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Stop teaching. Start Learning with Educational Games

Janet is a student in a top university in Singapore. I had arranged to meet her to chat about her experience with classroom learning. We agreed on a cafe at Bugis called Mellower Coffee. One that is popular with students, she says.

Great! A new hangout.

I arrived and saw her at a corner. Plugged into earphones, she was engrossed in some videos. Youtube it seems. But this video was different. It looked like the video of a professor teaching in a class. But instead of being in a classroom, she is in a very nice cafe and having a nice coffee.

Education have changed recently with the rise of technology. Gone are the days we bury ourselves flipping books. Or fall asleep in lecture halls. Digital transformation has changed how students learn and motivate towards education.

In 2017, 68,181 number of students enrolled in Universities like Janet in Singapore. Whilst 71,436 go for Polytechnic Diploma programs. These form 83% of students in higher-education schools with access to educational tools in Singapore.

Why engagement in classroom is a growing problem
The arrival of these technology has created what some call the "attention industry". Time spent online by youths has skyrocketed, robbing them of attention.

Couldnt' find better things to do.

The situation is clear in the US, where social media and high-tech companies thrive. Research shows teenagers (13-18 years) average nine hours of entertainment media. Tweens (8-12 years) use an average six hours’ worth of entertainment media daily. Research elsewhere shows 30% of all time is spent on social media interaction. Bulk of it on mobile.

What is the impact of digital culture?

Pew Research Center says short attention spans has increased tremendously. 87% out of 2462 American pre-uni teachers feel widespread Internet creates distraction.  
These distractions create a harder time for educators and learning professionals. Social media after all could be more exciting then traditional classroom lessons. Many students rather stay at home (or cafe) to watch recorded videos then to sit in the walls of a lecture hall. Some highlighted to us they could watch home lectures drunk, not engage and wear pyjamas.

No more a reality in classroom?

With all these, educators need to re-look methods of classroom engagement. Educators now try to promote balance between social media versus real learning time. Social media after all, could give some advantages to a youth's development.

Students rarely grasp topics if it involves other geographical locations. Social media bridges that gap. They can now understand other countries if they saw it on social media feeds. More mentioned here.

With all these, educators can consider how to add value to classroom-engagements. Despite the digitalization motion, many suffer from a lack of off-line engagement.  Not all educators know how to handle this shift well. Many who may not adapt to digitalization as quickly as their students may lag behind. Or worse, be seen as outdated.

This gap between student and teacher in digitalization skills may create friction. Independent Learning Institutions are here to help. IN.LAB a learning space in Singapore regularly hold learning events. Events are often held to promote the digitalization of learning with educators.  

Bright, Fun, Innovative - How Learning should be

Some educators are adapting well. As new learning pedagogies start to become trendy, the ones who stay on top of pedagogies stand to win. But its not always easy to figure out how technology could fit into curriculum.  

Nitz, a teacher we spoke to, says that he plans to think of how tools could supplement the curriculum. He hopes to incorporate some form of flipped learning so students engage in class. Flipped Learning is quite a hot topic. As classroom objectives start to change, it is time to re-position how in-class education can be conducted.

Another rising pedagogy is Gamification and Game-based learning.

How Classroom Gamification could Help

The concepts of gamification and game-based learning could confuse. Whilst both have been around for a long time, it is game-based learning that is creating a new wave. With the rise of e-sports, youths are starting to take note and see it as trend. If we can adopt this trend in classrooms, It could be instrumental for engagement.

One successful example of Educational Gamification is Assassins Creed. It used a historical game world setting in a museum-like way with University of Montreal. Described by Classcraft, students grades increased from 22% to 41%. A significant increase. Teachers were also able to do things in the game they otherwise couldn't.

More exciting then classroom learning

Games in classroom in particular, may fulfill a self-directed learning pedagogy. People love to explore unknowns (known as open world games). The next big step for educational games is to infuse learning goals in these open worlds. This can then unlock self-directed learning. A new sense of purpose in the topic will start, and with it a new world of connected learning.

Soqqle aims to create this connected learning by a self-directed learning eco-system. By bringing learners together and bringing game-like elements, learners avoid the "education-fatigue".

As educators learn about games, it could be a challenge to figure out how to choose an educational game.
 

How to choose a good educational game
Using educational games in the classroom could be a major challenge for educators. One factor is the lack of experience in game design, behavioral science or programming. Without such knowledge, it's difficult for educators to learn what are the right tools.

After all, games are generally seen to be destructive to the public.

And to make it worse, how do you tell parents that you use games for kids. Will parents accept this?

In some cases, games in the classroom actually creates some of the worst environments. A binary pass/fail state as the ultimate measure of success. The complexity of thought could be reduced to a simple log of input commands.  If not done well, games could bring along non-favourable values.  If not done well, games could bring non-favourable values instead of self-realized goals.  

