Advice & Tips, Parenting

How to gamify learning – Fun ways for your kids to learn new stuff

I guess you have heard about gamified learning before? In this post I will give you a couple of tips of how to gamify learning in your home, together with your kids. It doesn’t even have to be very technical or time-consuming.

But first, what is gamified learning? One short description is that, it is an educational approach to motivate people to learn by using game elements in learning environments. The aim is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning. In short, learn while having fun!

Games are one motivator that almost all kids are responsive to. I think the method is so popular because it is easy and fun, even though it can require quite much preparation. I also think that it is closely linked to psychology and basic human motivation triggers.

And our kids are little humans, right? They still remember how to play, even without technical devices 😉 . The benefit of learning by playing, is that they don’t even think about it. There is no pressure to learn, they just have fun.

There are several ways to look at gamified learning. Here follows 3 educational concepts behind gamification and some simple ways in which these concepts are applied to gamify learning.

  • Scaffolding: Depending on the level of competence, learners need different levels of support. This can be shown as visible indicators and tailored assistance with hints. The support is then gradually removed, i.e. prompts are removed as the learner progress through the game or training.
  • Self-determination theory: Through external and internal motivation factors, the learners are motivated by psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and social relatedness. Components of the motivational theory of self-determination explain how gamification elements keep learners engaged. This is done by a split up of the content in small ‘chunks’, rewards added, leader boards and levels are added to improve the sense of achievement, and a good narrative with characters that learners can identify with.
  • Distributed content delivery: Learners have better recall if learning content and challenges are spaced out over time.

OK, so what does research say about gamified learning?

According to the research that I have read, gamified learning is mainly categorized in to the following nine major categories:

  1. Action language, which is the method and interface by which communication occurs between the player and the game itself.
  2. Assessment, which is the method by which accomplishment and game progress are tracked.
  3. Conflict/Challenge, which are the problems faced by players including both the nature and difficulty of those problems.
  4. Control, which is the degree to which players are able to alter the game and the degree to which the game alters itself in response.
  5. Environment, which is the representation of the physical surroundings of the player.
  6. Game fiction, which is the fictional game world and story.
  7. Human interaction, which is the degree to which players interact with other players in both space and time.
  8. Immersion, which is the affective and perceptual experience of a game.
  9. Rules/Goals, which mean clearly defined rules, goals and information on progress toward those goals, provided to the player.

Landers R.N., Armstrong M.B., Collmus A.B. (2017) explain how to gamify learning in a scientifically supported fashion in their research. In their report, How to Use Game Elements to Enhance Learning: Applications of the Theory of Gamified Learning. In: Ma M., Oikonomou A. (eds) Serious Games and Edutainment Applications. Springer, Cham, they expand upon the theory of gamified learning by providing applied examples of each of the nine major categories of game elements and linking those elements theoretically to the behavioral and attitudinal constructs they are best predicted to affect. To read more and find their report, follow this link.

What are the pros with gamified learning?

  • It is a method to learn meaningful skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and an understanding of how to apply those skills.
  • It increases engagement when kids spend time playing a learning-based game, since it is likely that they would want to collect badges and points to improve their score.
  • It gives instant feedback that is provided in leader boards and dash boards, which will tell the kids their progress level. This can push them to try the quiz or activity again to get a higher placement. It creates motivation for further learning engagement.
  • It creates enthusiasm by getting kids excited and competitive while learning.

What are the cons with gamified learning?

  • The critics believe that it decreases the player’s attention span, due to the fast pace and immediate feedback. Kids may begin to expect the same kind of responses from all parts of learning activities they dive in to and won’t find it, leading to frustration.
  • There may be equipment costs, software costs, and sometimes even training costs for instructors. Occasionally these costs are passed on through registration fees and course codes that must be purchased to get access.
  • Game logistics. Many times, setting up a game for what you want to teach your kids requires a lot of prior planning and logistics. Most of the time you will need to sit down and play the game yourself all the way through, which can take up a lot of hours, before you fully understand the game and the objectives.

How to gamify learning in your home, together with your kids?

Here follows a few tips on how to gamify learning for free at home with your kids, with the help of technical devices.

  • Create a QR hunt with a mystery your kids has to solve, e.g. present your chosen content as a game. You can space out the clues over time to increase engagement.

It’s super easy to create a QR hunt. You can create it in Microsoft Word. To create the QR codes, all you have to do, is to go to a QR generating website like: QR Code Generator. Type in the message you want the kids to read when they scan the code, and then copy/paste the QR code into your document. Super easy!

  • Create videos together with your kids. Let them be the co-designers. The site “My simple show” offer a free version to create either professional, educational or personal videos. They have a guided process with several story lines, and these will help you to get started in an instance.

To see my video “What is an engineer”, go to: My simple show.

  • Even at my son’s school they use Kahoot. There you can find a great amount of quizzes and/or why not create your own quiz game in minutes? It works on any device with a web browser. Your kids will need to have a smartphone, tablet or computer in order to play.

Link to: Kahoot

This one has a fee connected to it:

  • Let your kids build up their own virtual worlds. I have let my kids play with the game Minecraft in the creative mode. They absolutely love it, and they do learn things like: if you don’t have a roof on your house, it will rain indoors, and if you don’t have torches that light up during night, it will get very dark.

My summary of gamified learning

The emphasis of gamification is to provide anyone with a fluid environment of self-directed learning, i.e our kids will learn meaningful skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and get an understanding of how to apply those skills. I would say these are invaluable abilities that kids will not only use at home or in school, they can use them throughout their own personal and professional lives. I think the critics may have a point, when they think that it could have a negative impact on the kid’s attention span, but this is where we as parents need to have discussions with our kids about it. Many times our kids can come up with their own suggestions for how to handle it.

So I can just make everything a game and solve parenting, right? No, gamification is only a tool and, like everything tech-related, it’s about finding the right balance for your family.

Marika

4 comments

This is an amazing concept and i wholeheartedly agree that it is an amazing way for children to have fun while also learning.
When i turn things into a game my son is absolutely ecstatic and he picks things up so fast and has a really great time, it’s actually fun for me to create games for him too so it’s a win win really 🙂
Great post, keep up the great work

Yes, I agree. I think it is important as a parent to be involved in your kids life, to be able to see and hear things from their point of view, to understand their needs. And also, never forget to have a lot of fun on the way!

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