The Case For Social Gaming in the Classroom

If teachers and educators had few dollars for every new method of teaching that came along in the last 50 years, they’d easily be able to retire and not worry about the ‘latest and greatest’ way to inform the next generation of eager minds.

Every year, thousands of new methods, trends and fads in the classroom fall by the wayside;  disciplinary techniques, under-utilised computer software, flash based learning games and classroom grouping strategies are just a few examples of teaching methods that are summarily dismissed by some educators.  But who could blame them? ….there is afterall, a lot of noise in education….  and a lot of people shouting for your attention (case in point – the Education category on the iTunes App Store).

While there many new strategies are easily dismissed, a more recent phenomena – and one that can’t be ignored – is the that of social gaming.

One of the more recent engagement methods that has taken hold is social gaming in the classroom.  ‘Social Games’ are games played within social media applications and were made popular by Facebook.  Other platforms like Apple’s Game Center,  allows users to invite friends to play a game or start a multiplayer game – sharing virtual currency, rewards and points with friends, family or even classmates.

This is one trend that we think is too big to ignore;  there are a huge number of benefits social games can offer as a teaching aid (they are flexible, adaptive and can offer interactivity to help with learning). They also offer endless possibilities in terms of of boosting engagement and enthusiasm across subject areas where students might typically be less interested (think Maths, Physics, Engineering, etc).

Below are 5 ways that social games make the case of social gaming’s benefit to teachers and students, including ways to use social gaming apps for exciting students about Common Core States Standards.

Reach out to children on their level (and in a way that they understand)

While every student can learn in their own unique way, there is a need to meet the needs of as many students as possible in one go. In this regard, it makes sense to reach out to children on their level and in a way that they understand. Before children are entered into the educational environment, they have increasingly been exposed to computer games and software. Taking elements of games that children love and incorporating them into the educational process has immeasurable benefits.  As an example, providing badges and achievements for showing what one knows increases motivation, especially when students compete among their peers.

Create an environment where students are motivated to learn

No doubt there are many parents and educators that will throw their hands up at the thought of game playing taking a strong role in the education process.  Educational gaming does nothing to weaken or dilute the educational benefits that are being taught,  but creates an environment where students are more comfortable, relaxed and motivated to learn.

The end lesson and teaching is the exact same as it would be being taught in a more traditional style but with integration of social gaming, children are likely to be more engaged with the learning process.

In a fascinating study done by Marina Papastergiou, data analysis showed that using gaming in the classroom was both more effective in promoting students’ knowledge and more motivational than the non-gaming approach.

Gamification Allows For Patient Progress

In a standard classroom environment, pupils will often view every task as an individual one in its own right. This can lead to students looking to rush through their work as quickly as they can. This will often mean that they do not take the care, time and effort to pay attention to what they are learning.  A key finding of the above paper discovered by combining technology and gaming with teaching curriculum, children were more motivated to take time and care over their work because they were attempting to attain goals.

Game Creation & Socialization Are Made Easy By The Common Core

In a 2 for one of sorts the Common Core offers an ideal opportunity to create games and give students the opportunity to socialize.  Common Core State Standards provides scaffolding which teachers can utilize for incentive programs that engage students through achievements on leader boards, rewards, and badges built around clusters and standards within the standards.  The introduction of social gaming around Common Core Standards can build on the fact that what is learned and progressed in one stage will impact the following stages.  The skills and knowledge that students discover in each stage of gameplay encourages them to pay attention to what they are learning, because it will be relevant to them in the next task.

Gamification may not be the most thorough term to describe the process that unfolds as students play games.  The experience is a social one where young learners engage with one another.  Children discuss, compete and share information as a strategy to improve their standings.  Well-thought games based on Common Core Standards can provide catalyst for interactivity, collaboration, competition.