Games not done right, could indeed be a negative influence. It is thus pivotal to ensure that educators picks games that bring best practices.

One way is realizing how these tools maps and reflect pedagogy design. We discuss them below.

Adaptive

Games are personalized and could represent unique distinct learning needs of students. Some schools today grade students place them in "bands". These big sweeping categories often do not represent individual micro-learning needs.

Games are setup to allow users to create their distinct character to suit their style. Adaptive game design technology allows a teacher to adopt a flexible learning delivery. It draws methods of instructional design, gaming, challenge, scenario, problem and enquiry. More here.  

Progressive

Games often need individuals to do some self-learning of how the game works. The game then gets progressively harder. As users learn more about the system, they unlock new content.

A clear path - not easily missed

Progressive learning teachs students study goals through experience rather than reading. This method gives a clearer purpose of learning as opposed to dry memorization. In some cases, the gamer is able to map the usage of the learning outcome towards a real life scenario. More.

21st Century Pedadogy

It's no secret that the 4th industrial revolution is right at our doorstep. As jobs get displaced, new types of skills are suddenly prevailing at work. Educational institutions are starting to take note. And a new category of 21st century skills were created.

New type of worker - new type of skills

To cultivate these 21st century skills, new types of pedagogies are needed to create consistency. Teachthought beautifully created a diagram for 21st century pedagogy. It's noted that 21st century pedagogy focuses on modern learning. These target towards metacognition (reflection), critical thinking, technology, problem and project-based learning.  

Problem Based

Games are built for users to solve problems. Gamers often start in towns and get access to "quests" that need to solve problems. Often there are pre-requisites to solving those problems.

These skills are very much like real life. This approach challenges the students by inspiring them to set up an aim. They must do them through analysis, design, implementation, test and reflection.

Educational Games

There are several resources that share about tools to use in the classroom. We mention a few here we received as recommendations.  

iCivics

iCivics is a free lesson plans and games for learning civics. It's described as the nation’s most comprehensive, standards-aligned civics curriculum available. The materials are suitable for middle- and high-school students.

Sheppards Software  

The Sheppard Software website is a library of educational information and activities. It breaks out into nine broad categories that are fun, interactive, and, best of all, free. Sheppard Software has educational categories for preschool age kids all the way through college. Although the cartoon-style animation looks to be for a younger crowd, adults also love the design, fun, and ease of use of the site.

Quizlet Live

Quizlet Live lets students take part in a competitive vocabulary review game. Students play amongst their classmates from any device. Quizlet Live allows students to compete on random teams of three or four students.  The correct answer for each question asked during the game appears on only ONE group member’s screen.  When a question is asked, teams need to figure out what the correct answer is and then figure out which partner has the correct answer.

Kahoot Kahoot!

A free student-response tool that allows teachers to run game-like multiple-choice answer quizzes. Teachers can either create their own quizzes or find, use, and/or remix public quizzes. Questions, along with answer choices, are projected onto a classroom screen. Students submit responses using an internet-connected device (computer, tablet, or phone).

Flippity

Flippity turns any Google spreadsheet into flash cards, a badge creator, a spelling quiz, a memory game, a word search, and more. Teachers use Flippity for a variety of purposes. They can present to the class, assess individual students, or have students create. In each case, they check out the demo, and then use templates and to transform the spreadsheet.

digital breakouts

Breakout EDU is a physical game kit for students to work together to solve various puzzles. It's like an escape room. You can use Breakout kits in every subject area and grade level. Make sure to scour through the existing games on the site. You'd find games on geometric shapes, literature, physical education, computer science, and more.  

Breakout is the online format of Breakout EDU. Teachers can track progress and set time limits for students. These digital games are geared towards warm-ups and homework. Students can design their own digital games and added to a classroom library. Learners can play the game without others.

Prodigy

Math Battle Game Prodigy Math Game is a fantasy-based web and app game. It covers skills learned in Grades 1 through 8. As kids travel to the Wizard Academy, they answer math questions to earn spells. They need them to battle monsters . The app is free, but a paid subscription offers more gaming features. These include mini-game power-ups and access to the infamous Dark Tower.

Soqqle

Soqqle is a Gamified Online World where users meet each other, and earn tokens. Users have to be productive with their time by learning. It is a smarter social network that youths use to stay relevant for the future. Purposeful engagements with curated learning experiences are created through stories. Whilst the game rewards effort with Blockchain-powered digital tokens.


I continued my coffee with Janet at the cafe. I couldn't help but wonder how education has quickly changed and adapted.

She however is on the next big thing in her life.

What is her purpose in everyday living? Social media seems to drive her further from her goals and purpose. What is it that will bring it all back together?

Stop teaching. Start Learning with Educational Games
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