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Gamifying Education

January 30, 2018

By Mohammed Bader

A lot of educational institutions want to make educational games. However, for some reason or the other, the majority of these games fail. In this article, I am going to try to explain why this happens.

Why games are good for students:

Before we go any further, lets first make sure that you believe that games can be used as an educational tool.

Following are some points that will help you understand why you would want to make games out of educational material:

  • Game Play is useful because it simulates real life experiences—physical, emotional, and/or intellectual—in a safe, iterative and social environment that’s not focused on winners and losers.
  • Games enhance focus, attention and reactive time of students
  • First person shooter games can actually improve eyesight. According to an article as long as the player doesn’t exceed one hour of playing time, it is perfectly safe for the health of the player. Immediate feedback; in normal quizzes or tests, students need to wait for the teachers to give them their feedback which may take some time. But, with games the student will get instant feedback which helps them remember and retain what mistakes they did.

Fake educational games:

When an educational institution wants to make an educational game they usually make a big mistake of focusing mainly on the educational parts only and forget to include the fun element. Some don’t even make a game. They simply make a normal application with games UI and bright colors believing they made an educational game just with that, but that’s wrong.

“Just adding the alphabet to popular games like Angry Birds or Temple Run might make parents more willing to whip out their credit cards, but it won’t necessarily teach their children how to read.”

MindShift: Guide to Digital Games + Learning by Jordan Shapiro.

A colorful UI is not a game by itself, however using it in a game does make the game look good.

This method is called chocolate-covered broccoli, by adding a game like UI to the application, it will definitely make it look good and interesting for students and children but as soon as they realise that the app is more about education than fun, they will immediately stop using it and turn back to a normal educational app.

Real educational games:

If you want students to consider your educational game “a game” and be hooked to it then you need to focus on the fun part first before the educational part.

You must have noticed that many educational games use numbers or letters on their covers. These games weren’t made for children, they were actually targeting teachers and parents because that is the image of educational games in their minds.

To make a successful educational game, we need to first concentrate on making an interactive game design which is fun and attractive and then plan on how to mix this with education. Having a good colorful UI in the game is essential but it shouldn’t be the only focus.

Educational games VS teachers:

Educational games can’t replace teachers, instead they help empower teachers, enhance their work and help them know the weaknesses of their students to help them overcome it.

Teachers should have an admin/teacher panel where they can view and assess the child/student’s performance and behavior analysis throughout the game. This will give the teacher a detailed report about the student’s activities, subject he/she is familiar with and the area he needs help with.

Gamified solutions for education:

These solutions will better help you understand what  educational games  actually are:

The negative side of games:

After discussing all the positive aspects of games, do games have a negative side also?  The answer is, yes they do, but they can be easily avoided by following some simple tips mentioned below.

  • Video games just like any normal game, increases adrenaline in the body which will makes it hard to fall asleep. Also, the effect of blue light which is emitted from screens can hinder peaceful sleeping, so it is better to avoid playing video games at night.
  • Too much time spent playing video games can be harmful to the eye.
    “With any type of lighted screen, it’s important to guard against computer eye syndrome. Consider the 20/20/20 rule. After every 20 minutes that you are staring at a screen, look away for 20 seconds at an object 20 feet away. This will help reduce computer eye syndrome which can be a big cause of migraines and eye fatigue.” Devine, Video Games and Your Vision: The Good, the Bad and the Call of Duty.
  • While studies shows that 65% of teachers note lower-performing students have an increased engagement with educational game content, the same study also suggests that 3% of students show a decrease in interest.

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Gamification is the use of game mechanics and game design techniques in nongamecontexts to design behaviors, develop skills or to engage people in innovation.