January 29th, 2014 Instructional Design

game-learning-pic-jpgWith the growing popularity in gamification and game-based learning, more and more conversations are being held about the viability of games in the educational sector (particularly K-12). Many are wondering to what extent should K-12 education use gamification in their learning.

The simple answer is that there really isn’t an exact answer. I think that using game theory in learning environments can prove useful (it’s been done in some capacity for years), but relying too much on it to drive home a lesson, or to teach the content, can be a mistake.

Kids Play Games… A Lot!

In the United States, it has been reported that roughly nine out of 10 kids engages in electronic game play. This doesn’t seem too far of a stretch when you consider the accessibility of the apps being used on mobile devices.

Studies also have shown that the average eighth-grade boy will play video games fro about 23 hours a week (girls reported at 12 hours per week). It is certainly something that today’s youth is familiar with!

What isn’t abundantly clear here though are the types of games that are being played. It’s one thing to say that kids play video games, but does that mean it translate effectively to an educational (and classroom) setting? I’m not entirely convinced.

What is useful about games is the way you can get the participants to think creatively (and apply) learning in a different context – which goes a long way in content retention. The hardest part though is not creating the game, but rather making sure that the game’s participants are all progressing at a similar pace.

If you are looking into using some form of gaming in a classroom setting, I would suggest starting off small and going from there. Poll participants to see what worked and what didn’t – this way you can constantly refine the way the games are implemented so that it successfully reaches the maximum number of users.

GameSalad for Education

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin Ferriman started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide for creating (and selling) their online courses. Justin's Homepage | Twitter


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Justin – I think that understanding the psychology that makes games so engaging and applying that to learning situations is worthwhile and has some applications for K-12 education. This doesn’t mean turning everything into a game – although there is a place for actual games in learning. Even delivering instruction via computer rather than via a live face-to-face classroom can give you results that are no different than what was being achieved without the technology. So what makes the difference? If there are some key principles that can be borrowed from game design that will make the learning experience more engaging, it is worth exploring.

Avatar Patricia Ort

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