How do we keep kids engaged in the classroom? How can learning possibly be fun compared to the crazy, captivating video games being played at home? I believe that rather than lamenting how disengaged our students are, we can learn a lot from what they are engaged in (>91% play video games), and incorporate that into learning.

The dramatic increase of technology has redefined everything it has crossed paths with - including the education system. Gamification is one such ‘innovation-of-learning-buzz-word’ that takes what students are already doing and extracting the educational advantages from it. In this case ‘gamification’ is referring to effectively using mechanics found in video games as motivation for students to learn by engaging them in the classroom. This is not saying it’s time to give up on the traditional classroom or ‘silent reading time’ but utilising the things known to hold a child’s attention and ignite their curiosity.

Gamification is about using ‘game-specific’ thinking and mechanics to help students engage and have fun while learning at school.

For some the concept of Gamification has you imagining a classroom full of children on iPads and laptops all playing their favourite game. This is not the idea at all! Gamification is about using ‘game-specific’ thinking and mechanics to help students engage and have fun while learning at school. A well made game offers players valuable skills such as a personal challenge, opportunities for creative thinking, novelty seeking, feedback and networking with other players. These skills are fundamental in the workforce and are all provoked while playing a game. Technology isn’t going to fade out, it will only develop further and schools need to be up to speed with it as the children in them will be the ones to take technology, and indeed our society, to the next level.

If a child is exposed to an approach of learning at school that they are already connecting with at home and with their friends then it reduces the likelihood of school being perceived as boring, peripheral and irrelevant to their personal interests. The role of education is to empower the next generation to pursue their talents and become valuable members of society. This means the education system should be designed around what will benefit the child’s learning in the most effective way. Gamification is not only acknowledging where young people are at but meets them there and provides them with an instant interest in learning that can be FUN!

Education will continue to be redefined, rediscovered even, by individuals wanting to produce more effective ways of learning. Gamification in the classroom is one new way to engage and challenge students that has not been truly feasible until very recently due to the increase of technology and the accessibility of it in schools. What is now needed more than ever is game creators and educators to bridge the gap between the level of detail, engagement and usability of entertainment-specific video games, and the lacking education-specific games you no doubt have been exposed to.

If the gaming sector and education sector could join forces, the benefits of classroom gamification could truly be unleashed.

For gamification to be utilised to it’s fullest extent, teachers need to be finding ways to be involved in development of terrific educational games. If the gaming sector and education sector could join forces, the benefits of classroom gamification could truly be unleashed. This is more pertinent than ever as we launch into a new era of virtual reality. Who will dominate that landscape? My dream is that educating our engaged young students with terrific life skills and curriculum-relevant learnings would be high on the priority list for the gaming industry.

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Guest blog by Jessica Greer, Primary Education/Psychology student at University of Canterbury