Over a century ago, Italian physician Maria Montessori pioneered a radical new approach to education. By following five key principles – respect for children, the importance of sensitive learning periods, prepared environments, teachers as facilitators of knowledge, and self-education – she believed that a love for lifelong learning could be inculcated at an early age.
This holistic approach to education would, in turn, lead to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development of children, and set the stage for their development into well-rounded, accomplished adults.
Unfortunately, the time since has seen few further advancements in the field of education. Curriculums have standardised, learning has become rote memorisation, and the structural rigidity of the system has prevented any further evolution. These issues are further compounded in India by the sheer volume of students flooding the system and a lack of qualified instructors.
However, the advent of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, and robotics has upended this situation. Combined with the rise of edtech services, many issues that have plagued traditional learning can be challenged and overcome, providing new hope for the future of the sector.
The one factor that links these varied tools is the potential they hold for the gamification of learning.
Learning with games
‘Gamification’ as a concept has a surprisingly long history. First coined in 2003, it refers to the use of game-like experiences and activities to encourage and motivate learning in both children and adults. By turning a learning situation into a game, the process appeals to our inherent curiosity and competitiveness, and increases our engagement, motivation, and focus on the task at hand. In this way, monotonous activities are turned into engaging interactive sessions.
That said, here are the benefits gamification can bring to learning:
A shift in learning dynamics
Traditional education systems are built around the one-way flow of information: from teacher to student. Given the number of pupils in each classroom and the lack of interactivity, this format inevitably results in students losing motivation and interest. The implementation of gaming mechanics can transform classroom dynamics.
By presenting information as a challenge rather than a chore, learners are more engaged and have a greater chance of retaining information. This builds on the psychology that drives human engagement, and can further be elevated through aspects such as points, leaderboards, and rewards.
Changing the psychology of learning
It’s a widely accepted fact that casinos have mastered the art of addictive gaming. By combining entertainment and expectation with the thrill of rewards, they have hooked generations of players and made themselves a fortune in the process. And while the motivation behind their success remains questionable, their results speak for themselves.
Gamification can lead to similar results in the field of learning. Winning games and solving puzzles causes our brain to result dopamine into our bodies, leading to a “high” and making us feel good. By harnessing this feel-good factor and the desire to repeat it, children can be taught to look forward to learning new information while also increasing their ability to retain it.
Putting theory into practice
The best way to learn a theory or concept is by putting it into practice, and that’s precisely what gamification promotes. For example, many schools have begun to implement computer science and other similar subjects into their courses. However, these lessons are generally confined to understanding the theoretical backing of the subject – in many cases, the students are never even given the chance to sit in front of a computer!
Gamifying allows students to experience the real-world ramifications of their actions, and provides them an accessible learning path to tricky subjects such as coding.
Offering immediate feedback
Most students rely on homework, tests, and exams as the medium through which they receive feedback on a subject. The issue with this model is that students end up waiting several days, and sometimes even weeks, before they find out how they did and where they can improve. By that point, any interest they may have had in correcting their mistakes and learning from the experience has likely faded away.
Gamification overcomes this issue by providing real-time feedback on a given task. This allows students to immediately know whether their answer was right and wrong – if they were right, the sense of satisfaction serves as positive reinforcement, while a wrong answer encourages them to search for a solution.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)