Games have been used as a learning tool for centuries, thus giving rise to Game Based Learning. Chess has been used to teach strategic thinking since the Middle Ages, and the Kreigsspiel game was invented in 1812 specifically to teach Prussian officer strategy. Beyond military strategy, the genesis of kindergarten in the mid 1800s was Friedrich Fröbel’s idea of learning through play. The central concept behind game-based learning is teaching through repetition, failure, and goal achievement. Video games are based on this principle. The player starts slowly and gains skill until he can skillfully navigate the most difficult levels.
Games that are well planned and designed will offer enough difficulty to keep you challenging and at the same time be easy enough for the player to win. Game-based learning takes this same concept and applies it to teaching a curriculum. Students work toward a goal, choosing actions and experiencing the consequences of those actions. They actively learn and practice the correct way of doing things. The result is active learning instead of passive learning. Flight simulators are a perfect example of the effectiveness of game-based learning. Pilots often use flight simulators during their training. They are given very specific goals and practice until they can achieve them. The result is much more effective than sitting through lectures and theory.
Can you really learn by playing?
Surprisingly, game-based learning can be structured as a lesson plan at school. There is a growing trend for teachers to build the core of their class around educational games. Game-based learning can easily help the user retain the basic knowledge used to study and take tests. Not only does it help users retain valuable knowledge, but it also encourages students at an impressive rate to learn more. Fostering greater learning is key to overall student success in a school setting. Even if the student were not the best in reading, the desire to read more would only benefit the student and their levels of understanding.
Benefits of Game Based Learning
Some of the first potential benefits to game-based learning is that it is much more attractive for children to participate in an activity like games. Game-based learning has been shown to improve retention – that is, it maintains information in that brain of yours. It is perfect because the different learning styles that people have are served by the game, with different games that help students identify their strengths and weaknesses. It’s also quite versatile, with the ability to combine different themes into one game, a nice little learning package. Retention is the main objective here. To remember what you have learned while playing.
This is a great opportunity to incorporate more difficult subjects for students in a friendly and more accessible environment in which to participate in the subject. Imagine if a student feared math, but the game developed for that subject was extremely fun and helped them retain knowledge. Again, it is obvious. It’s a much more engaging learning path than sweating, studying late into the night on a kitchen table and an outdated textbook, hoping you can pass a test. The game puts you in a race to collect resources, build units, and destroy your enemy. Beneath the surface of this game are detailed history and strategic thinking lessons for the player, as you cannot defeat your enemy using only brute force.
Disadvantages of Game Based Learning
Game-based learning, while a fun alternative to text-based learning, is not a fully tested aspect of our current technology landscape. Some consider it a “fad” and hesitate to fully integrate it into a comprehensive curriculum in which students can participate. Some students may stay in the game, distract themselves from other subjects, limit their learning, and ignore the new information they enter. Just think of it as an addictive game until the wee hours of the morning – avoid your responsibilities in favor of Gameplay. Sometimes they can be too good.
Game Based Learning versus Text Based Learning
Game-based learning provides that and more. Engage the player in an interactive arena where they can view and read. Those sweet little moments teach you how to pop things like unfamiliar words, but they also help you visualize as you test your comprehensive reading skills. The educational system has always been slow to change. For one thing, slow change is a good thing, as it helps avoid the pitfalls of adopting educational fads before they are fully tested.
On the reverse, it leads to a system that is slow to respond to the rapidly changing technological world. The only way to increase that response rate is to drastically change the systemic focus of the curriculum, which is not an easy task. When a textbook is published, it contains all the current information, educational methods, and theories from when the textbook was sent to print, which is often at least a year before it reaches schools. Since textbooks are intended to be used for years, there is a considerable delay before the curriculum can be changed and information updated. Game-based learning is designed to be adaptive from the start.
During the production process, the game is tested and adjusted to be a more effective learning tool. As new information comes out in the field or educational approaches adjust, the game can be changed to suit them. Once the game launches, it can be updated with new information, approaches, and more. The games even have student monitoring analysis tools that allow teachers to monitor students so that the game can be adjusted in future updates.
How to Build a Learning Game
When a student works on game-based learning, they probably just think they are having fun with a game, but there are many things that go into making the game as a learning tool. The process begins with the core curriculum and standards. Even before the design begins, a team of education, resume and game experts decides the exact lesson to be taught to the students. After that, the rest of the team comes into play.
Trends in Game Based Learning
Imaginative capacities are another positive aspect of this trend. Game-based learning is becoming more popular and a more attractive alternative to simply memorizing historical dates in a textbook. Another trend with this phenomenon is that they are taking advantage of mobile games. There are plenty of titles available in app stores that don’t require a computer at school to learn.
Applications like Edmodo, BrainPOP and Reading Eggs allow anyone of all ages to have access to educational game-based learning. Social media platforms like Facebook even include a large number of games for your educational needs. There really is no excuse for not accessing these titles if you are looking for an educational game for yourself or for a student. The future looks extremely bright for game-based learning. Augmented reality and virtual reality are proving to be pioneers in games as a whole and could also serve for game-based learning.
It seems that the main platforms for game-based learning are applications on devices and web browsers. Of course, it has different games that can be installed on computers for a school environment, but other than that, these games are only one download for most users. Some users can even use established games, like EVE Online for PC, where players will receive an informal economics course.
Since gaming is an ubiquitous facet in most of our lives, game-based learning is the next logical step after entertainment purposes. As we have seen, game-based learning helps the user retain knowledge at a much better rate than memorizing passages and terms from textbooks. This proves to be an invaluable tool not only for younger students but also for college level students. Above all, I think this trend in game-based learning will end up being a great benefit for instructors and teachers. It allows them to adapt their lessons in a more fun and creative way, and possibly see amazing returns in the way students thrive and want to get more and learn better.
As a student learns through game-based learning, he gains much more ownership of the material, which improves retention. The combination of different approaches and goal-based learning addresses all learning styles at the same time. No matter what a student’s primary, secondary, or tertiary learning style is, a game can tackle it. Games can even combine multiple themes into one game, creating a versatile learning tool. Learning games also provide students with a safe environment for failure. It can be difficult for students, especially teens, to fail in a public setting like a classroom. Games give them a chance to try new things. If they fail in the game environment, they can simply try again and learn from their mistakes. Rather than an education based on rote memorization, students learn through experimentation and trial and error.
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Spiegelman, Marsha, and Richard Glass. “Gaming and Learning: Winning Information Literacy Collaboration.” College & Research Libraries News 6
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