Two examples of how applications are utilizing the Common Core Curriculum to bring enjoyment to the learning process are Math Champ Challenge and Math Brownie Points.  Each of these apps span multiple grade levels and give students great practice at standardized testing which helps teachers in their task to “make students college ready”.  Math Champ Challenge by INKidsEducation.com – offers users the opportunity to compete on a global stage with their results being posted to the Game Center’s leaderboards, while success in Math Brownie Points gives out rewards of popular non-educational game apps that students are keen to play.

math_champ_challenge

The educational process is about more than just teaching English or Maths, it is about providing young people with the skills and tools they need for life. Developing confidence and personality is as much a part of school life as definitions or multiplication tables. The use of social gaming can provide numerous educational benefits by engaging with young people who might not be interested in the subject matter otherwise.

Gamification is the New Classroom Social Experience

The educational process has to cover so much these days it is no wonder that many teachers and educators struggle to fit everything in. Learning the basic curriculum elements of reading, writing and arithmetic are the foundation of the classroom experience but educators now understand that they have to provide pupils with more.

The educational process is now as much about providing youngsters a modern social experience as it is teaching them essential tools they need for life. Schools now have to play a role in how youngsters, think, act and engage with each other with information technology. This need for the educational process to assist youngsters to share and socialise with each other in the correct manner is a newly added burden on teachers, tech integration specialists and institutions as a whole.  Social gaming experience offers a way these aims and elements can be combined into one subject or activity.

The integration of game mechanics in classrooms has long been a teaching strategy  used by teachers to motivate and engage students.  The recent technology laden gamification process has both proponents and critics. Anything which helps children to feel more comfortable or more motivated to learn certainly is not without merits.  A technology based social gaming experience does even more.  Helping youngsters to become aware of making progress, receiving valuable real-time feedback of this progress and comparing their overall knowledge with their peers shows students directly where they stand and provides impetus for them to try harder by seeking out answers in order to advance.

Engaging and interacting socially is crucial in the classroom

From an early age, youngsters are ever more being exposed to computer games and software as a socially interactive activity. Gameplay, be it academic or not allows children the opportunity to engage with other youngsters with and creates a platform for discussion, competition and sharing of information.

Games based on Common Core Standards can provide interaction, competition and engagement amongst youngsters thereby aiding the learning process. An example of this would be Math Champ Challenge, where students in grades 4-7 can gain achievements locally using iPads and iPods or compete against pupils from all over the world via access to the Game Center.

While this educational app provides an immediate benefit in its social use, it also provides benefit to the individual. There is a genuine Personal Learning Environment aspect to this app which adapts to each user, based on their strengths and weaknesses dependent on their answers.  This adaptive learning engine keeps students engaged while at the same time giving students opportunity to earn achievement awards and win merit badges for particular curriculum standards.

Each pupil can learn at their own pace

Much like many games have characters with AI which react to the players tactics, Math Champ Challenge delivers a learning process which is about mastering the topic as opposed to racing through a topic. Students receive a detailed report at the end of their game that shows them where they need to practice more.  Observant eachers in the classroom environment can check the answers and results, it becomes easier for the teacher to see where the strengths and weaknesses of pupils are. This in turn will mean that those pupils requiring additional support can receive it, while those making good progress can continue.

In this way, apps such as Math Champ Challenge, help to create a more level playing field in the classroom. Pupils are always going to have different ability levels and some will understand some topics more than others. With the learning process aimed at reducing knowledge gaps, the classroom environment becomes more equal, and therefore more competitive.

Competitive environments where pupils feel as though they are at a similar standing or nature will help to improve the social integration of the class. If pupils feel inferior to their peers, there is every chance that they will become withdrawn or will shy away from becoming involved in anything which will highlight their deficiencies.

Social gamification, in addition to all of the other benefits it offers, can help to create a more level playing field with respect to knowledge, which will help to develop the confidence of youngsters. Teaching is often about delivering the core lessons to the entire class but then adapting to provide every pupil with the support that they need. Apps built with social-gaming dynamics such as Math Champ Challenge, can provide assistance in this difficult yet crucial area.