What to think about the educational use of games and technology in training?

What to think about the educational use of games and technology in training?

Themes covered about the playful world of digital learning:

Increasingly, in the world of training, we see the importance of developing digital technology and innovative teaching methods for students across all sectors. Often, this transition happens very slowly, if at all. This is due to a lack of understanding of new teaching techniques or not knowing how to adapt them to your sector.

But first of all, do you know what a Serious Game is? These games are for educational purposes and they are becoming more and more prominent in the world of training and learning in general, but do you know what to make of them? Is it a good thing to integrate them into the word of training? This article aims to answer all of these questions.

What is a Serious Game?

First, we must be clear on the definition of a Serious Game. Julian Alvarez defines Serious Games as “a computer application in which the objective is to combine serious aspects such as teaching, learning, communication or information, in a non-exhaustive way, with the playful energy of video games.” So it is a computer game that’s main objective is not pure enjoyment since it aims to stimulate learning. Of course, there is not just one definition for the term. Others, for example, define a Serious Game as a fun activity which does not need to be digitised.

Can a game be educational?

Roger Caillois has developed a definition which opposes that of Alvarez. Having worked at length on the question of play, the sociologist defines the activity as:

According to Caillois’ definition, Serious Games cannot be considered games as they are not unproductive (their main objective is to stimulate learning, with enjoyment being a secondary purpose). 

Often, the trainer offering the Serious Game delivers it to their learners as a task and in this sense, we can also say that Caillois’ element of ‘freedom’ cannot be applied to Serious Games. So, why do we use the term ‘game’?

Why integrate gamification and play into learning?

Even if we do not consider it ‘play’, strictly speaking, in training (and of course, it depends on which definition you choose to believe), that is not to say that it is mundane. Authors have considered the benefits of gamification in learning for children and adults alike.

The main advantage that can be observed following the use of Serious Games is the overall positive impact on student motivation. The performance and results obtained through using Drimify’s solutions, as well as studies on the longterm use of games, clearly show that the Serious Game concept can increase motivation for the students (cf: Malone, 1981 ; Wastiau et al., 2009).

Serious Games can also offer leaners access to a world of experimentation in which they are invited to test their abilities to think and reflect. The majority of Serious Games are built upon a trial-and-error style of learning: the student mentally constructs a “hypothesis” to test in the game, which will either be confirmed or denied. The student must then revise their hypothesis until they find a solution to win the game. Thus, a good Serious Game offers students information to help them reach an appropriate hypothesis on their own (Sanchez, 2011).

The use of educational games also allows the educator to take into consideration the range of abilities and other disparities within a group (Kafai, 1994). In this way, each student can progress through the game at their own pace: a student who requires fifteen attempts of a section in order to reach the solution can start over without fear of negative judgement from their peers whilst a student who succeeds after just two attempts will not feel frustrated by having to wait for their classmates to catch up.

Finally, some Serious Games favour educational interactions between students, in the style of multi-player games which facilitate the implementation of Zones of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1985). 

These are the four key principles that underline the uses of games in learning (Djaouti, 2016).

What are the limits of Serious Games?

However, despite gamified learning styles offering so many advantages, we must ask ourselves if these games do not still have certain limitations. In reality, the use of games in learning is not some sort of ‘magic wand’. When badly implemented, they do not resolve all of the educational issues they are intended to tackle. It is important to be aware of the main traps that Serious Games can set in order to avoid them.

The most important limiting factor is taking great care when choosing a suitable game to use (Wastiau et al., 2009). In the same way that there are different cognitive theories on learning processes, there are different kinds of Serious Games: behaviourist, constructivist… (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2006).

In addition, the quality of existing Serious Games varies depending on the skills and/or educational intentions of its developers. However, as with all other educational tools, it is difficult to make a conclusive judgement on the true quality of a Serious Game. To make a game truly relevant to students, the selection process would have to be carried out by each teacher, taking into consideration their students, learning objectives, and work methods. A Serious Game addresses a specific objective in a specific context. Due to this, some theoretical content may be more effectively taught in a traditional classroom set-up whereas others will be better suited to Serious Games to help students grasp the concept. Only the teacher is able to make this decision. What is more, it must be made clear that Serious Games do not replace the work of the teacher.

When it comes to efficient use of Serious Games in the classroom, most studies show that the role of the teacher is pivotal to the success of the activity. For example, the results of a study carried out by Habgood in 2007 showed that the same Serious Game proved much more effective in the acquisition of knowledge if the teacher took the time, after a game session, to have a group ‘debrief’ with the students. Finally, you must not underestimate the logistical implications that using video games in class can present  (Wix, 2012), beyond the teacher’s role: availability of computers or suitable equipment to play the games, authorisation from management teams for the purchase software and hardware…

Conclusion: are Serious Games a good thing?

To conclude, as we have seen in this article, using games wisely in a training context can prove to be very beneficial. In order to fulfil your objectives, the gamification experts at Drimify can guide you through strategy development, the design process and even the expansion of your training programme. Integrating a game for the sake of integrating a game is not useful; the real goal is to do it in the most relevant and fitting way possible so that it is most effective. Used well, Serious Games are a way to completely immerse the student in their learning and ensure that they retain as much information as possible. If you find engaging students’ interest is one of the main challenges of training adults, then look no further for a solution.

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