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The Role of Gaming in Twenty-First Century Education

Updated: Oct 13, 2021



Many parents become frustrated when they want their kids to stop playing video games and go outside or read a book. But did you know that games and learning through play are an integral part of your child’s development? Literature on education and instruction shows that using games and the act of playing as a way for children to learn dates back at least thousands of years. Although the concept of utilizing games for learning purposes is not new, there have been renewed conversations surrounding the role of gaming in education for twenty-first-century learners with the proliferation of the digital age. Since the internet was created and other modes of connectivity subsequently spawned, there has been an increasing concern and opinion from within the education sphere that school curriculums must evolve to suit the needs of these new digital learners. Part of these concerns can be addressed by integrating gamification of education techniques alongside traditional seminar-style classroom methods, thereby increasing student engagement, digital literacy, and positive cognitive abilities. The discourse surrounding the topic of games in education is dense and jargon-heavy, so our article will begin by introducing and defining what the term ‘gamification of education’ means, before exploring how these games are being utilized for educational purposes, and ending with why games present such an excellent learning opportunity for twenty-first-century learners as well as future students


Gamification of Education Explained

The term gamification of education is not just about bringing games into the classroom at random to play. More accurately, it refers to taking concepts, mechanisms, and techniques from game writing and game design and applying them in non-game spaces for educational purposes. The suggestion is not to completely replace traditional methods with these techniques, but rather to use them as supplementary learning tools to classic learning formats. Furthermore, it is important to note that the teacher or tutor must play an active role as a guide and resource for this type of learning to be successful. [1]


How Games are Used for Learning

We can find an example of attaching a gaming mechanism to a teaching method for learning purposes in the widely popular game Minecraft. Suppose your student loves the interactive game and spends hours playing it when they should be studying their French homework. Rather than make the student sit and memorize translation passages or index cards, you could get them to explain everything they are doing in the game to you in French. So as they build something or do repetitive movements within Minecraft, they would describe their actions in French. This specific learning technique is called grinding, whereby a learner repeats the same actions, words, or phrases repeatedly until it becomes naturally integrated into their knowledge system. Obviously, this is a very specific example of how gamification of education works, but the point is to find something that engages the student and excites them to learn organically through play.

A more general example of how gamification techniques can work in the classroom is the classic game Dungeons and Dragons (DnD). This game works particularly well for reward-motivated students since you can take the mechanism of the rewards table from the game and apply real-world rewards based on their eagerness and participation. On the other hand, you could also simply roll a die at the end of the session to determine what kind of reward the student gets. A game like DnD can help students develop skills in areas such as math, reading, and cooperation. [2] Since DnD is a role-playing game, it also allows students to inhabit different perspectives and approach challenges from multiple vantage points while staying engaged. These are just a few examples of how gamification of education techniques can be used for learning purposes.


So, Why Games?

There are many reasons why games are such an effective learning tool in the classroom. For starters, utilizing a game during a lesson has been shown to significantly increase student motivation and engagement, two of the biggest things needed for active, productive learning. Students are naturally drawn towards play at all stages, so incorporating games that allow the space to play and learn organically results in some of the best education opportunities. Furthermore, by finding a way to utilize a mechanism from a student’s favourite game for the purpose of learning, you can brighten the attitude of even the most challenging pupils towards a lesson.

Another reason that the role of games is important in twenty-first-century education is because it helps teach children digital literacy skills and increase their positive cognitive ability. Many education experts agree that students growing up in this saturated digital age will approach learning about and engaging with the world differently than previous generations because of technology. So then the question becomes, why do education systems still rely so heavily on traditional methods such as lecturing, writing notes, and memorization? While knowledge retention is essential, utilizing games for learning purposes moves far beyond promoting rote memorization or taking in knowledge passively. Instead, gamification of education trains students to think more critically from multiple perspectives, engage in meaningful discussions, and offer valid criticisms of others’ interpretations based on evidence. [3] Furthermore, because games can model complex real-world relationships and systems in ways that are nearly impossible for static words and images, games provide rich learning opportunities and skills that children can take forward with them into adulthood. [4]


Final Thoughts

Moving forward, the role of games and utilizing play in educational settings for learning will only persist and continue to provide crucial learning opportunities by stimulating student motivation and engagement. It is not only classrooms where you will find gamification of education techniques being utilized for student learning but also virtual learning environments and personal tutoring services. These virtual learning environments aim to personalize every session to the student’s needs and focus on areas in which they can improve. One of the most effective ways this is accomplished is by integrating gamification of education methods during the session, and this is exceptionally beneficial for students who don’t learn as well or confidently in traditional settings. With renewed conversations about what education and curriculum should look like for new-age learners, integrating gamification techniques in classrooms and private tutoring sessions will help usher in the next age of learning.



References

1,3,4. McCall, Jeremiah. Gaming the Past: Using Video Games to Teach Secondary History. Taylor &

Francis, 2013. https://www.google.ca/books/edition/Gaming_the_Past/3fPUcGDHD

aUC?hl=en&gbpv=0.

2. Bates, Seb. “Dungeons and Dragons as an Educational Tool: Teaching with DnD Aims to Bring the

World of Tabletop Rpg’s to Life in the Classroom.” HappyGamer, 12 Dec. 2020. https://happy

gamer.com/dungeons-and-dragons-as-an-educational-tool-teaching-with-dnd-aims-to-bring-

the-world-of-tabletop-rpgs-to-life-in-the-classroom-97143/.

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