The best educators have always been those who work to engage their pupils by making learning fun, competitive, challenging and rewarding. Whether through teacher-made quizzes, board games, outdoor challenges or, in many of today’s classrooms, through the use of digital games and apps, the common aim is to engage pupils so that they will be motivated to work hard and supported in making progress.
In language learning, the use of gamified apps might, for instance, allow pupils to identify which of a set of spoken words uses the correct pronunciation, and to then develop their own articulation using one-to-one feedback via the app. Teachers of large groups are not able to give individual attention to pupils to the same extent and so a tool that pupils enjoy using, and which offers one-to-one support, can benefit the individual as well as support the teacher in managing the class. What’s more, by using the challenge, competition and reward features of digital games and gamified apps, pupils are encouraged to improve their own performance in order to compete with their peers. This supports teachers in the motivational aspect of encouraging learners to make progress.
These were just some of the aspects of teaching explored at this year’s Brains Eden, the UK’s largest international student games festival; its 10th outing was hosted at Anglia Ruskin University in July. 35 international teams of student games developers, from across the UK and Europe and as far afield as China, travelled to Cambridge to compete in the event’s 48-hour games jam. The event offers one of the biggest new talent recruitment opportunities in the industry; 37 students have been placed in internships over the years, with 12 in full-time positions.
“By using the challenge, competition and reward features of digital games and gamified apps, pupils are encouraged to improve their own performance in order to compete with their peers.”
While language is clearly a very important part of communication, it’s also true that there are many instances when people might not understand words on a screen, or hearing them spoken. That’s why this year Cambridge Assessment English sponsored an award at Brains Eden: Best Storytelling Without Words. Digital Arcade Enthusiasts – from Howest, Belgium – won the award for their game, Roses For Her, which cleverly weaved narrative progression and signposting into the game without the need for text or spoken word.
The event was a great opportunity to meet the next generation of digital innovators and see how they responded to challenges. With research showing that three quarters of all businesses face a shortage of digitally-skilled recruits, it makes events like this even more important.
Andrew Nye is Deputy Director of Digital New Products at Cambridge Assessment English.