How Gaming is changing the way pupils learn

By Ian Kay, Head of Technology at Edge Grove School

The role of gaming in education is fast becoming a hot topic in schools right now.  But how is gaming impacting and changing classroom learning today and how can schools expect this to evolve in the future?

What is meant by ‘gaming’?

The term ‘Gaming’ essentially refers to adding an element of competition or challenge to an individual’s learning, with some entertainment or fun along the way.  But gaming has a serious side too because it is fast becoming a widely used, popular and interactive way for children to learn in classrooms today.

As teachers, we are all aware that a great number of pupils have access to games consoles, computers and tablets at home, where the primary use is playing games.  Many of these games are interactive and allow children to compete against other people in real time over the Internet.  Although teachers have often discussed how children have become too technology dependent at home and sometimes feel disconnected when they come into school, the role of gaming is finding its way into school but in a structured way. 

Increased concentration and focus

Gamification (as it is referred to in school) means that games are constructed in such a way that learning takes place at the same time as the child is enjoying the game.  There are many benefits to this style of learning too.  Pupils are more likely to concentrate on a game in school because this action takes up part of their leisure time and is therefore a familiar exercise.  It also allows pupils to work at their own speed and within their skills set.  The element of competition also means that they will push themselves in order to progress in the game. 

From the very simple interactive class quiz (i.e. Kahoot), where a league table is shown after every question, to the more elaborate maths and language programs, the pupils enjoy the feeling of progressing in a game and comparing their performance to others.  The mark of a good gaming package is where the differentiation of skills means pupils can progress without becoming demotivated.

A game changer

Gaming is changing the way we teach and many teachers have witnessed the decrease in attention spans over their time in the teaching profession; teachers have had to rethink their strategies and the delivery and timing of lessons to take this into account.  The use of a game can act as an incentive in the classroom, i.e. “If you complete your written work in class, you can have five minutes on the online maths game on your iPad.”

The use of personal devices is growing in the classroom and the days of ‘chalk and talk’ are becoming a thing of the past.  We use cloud based learning platforms to deliver teaching materials and set assignments; part of that work will be an online resource, most likely in a game format.

Gaming is changing the way we teach and many teachers have witnessed the decrease in attention spans over their time in the teaching profession; teachers have had to rethink their strategies and the delivery and timing of lessons to take this into account

The need to adapt learning for the real world is becoming vital and there is a large emphasis to push the acquisition of skills for the future – for jobs that don’t yet exist.  But we do need to keep the human element very much in focus.  Teachers need to be a key part of the process to give the students context for their learning. There is also the risk of introducing too much distraction where the majority of pupils will still need to sit written paper exams.

Adopting a strategy with the right balance

At the moment gaming plays a fairly small role in contrast to the overall curriculum and technology use at the moment is centred on delivering content and using cloud based applications for submitting work.

At Edge Grove we use some bespoke gaming apps on iPads and some other websites, for example: MangaHigh, Vocab Express, Kahoot, Grammarly, Class Dojo, MyMaths, Scratch, Colour Dictionary, Speed GEO, Cyber Latin, Active Learn, Read Theory and many more.  But how can schools adopt a successful strategy for gaming and what are the first steps to take?

  • Look at what devices would best suit your school – Chromebooks will run any web page but do not allow downloaded apps; iPads don’t always run all of the web based content available and there may be large costs involved.
  • Look at your current curriculum and see where there are opportunities to introduce games.
  • Don’t be put off by a perceived skills gap between staff and pupils; they need to work more in partnership.
  • Don’t be afraid of using guided learning (pointing pupils towards resources) and setting a clear time for use in lessons.

One thing that is clear, is gaming is here to stay.  Pupils are motivated by this approach to learning and we are seeing positive progression.  There is of course, always a balance to be had.  Children still need to sit exam papers in the traditional sense and they still need context for their learning, but if we create the right mix, gaming can really help to propel learning in the future. 


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