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Using gaming to engage students in the classroom

Winston Poyton, Director at Capita SIMS, believes that schools can learn from games such as Minecraft to better engage students in the classroom

Posted by Charley Rogers | October 05, 2017 | Primary

Those of us who have played Minecraft or had a conversation with a child who is hooked on the game know how captivating it is. I speak from experience, as I have played and seen firsthand that Minecraft can be all-consuming. So it’s not surprising to me that 55 million people across the world are enjoying playing the game. However, it’s interesting to consider that a large proportion of this number are school aged children.

The thing that I personally love about Minecraft, is that children across the globe are investing hours of their own time enhancing their architecture, shape, natural science, construction, maths and problem-solving skills without realising it. They are just having fun – which is undoubtedly the best way to learn.

Imagine if we could take this level of concentration and engagement into the classroom, it could be a powerful tool for teachers. We could suddenly have classes full of students where everyone is participating, enjoying learning and is focused on refining their skills.

Gaming appeals to a human’s instinctive need for competition, achievement, communication and self-expression. Values that all sit very well within the classroom. Without doubt, teachers are experienced at motivating pupils with rewards, points, achievement badges or levels.

Minecraft cemetery scene

But it is time that we started utilising a method that really appeals to today’s children. I firmly believe that the traditional ‘star of the week’ that we grew up with, needs a makeover for the tech-savvy Generation Z. We need to think differently, perhaps by incorporating digital leader boards where pupils can log in and see where they are positioned in the class for specific areas such as attendance, behaviour, and achievement at any given time from a device of their choice.  

Where gamification can be a valuable tool is for encouraging teamwork. For example, you could set an achievement of 90% of the class completing their homework on time. If they achieve the goal then the entire class will receive a reward. It’s a great way to inspire students to support and work together to reach an end goal.

We can learn so much from games, including important life skills such as the fact that it is ok if things don’t work the first time, you can try again or ask for advice. Teachers will rightly say that this is not a new concept for schools, they have been instilling this ethos into their classrooms for years. However, gamification can build on these values and help schools to improve several areas such as attendance and grades.

Schools are always looking for ways to increase motivation and engagement, and online gaming could be the answer. Minecraft has taught us that connecting learning with play engages students to a point where they are motivated to take responsibility for their own learning.

We need to create classrooms where students don’t perceive that it’s Game Over for fun when they enter it!  Instead, we need to transform classrooms into learning portals which really connect with students.

Five Reasons To Gamify Your Classroom

1.     Better student engagement

2.     Create an environment where it’s ok to fail and learn from it

3.     Recognising and celebrating success

4.     Encouraging team work

5.     Motivating pupils to continue learning outside of the classroom 

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