Turn education into play: learning through games

From an early age, today’s generation of children develop a keen interest in computer games. By the time they are in full time education, they are often very competent in playing consoles and online games. As a result of this, schools are beginning to channel this interest in computer games into new engaging methods of learning. This involves using educational online games through which children can interact with other pupils using a new exciting medium which increases their interest in learning.

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There are wealth of free educational online games which offer new engaging ways to captivate children’s interest in learning. They offer an interactive medium through which students can improve their technical and media literacy. These skills could be invaluable throughout their adult lives as more of our modern society continues to revolve around technology. These games provide a fun way to develop problem solving strategies and try out intuitive ideas, skills which will significantly increase their employability prospects in the future.

Teachers can also thrive from these new educational opportunities. These games offer teachers a medium through which they can more aptly communicate with their pupils. As Jason Ohler states, educational games allow teachers to communicate with students by ‘speaking their own language with their tools’.
Additionally, these games enable teachers to easily assess the progress of each child. The actions and decisions each child makes during the games allow the teacher to diagnose and assess the progress of their learning from afar, without the child feeling like they are under scrutiny. Educational games are rising in popularity as a learning mechanism, with tutoring companies such as Maths Doctor offering online tutoring services alongside educational games, even providing a free mobile app game allowing children to learn on the move.

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Educational studies have shown that not all students learn in the same way. Some require learning by doing, others from reading a textbook, or by talking through problems with others. Educational games harness all of these alternate styles of learning through a variety of different challenges, ensuring each child is able to achieve their full potential. Each child is engaged throughout the learning process in a way which is specifically tailored to them. Naturally in a large classroom there will be some children who solve a problem faster than others. By using education online games each child can work at their own pace. If they need to take more time on a particular question they can, ensuring that by the time they progress to the next stage they have a full understanding of the topic, rather than simply rushing so as to keep up with the pace of the classroom. Moreover, if a child solves a problem quickly, they are free to proceed to the next stage, rather than waiting for others and thus losing interest in the subject. As a result children are able to develop more positive attitudes towards learning.

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There is an increased focus within schools on how to apply what a child is learning to real world situations, to show them that what they are learning will benefit their adult careers. Educational games provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate a child’s ability to apply academic theories to real world problems. The student could be taught the theory of a principle by a teacher and then proceed to solve an applied problem via the medium of an online game. Moreover, because the medium chosen would be a computer game, children will be more likely to volunteer to solve problems and thus further their education.

Ultimately, as technology becomes more integral to our daily lives, these educational online games offer an invaluable experience for children to develop technological skills from an early age. They also provide an exciting opportunity for children to discover an interest in learning through a medium which was previously unavailable to them.

Author bio
This article was written by George Campbell, a freelance writer from Birmingham, England, UK. George has been a teacher for four years and he loves writing about education but he is versatile and also writes across a variety of other topics. You can connect with George on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.

EdTech Goes Retro

LDTlogosOn August 2, Stanford’s Learning Design & Technology (LDT) Expo showcased a diverse array of creative projects addressing a gamut of problems in education, proving that innovations in education aren’t limited to solving problems in a specific field, demographic, or country. Although the expected screens, tablets, and computers crowded the demo floor, a surprising number of the LDT projects involved more whimsical and charming tangible objects: railroad cars, wooden forts, and even tea sets.

Add an edtech expo, you’d expect most projects to focus on the K12 demographic, but Maketea actually targeted an older demographic, specifically, couples. It is essentially a date night kit comprised of a set of teaware, tea leaves, and a downloadable app that walks a couple through an intimate tea ceremony with reflection questions to help them better understand each other. It was a unique way to ground discussion in an experience that was a bit unexpected for a learning design and technology expo, but definitely not far from many other projects that seemed to use technology as a facilitator rather than the main interactive educational element.

Tink teaches kids programming concepts with colorful, tangible elements. Tink had various elements that could be programmed and coordinated with an iPad to take certain actions depending on the environment or stimulus nearby, perhaps playing a song when your mom came into the room, etc. The minds behind Tink also created Dr. Wagon, a tangible way to learn programming with wooden railroad cars labeled with programming language to help kids visualize the changes that they were implementing with their code — a crafty sensor in the main wagon sensed the changes and order of the rail cars and would react accordingly. When I asked Tink’s co-founder Alfredo Sandes about the rationale behind Tink, he mentioned that he’s found that research shows tangible objects tend to stimulate kids more than visual stimulants. Another STEM skill-building project was DesignDuo, a kit of projects that daughters and dads can build together. The project includes the parts and directions to configure mini lamps and even decorate their creations with paint, proving that engineering and science are collaborative and creative. Worlds, another project designed to introduce kids to programming, leveraged kids interest in gaming, in your world, you control your characters by typing in the correct code.

One of the LDT favorites Hüga Forts engaged kids in collaborative problem-solving with simple wooden panes and connecting cogs. Each wooden square could be decorated or filled with alternative embellishments: a tic-tac-toe board, mini blinds, translucent sheets of painted paper, among many others. Because of the unique design of the cogs, the wooden squares could be connected together to form a variety of shapes and especially fun forts!

When I think of these projects–and so many more from the Expo–I can’t help but think that we live in exciting times for education. Not only are there so many new topics to learn about, but so many different ways to begin and continue learning. Which of the projects interested you the most? We’d love to hear your thoughts about what’s cooking in edtech!