In April, Damien Hinds, the UK’s Education Secretary, called upon schools, businesses and technology developers to “realise the huge potential of technology to transform our schools so that teachers have the time to focus on teaching”.
His call to action comes off the back of years of growth for the education technology, or ‘EdTech’, sector. Organisations in this industry made up 4% of all British digital companies in 2015, according to a Tech Nation report.
This is also true on a global scale, where education technology shows no signs of slowing down, with technology analysis firm, Metaari, last year releasing figures showing a $16.3 billion surge in the industry globally.
The ‘gamification of learning’
Focussing on a popular strand within EdTech - the ‘gamification of learning’ - we can see how a tech-driven educational approach can maximise student learning.
To demystify the jargon, the word ‘gamification’ is simply defined as the application of typical elements of game playing to encourage participation and prolong engagement.
Gamified learning can, therefore, take on many forms; from puzzles and matching activities, to group question-and-answer games, to simply “keeping score”, with the aims of both increasing user engagement and improving learning outcomes.
We have seen that gamified methods of learning have increasingly been adopted through learning platforms and apps, both in and outside of the lecture theatre.
Take Grasshopper for example, an app from Google that teaches coding for beginners through enjoyable puzzles, or the global sensation Trivia HQ, an app that allows millions of users to test their general knowledge to win cash prizes.
These popular platforms now mean students have come to expect an engaging, gamified learning approach within more traditional educational contexts.
Bridging the two worlds of independent study and in-class learning
This is especially relevant in 2019 because students in the modern digital world increasingly find their college education weighted on independent study as a supplement to in-class learning. Well-designed education technology tools can aid in the learning process by bridging these two worlds.
Gamification, specifically, can boost one's engagement and sense of accomplishment as part of that learning.
By using storytelling and competition to learn new content, satisfying feelings of victory can spur students on to be curious, critical and collaborative (especially in team games), skills that will be essential in the workforce.
AI tailored resources
In addition to students accruing a lot of benefit in the form of deeper engagement in learning, gamification also has benefits for educators and instructors.
Introducing these technologies into lesson-plans can add variety to routine, create lively and co-operative classroom environments, and help identify which subject areas need more attention.
When applying this approach to a higher education scenario (often where lecturers can be outnumbered by anywhere from 12 - 200, to 1) personalised experience through digital platforms can be vital.
Some EdTech tools, through the utilisation of AI, can provide a resource that is tailored to every individual student’s level of understanding.
For example, I have found that using AI to guide students to study specific areas, based on where they are struggling, is very valuable in making sure no one gets left behind.
The important role of the educator
As with all technology, let’s remember the importance of the educator’s role here. Gamification helps bring the learning experience to life, but it is the teachers who know what subject matter and specific skillsets these students need to study and master.
Educators must be adept at using the tech themselves and view digital solutions as an accompaniment, rather than replacement, to the curriculum. Gamification should be part of the toolbox.
The more we can make education engaging, the more we will make it memorable. There is no doubt that gamified learning has a fantastic role to play in the future of education, as we look to leverage the best tools that help prepare our students for the real world.
Matt Glotzbach, CEO of Quizlet