that the game-based learning approach is witnessing such large-scale digitization. Additionally, as it is advancing into the tech-driven solution to learning, the immense value and prowess it adds to learning tools and resources are being widely recognized. Like sports science, new research about HOW the child’s mind processes knowledge is informing and reshaping classic pedagogical approaches.

game based learning platforms

Present-day applications of game-based learning have resulted in brilliant educational solutions and innovations. This has trickled down to the toy design. We’re probably in the golden age of toy innovation, and that’s because a mine of research has shown us the sheer power of playtime!

Multiple new game-based learning platforms for kids have emerged, like the STEM kits by Sphero or Ozobots coding robots. You can also explore the multi-skill-focused world of PlayShifu with its renowned Orboot globes, where your child can discover the secrets of the world, history, and space. Some game sets like Plugo and Tacto have fun-packed games that accelerate STEAM skills through hands-on play.

These games set high standards for digital game-based learning by utilizing the basics of game-based learning at their core. Such educational toys use mechanics such as gameplay, storytelling, scenario-based settings, instructions in a gaming setting, etc. All of them are designed to provide maximum learning opportunities. Every game focuses on imparting knowledge of specific subjects while targeting multiple developing skills. They provide a friendly, safe, interactive, reflective, and tactile learning atmosphere that is immensely enjoyable.

Are gamification and game-based learning the same?

Throughout this blog, we’ve used a bunch of words with ‘game’ in them: Game-based learning, gamification, educational gaming. Are all of these the same? Let us explain:

Gamification has been a popular teaching method for a long time. Using batches, ranking, and stars have been tools much utilized by parents and educators as motivating factors to encourage learning. It uses game elements in an educational context.

Gamification uses rewards to encourage and motivate children to learn. A point system for academic achievements, leaderboards in the field of sports, stars or badges system in early education, or used by parents for behavioral teachings are just a few examples of how we have been gamifying the process of learning for better engagement and responses. But it is not game-based learning. Gamification is using game-like elements or mechanics to engage in the process of learning or responsive behavior.

This makes gamification a part of the larger field that is game-based learning. Game-based learning requires playing games and using toys, applications, and electronics. They are designed to target the learning of a specific subject or the development of a specific skill or set of skills. This can be better observed in digital game-based learning, which has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years.

This growth has resulted in the variety of educational games available now. A tremendous amount of research is put in and significant advances in design are executed to build educational games that excite kids about learning. Importantly, they provide a ton of relief to parents and educators since it helps them introduce children to the field of technology in such a positive way.

Why is game-based learning a big deal?

Extensive research has shown that using educational games improves students’ learning experience, especially in younger children. Youngsters need help to stay focused and attentive to the tasks at hand. With shorter attention spans, productively engaging them is the key to a better learning experience. Game-based learning is a boon to establishing better learning environments and healthier screen-time habits for this young age group of 3-11.

game based learning and gamification

A child’s love for play is clearly demonstrated as their consciousness develops. Play creates a safe space for discovery, control, decision-making, and a no-pressure zone of exploring. As they grow up, so do the pressures. They are expected to focus on learning and getting results, and the freedom of play gets reduced. But the motivations of games persist even as we grow up, and this has been extensively utilized in gaming. People play games by choice even as adults because they are fun and gratifying.

Keeping this perspective in mind, the growth in the game-based learning industry and emerging game-based learning platforms are of great significance. The key reason for it becoming such a huge deal is that it is an industry solely focused on designing games built with the purpose of teaching in a no-pressure and enjoyable environment. Because happier kids make more willing learners, it’s surprisingly simple almost.

The benefits of learning in such an open and inviting environment are constantly being researched and established. Many experts from the educational sector favor the idea of game-based learning. Let’s take a look at some of their findings:

  • Andre Thomas, a professor from Texas A&M, started creating educational games under the name “Triseum.” Their game series “ARTe” helps students learn about art history, and “Variant” teaches calculus through gameplay.
    • Findings: Thomas and his team saw a 24.7% improvement in students’ knowledge of the topics after 2 hours of play.
  • 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, which is staggering.
    • Findings: Chris revealed that 93% of the students passed with an “A” grade consistently, while the standard success rate is 71% of A’s, B’s, and C’s. Not just this, students were completing twice as much work with 30% of the previous average time taken to spare.

Another advantage of introducing game-based learning in the classroom is social learning. Games build patience and engagement, both necessary when learning new skills. Additionally, when kids are put together in a game environment, they help each other progress through levels. This nurtures emotional and social learning. And group activities (co-op games) are also found to improve fluid intelligence among kids.

Another reason digital game-based learning is a success is that it is a constantly evolving space. A growing industry invests a lot into research and puts a lot of work and thought into product design. This is a valuable symbiotic relationship with the core field of educational research. Play and learning are, after all, two of the biggest pillars of child development. Take into consideration PlayShifu’s range of toys and games. Every single product is designed keeping in mind children aged 4-11. They are tailor-made for age-based development and focus on the skill-based growth of kids. The gaming experiences provide tactile, hands-on learning, and are layered with rich digital interactions and compelling storytelling.

game based learning platforms

Conclusively, games are powerful learning tools. They provide a friendly, interactive, reflective, and scenario-based learning atmosphere that is perfect for today’s dynamic world. The motivational value of engaging with educational material playfully and dynamically is exceptionally high. And in doing so, game-based learning also fosters better relationships and connections between the teacher/parent and child since it removes the pressures of knowledge building to make it extremely fun!

Added to this concrete learning are tactile, social, emotional, and developmental growth benefits that can be successfully achieved from carefully planned and designed gameplay. Considering the opportunity for growth, is it surprising that game-based learning is here to stay?

Comment and let us know which Playshifu game set has made you believe in the power of game-based learning!

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