Can gaming really shape the learning experience?

14 December 2015

3 min read

Can gamification improve how a child learns? How Minecraft and Toovari are leading the game-based learning charge.

Can gaming really shape the learning experience? (Desktop)

I remember the first computer games I had growing up. They were text-based games where you had to find just the right phrase for the right action to unlock the next part of the game. Since the 80s, computer games have come a long way - not just in their graphic capabilities, but in their growing impact on how children learn.

While I'd hesitate to say that hours playing a first-person shooter can boost a student to the top of his or her class, games that allow free play can improve creativity and problem solving skills.

Take Minecraft, an online world-building game that allows players to use blocks of various materials to build any virtual structure that takes their fancy, from a tiny shack to a vast cityscape.

BBC News encourages parents to look at Minecraft as "more than just another video game." While its blocky interface may seem graphically simple, its tens of millions of users would beg to differ. For them, it's a blank canvas — a video game without any of the typical constraints of a game, like following a set storyline.

This ability to create freely - and away from the rules of pesky teachers and parents - gives kids a feeling of control over their environment that can translate into better management of real-world projects in the classroom and at home.

Want to build a working computer in Minecraft? Yes, it's possible — just watch this video. Minecraft users often work together, sharing creative tips with other users and cooperating to build mega structures. The open-world nature of Minecraft rewards players who collaborate and experiment - two skills that are pretty handy for developing brains.

The Spanish-language online game Toovari takes a different tack, working within a classroom setting to pit students against each other, tournament style, in subjects ranging from mathematics and science to the humanities.

Teachers assign tasks in Toovari and students earn points by completing them. These points are redeemable in the Toovari store for such items as books, excursions, and charitable donations.

This gamification of tasks encourages students to participate in the classroom by rewarding learning - and in fact, Toovari boasts a 92% improvement in academic performance among its users.

For educators, there's plenty of room to incorporate gamification into your classrooms. Here is a list of ideas that can make learning fun and collaborative taking notes from both Minecraft and Toovari:

  • Reward

    A reward system for your classroom could award points by task, chapter, module, or evaluation period. Consider letting students give points to other students for being helpful or creative.

  • Solutions

    Minecraft lets students build beyond the constraints of a typical video game. Why not assign weekly tasks that students need to solve and allow students to use whatever method they'd like to create the solution?

  • Tournaments

    Create tournaments tailored to your current curriculum. It's as simple taking a typical quiz format and using those questions in a competitive team environment. Divide students into teams, encourage collaboration, and help students work together to deliver the correct answers. You could even create a point system that runs for the duration of the school term, with clearly defined rewards for winning teams.

  • Characters

    Teaching history? Let students do what they do in video games — assume the identity of a character. You can divide students into teams or assign roles individually, letting them tell the story through the eyes of the role they've assumed. There's also room for students to tell their character stories in a variety of formats, from written to performance to song and more.

These innovations in game-based learning can be tools that educators use to establish better relationships with their students. Regardless of whether apps like Minecraft and Toovari make an appearance in your classroom, there's plenty of room to inspire, innovate, and motivate students through their natural tendency to play. All you have to do is figure out the game that's right for your class and lesson.

Discover more about how technology can boost teaching and learning on our platform HP Education.