Game On! How Educational Games Encourage Learning and Increase Engagement

“Finish your homework before you turn on that video game!” If you’re a parent, you’ve likely said those words more than once. And if you grew up gaming, you probably recognize them as a mantra of your childhood.

But what if gaming were your child’s homework? It’s not so far-fetched. From classics like Oregon Trail, Reader Rabbit, and Math Blaster, educational video games are almost as old as the modern computer industry itself.

However, the breakneck speed at which technology is developing today isn’t just revolutionizing the gaming industry as a whole, but it’s also transforming the way we teach our students.

Why It Works

The simple fact is, children learn best through play. And video games are far and away the most popular form of play for older children. In fact, 70% of children under the age of 18 in the US regularly play video games. And even for those of us who didn’t grow up in the era of smartphones and tablets, video games seem to exert an almost irresistible allure, with more than 200 million Americans reporting that they spend at least one hour of week gaming. 

And it’s not really surprising that the popularity of gaming should transcend demographics of age and gender, class and culture. Simply put, gamification satisfies a lot of fundamental human needs. 

Cognitively, games provide both challenge and reward; they facilitate creative thinking and problem-solving. Psychologically, they provide the gratification of achievement. Socially, they provide a sense of community and solidarity with other gamers. 

How It Works

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of today’s education technology is that there are practically no limits on what can be taught through gaming. And when you’re dealing with particularly complex subjects, subjects that students used to face with dread, gamification can make studying a lot less tiresome and a lot more fun. 

The mere thought of wrestling with multiplication or (gulp!) long division might send your little one into a full-throated tantrum. However, downloading a fun math game, like Maxine the Unicorn, on your kids’ tablet or smartphone can have them spending hours learning arithmetic through play. Just like sneaking spinach into your brownie batter, you’re teaching by stealth because sometimes the best way is the path of least resistance.

But tackling difficult content through gaming isn’t just for young children. Older children can benefit as well, especially in the sometimes terrifying STEM subjects that are so essential in preparing today’s children for tomorrow’s workforce. For instance, your teen can learn everything from physics to calculus to computer coding, all with the simple touch of a button or swipe of a digital screen.

Augmented Reality (AR) can even change students’ perception of their physical environment. For example, with AR, students can take a virtual walk through their town and see what it would have looked like a century ago, or even as far back as the age of the dinosaurs!

Life Lessons

Gamification can do more for your young scholar than just help them master the academics, however. Video games can also teach essential life skills, skills that are often overlooked in the traditional classroom. 

Credit, for example, is essential to the quality of life, affecting everything from your ability to get a job to your options for purchasing a home or car. Yet few adults really understand how credit works. Until they’ve actually been through it, for example, they might not appreciate all the long, hard work that can be involved in trying to buy a house with bad credit or no credit. Games in fintech, though, can help your future adult (and, potentially, future mogul) learn to create a budget, make wise financial decisions, and build good credit.

A Caveat

As promising as today’s educational technology may be to support our children’s learning both in school and at home, care needs to be taken. But that, too, can be used as an important learning opportunity for your children as well. 

Specifically, showing children how to be a good digital citizen means, first, their learning how to differentiate between safe and unsafe websites and apps. It also means learning how to safeguard their privacy and to use websites, social media, and apps responsibly. And that means that when your children are learning through digital media, they’re also learning about digital media–all essential skills for your children’s future, at school, play, and work.

The Takeaway

Video games aren’t just fun. They’re also educational. All those hours spent on Minecraft or Fortnite or Civilization aren’t wasted hours, because your children are learning essential critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives. But learning through gaming doesn’t just happen at home. Now more than ever, educational video games are taking center stage in America’s classrooms. They are not only helping students master some of the toughest academic subjects but also to master crucial life skills, such as creating a budget and building credit.


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