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When you’re young, it’s hard to sit still. Children are kinetic by nature; they possess endless energy and are made to move. This may be why recess has traditionally been the best part of the day for many kids, and why sitting in a classroom learning the Rs can be tedious.

But times have evolved. Today’s youngsters have access to a range of digital learning technologies that make school exciting, and often just plain fun.

For example, at Age of Learning, where Internet entrepreneur Sky Dayton serves as director, a Personalized Mastery Learning Ecosystem™ (PMLE™) combines science and innovative technology to customize math and reading for each child. These Stemworks certified programs are an educational boon. Both My Math Academy and My Reading Academy address individual student needs and progress, and sustain interest and enjoyment through interactive instructional modules.

Let’s Play!

What’s most appealing to children, of course, is play, and gamification in education is opening new doorways to gain and hold kids’ attention. In the primary grades, when attention spans are typically well under 30 minutes, this is no small achievement.

Nick Pelling, a computer programmer and investigative writer, coined the term “gamification” in 2002, and this digital learning strategy has been bolstering the education of children (and adults) for the past two decades.

Why does it work? Think about how addictive video games are—even prior to the digital era, video arcades kept children (and adults) mesmerized for hours. Therefore, it makes sense that applying game-based elements to learning materials would result in similar levels of engagement.

In the classroom, gamification transforms traditional lessons into non-competitive play, in which students get to select and explore new content, earning badges, points, and status along the way. The true rewards are the internal desire to learn, and the subject mastery students achieve. When children willingly participate in gamification, their intentional exploration is key to discovering, comprehending, and retaining new information.

Gamification gives children lifelong skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, while helping them learn how to cooperate and collaborate, traits that will serve them well once they enter the work world. Educational games also motivate kids who may be lackluster performers in more traditional educational settings, helping to enhance their mental acuity, improve performance—and boost their grades.

Gamification In Practice

How can teachers and parents implement gamification? By bringing game elements into the classroom. Gamification doesn’t involve actually making or playing games per se, but rather, integrating game-based features into the learning activities. These include:

·      Storytelling

·      Social connection

·      Feedback

·      Learning levels (each level is more challenging than previous)

·      Progress indicators (PBLs) such as badges or points

·      Degrees of mastery

·      Player control

·      Fun!

An educational environment that contains some or all of these game elements would qualify as “gamified.”

Does gamification work? The answer is a resounding yes, and the numbers bear this out. The estimated compound annual growth rate for the global gamification market is 30 percent, or approximately around $31 billion, between 2020 and 2025.

Eight Ways Classroom Gamification Benefits Kids

1.   Real-world experience. Students immersed in a digital gaming environment are learning about life and consequences, not simply regurgitating rote learning on a test.

2.   A sense of ownership. Gamification gives children the feeling that they have some control over their learning.

3.   Visible progress. The points, badges and other progress indicators make a student’s progress immediately tangible at each step.

4.   Safety to experiment. In a gamification setting, students are typically more relaxed than in a conventionally structured classroom, and are therefore more willing to make mistakes and try again, without feeling they’ve “failed.”

5.   Greater engagement for longer periods of time.

6.   Social encouragement, which helps shy students participate without feeling singled out.

7.   Identity exploration. At an age when identity is being formed, avatars and different gamification characters offer students an opportunity to explore different personas in a safe setting.

8.   More fun, happiness, and accomplishment in the classroom.

Gamification is one highly positive example of how digital technology supports learning.