A game can be described as a structured form of play. According to extensive studies, play is one of the most effective ways and powerful catalysts of learning. Furthermore, play has proven to boost the overall well-being and creativity of children and adults. Thus, the artificial boundaries we once had between serious learning and fun play are now crumbling. Moreover, the technological revolution of the 21st century has also combined technology with learning and play, resulting in a boom in the educational gaming industry. Let’s take a journey into the world of digital learning games and explore how they are changing the way we learn.
What is a digital learning game?
At its core every game is a learning game. They provide rich content, engagement and motivation, harnessing subject knowledge and a range of skills in the players. However, a learning game is better defined as one designed for the main purpose of conveying the learning material included specifically within the game. Digital learning games combine present day technology allowing a whole new level of interaction, collaboration and a unique learning experience.
Benefits of gaming pedagogy
Digital learning games are not a cue to throw out the good old board games or frog leap races in the school yard. In fact research has shown pairing both analog and digital learning games to facilitate the most effective multi-sensory learning experience. However, digital learning games in particular trigger high levels of engagement and motivation. They often induce flow with immersion, clear goals, clear feedback, balance of skills and challenge. Therefore, digital learning games could in a sense be considered the ideal platform for learning.
In all learning games we learn by doing. The interactive nature of it all pulls us in and makes learning happen fast, efficiently and lastingly. However, digital learning games have the capacity to simulate highly realistic immersive experiences. With one click or swipe we could be under the sea, way up in space or even back in the Victorian era navigating through whimsical story lines. Moreover, digital learning games allow us to connect, create, share and learn with other players from around the world. Most importantly, regardless of our physical limitations, we can obtain the optimal learning experience using digital learning games from a safe and positive environment.
What makes a great digital learning game?
Firstly, great digital learning games should never become like ‘chocolate covered broccoli’. In other words the substance of the game should not be completely detached from the game itself. For instance let’s assume players must successfully complete addition equations to complete a virtual obstacle race. Each time they get an answer correct they move up a level, whereas if they get it wrong they fall through a trapdoor. This is a short term, reward based system which could frustrate players in the longer run.
However, what if on the other hand the addition equations help them figure out the number of people they can carry in a ship without sinking it. Alternatively, what if it helped them design the blueprint to the ultimate fairy castle. Great digital learning games would be able to deliver learning substance in an integrated way which is both relevant and important. In other words they will provide the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained and highlight the importance of this application.
Secondly, great digital learning games should enable players to track their progress. Moreover, they should provide instant and continuous feedback of your development, no matter how trivial the achievement maybe. This will directly contribute to the effective learning process. In return all these will promote a sense of personal growth and also enable a greater experience of flow and competence.
Thirdly, variety and focus is a key ingredient that makes up a great digital learning game. Both the substance and the game itself should not be simple, monotonous or boring. However, it should also not be a continuous struggle which is both intimidating and exhausting. The content should be interesting and relevant, feeding the curiosity of the players and motivating them to explore. The game itself should be interactive and dynamic providing the players the freedom to push their limits and settle back into the overall flow of the game.
Finally, great digital learning games should be highly relatable. Overcoming the isolation or alienation generally associated with gaming, a great game should tap into the social connections of the player. It should enable them to make connection with other players and promote collaborative learning. Using the rich technology available digital learning games should motivate players to find solutions to real world problems such as world hunger or global warming. Most importantly, digital learning games should empower players to push the learning boundaries as further as possible.
Integrating digital learning games with everyday learning
Both analog and digital learning games are most effective when used in combination. Moreover, learning games should not be treated as standalone educators, but rather as supplements to teachers and other education tools. Digital learning games can easily be integrated into both independent and structured learning. Accessing these games are as simple as downloading an app onto your smartphone, tablet or go to digital device. On the other hand they allow a level of immersive interaction otherwise unavailable in the real world. Research has shown virtual reality offered in certain digital learning games to trigger empathy and help develop more engaged citizens. In conclusion, we live in a world with the ways and means to allow digital learning games to take our pedagogy to the next level. It’s high time we stop bracing and start embracing the next generations educational gaming revolution.
- Children Should be Playing More Games in the Classroom. Here’s Why by Mande Holford & Lindsay Portnoy
- Gamification Vs Game Based Learning by Simon Baddeley
- Learning as Fun by Lauri Järvilehto, PHD
- Why Games Make Great environments for Learning by Mikael Uusi-Mäkelä
Learn more about digital learning games and other innovative tools based on the Fun Learning approach.