Games and gaming have been increasing in tandem with the advances in modern technology. Often when we think of gaming, consoles like PlayStation or Xbox spring to mind. For some it might be app-based games on our smart devices, like Candy Crush or Angry Birds. The latest is now virtual reality where you can enter a real-life simulation of almost anything imaginable. Indeed, it is an industry that is incredibly popular and increasingly creative. It is commonplace to see or hear of games being played in everyday life situations, largely for recreational or entertainment purposes.
The correlation between gaming and education however has been evident for years, but perhaps more indirectly. In recent studies, this relationship has been encompassed under the concept of ‘gamification’.
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What is gamification?
Gamification involves incorporating game-design elements and game principles into non-traditional game contexts. By design, games follow certain principles:
- there is an end-goal or target
- participation is for enjoyment and;
- they offer instant feedback for continuous learning.
Some key characteristics of games can include earning points, badges, and rankings on a leaderboard.
In this blog we focus on gamification in the education sector and specifically within primary schools, inside and outside of the classroom. Gamification has proven to have many benefits and is a great learning tool for educators to adopt. It is in fact complementary to our recent blog about outside learning through play.
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Do games produce more engagement?
In a 2019 study, scholars tested the effectiveness of gamification on 120 pupils by creating an educational learning tool. Two versions were created: a feature enriched game and a feature devoid game. Over the course of two weeks the results showed that embedding enriched game features into the learning tool significantly improved the pupils’ learning outcomes. And as one report aptly describes it, gamification is a “welcome pedagogical shift for those students whose educational potential is being hampered by conventional teaching methods.” Not only do students’ educational achievements improve, but their association with learning shifts from, for example, boring and unengaging tasks to that of fun!
How we can help?
Energy Floors offers a proposition to the gamification arena through one of our products targeted at primary schools – The Gamer. The Gamer is a solar powered floor installation designed for primary school playgrounds. It is an ideal tool for gamification as it comes pre-loaded with up to 10 games requiring various skills from the students such as memory, math and coordination. A key example is Game 3: Tafel Trainer I and Gamer 4: Tafel Trainer II, which literally translates as ‘table trainer’ for practising multiplication. The floor presents an equation and students have to jump or hop on the correct answer before the timer runs out.
Students can play by themselves, in a group or with props. Feedback is instant – the floor displays right or wrong answers immediately; and points are gathered through an online dashboard where you can compare your school’s score against others. The Gamer is practical in that is powered by the sun, providing teachers the opportunity to instil the benefits of renewable energy. It is also physical in that it reacts to walking, tapping or jumping and shifts the learning experience outside of the classroom and keeps students active. By design, The Gamer is a versatile learning tool and fits neatly into the realms of gamification.
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As of April 2021, The Gamer has been installed in 50 primary schools across The Netherlands, Germany and Malta (view them on the map here). Teachers have expressed how the students are enthusiastic about it and begin to teach their peers how to play the games. Here in The Netherlands, schools celebrate Buiten Speeldag (outdoor play day) and we created 5 activities to do with The Gamer on the day.
Yet, implementing technologically advanced games in schools can be quite costly. But with the growing evidence and high success rates for gamification, funding has become available for such endeavours. The Dutch government, for example, has introduced the Nationaal Programma Onderwijs (National Education Programme) which provides funding for all primary schools across The Netherlands to make up for lost times throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Of the many criteria includes the provision of game based learning, allowing schools to invest in products like The Gamer. You can find more information about the funds here and The Gamer packages we offer.
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 Kalpana Nand, Nilufar Baghaei, John Casey, Bashar Barmada, Farhad Mehdipour & Hai-Ning Liang, Engaging children with educational content via Gamification, Smart Learning Environments 6, 2019. Available here: https://slejournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40561-019-0085-2