The Benefits of Using Video Game
Technology in the Classroom

From Pong, Atari’s rudimentary table tennis simulator of the early 1970s to the hyper-realistic sandbox adventures found on modern consoles, video games have remained a wildly popular pastime for both children and adults for decades. 

According to a recent Ofcom study, while 60% of UK adults aged 16+  said that they invested time playing video games of some description—offline or online; on a console, desktop, or smartphone device—the figure for 3-15-year-olds is soaring at 91%. The universal appeal of this immersive digital entertainment medium, then, is one that shows no sign of slowing.

The question is, while parents might be understandably reluctant to rely on games alone to provide their children with the mental stimulation and learning experiences they might require for a fully-rounded education, there have certainly been examples where the technology has provided positive, tangible results.

Gaming in education

Using video games
in education

As well as the obvious recreational value of video games, there have been a number of real-world cases in which they have offered some unique, innovative learning outcomes. The turn-based strategy game series Civilization, for example, has been used as an interactive method of teaching history.  While Walden, a first-person open-world simulation based on the Henry David Thoreau novel of the same name, has the ability to completely immerse players in the American philosopher’s exploratory narrative. Since its original 2017 release, the game has been praised for its power to support literacy skill development in young readers, as well as introducing them to the complex themes of morality and ethics in the process.  

By harnessing the in-built mechanics and themes of video games, players can develop a new perspective of problem solving and engage with the educational content woven into its digital infrastructure. And, it seems, educators have taken note and have started employing simple game functions into their teaching strategies. 

Games designed for
educational settings

To implement features found in game design to enhance the learning experience, educators must first acknowledge the form. Indeed, there is a wealth of cross-pollination between playing a game, of any kind, and learning a new concept. The time and persistence needed to complete a level, for instance, or the immediate feedback players receive if an action has been unsuccessful, are both functions that can be applied to a traditional learning model. 

Even potentially controversial genres of games that adults might otherwise overlook, like immersive action video games or puzzle-themed mobile apps, have been shown to have their educational benefits. In traditional learning environments, memory-based drill-and-practice games are often maligned for focusing on the ‘wrong’ elements of learning, but they tend to employ all the hallmarks of reward-driven skill development and narrative which can offer demonstrative educational gains for children.

Meanwhile, games that aren’t necessarily built for the purpose of education can provide engaging, interactive solutions to complex subjects. The herculean task of trying to learn the periodic table of elements, an intricate three-dimensional matrix with 27,624 values, has been conquered by middle school students using the elemental mechanics found in the popular video game Pokémon.

Education and gaming

Using game mechanics
in education

Away from using specific game technology in the classroom, the concept of ‘gamification’ simply means to establish game mechanics—either digital or traditional—into a learning environment. Whether it’s Snakes and Ladders or Minecraft, the intention, typically, is to make the learning experience more engaging for the student. 

Of course, understanding what qualifies as a game mechanic isn’t always straightforward, such is the diversity of mediums available. From achieving mastery through a scoring system, immersion and exploration through role-playing or creativity through customisation, there are numerous elements that make up a game—and to which a child might best respond. 

When introduced thoughtfully, gamification does not aim to transform the learning objectives but rather the learning process—into an engaging, stimulating activity. The use of gamification as a tool can enhance student motivation and interest, all the while facilitating a deeper understanding and retention of the material being taught. 

Using Minecraft
in Education

In 2011, MinecraftEdu was released; an educational version of the popular open-world freeform building game, Minecraft. The fully interactive platform was designed specifically for students to learn and develop skills within a variety of subjects—from science and maths to structural engineering, architecture and even ocean studies. Already a game which encourages creativity, problem-solving and system thinking, the education-specific model aims to provide a wide scope of learning possibilities within its collaborative sandbox environment.  

For a real-world example of the potential and reach of Minecraft, earlier in the year, London primary and secondary pupils—along with college and university students—were tasked with redesigning Croydon town centre within the Minecraft universe. The challenge, set by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan in partnership with Microsoft’s Minecraft Education and C40 Cities, was to create a safer, more environmentally-friendly and prosperous virtual Croydon for all its residents. 

Computeam have long since championed the value of Minecraft Education as a dynamic learning tool for classrooms, and offer it as part of our STEM rewards initiative. Sessions aim to introduce teaching staff to the Minecraft universe and outline how it can be used across the curriculum in all STEM activities, providing the groundwork on which to encourage student creativity and engage them in this unique learning environment.

How can Computeam help?

With the widespread popularity of video games and the increasing importance of engagement in education, gamification can continue to evolve and provide unique solutions within the classroom. By incorporating game mechanics and design elements into non-game contexts, there’s a potential to encourage increased participation and improved performance, all the while fostering a sense of community and healthy competition within schools.

As ever, it’s always important to strike a balance with new educational models by using them in moderation and refrain from focusing solely on extrinsic rewards over intrinsic motivation. It’s up to parents, educators and ICT providers to ensure any educational practices created within a video game environment are safe, inclusive and effective for all learners, regardless of their background or learning style. 

If you’d like to find out more about the use of innovative technology solutions in the classroom or would like to discuss our Minecraft Education STEM Rewards packages, please get in touch.

Children in school uniform looking at laptops

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Posted on April 28th 2023

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