Educational gaming limited by misunderstanding

The adoption of gaming in education is limited by a general lack of understanding about the different ways it can be implemented in classroom, and its benefits to learning, said Koos de Beer, a junior lecturer at the University of Pretoria's department of Information Science, at a discussion on gaming in education at SABC Education's EduWeek in Midrand on Thursday.

Many do not understand the differences between gamification, game-based learning and "serious games," De Beer explained. Whereas gamification is merely incorporating elements of gaming - for example point-scoring and competition with others - into an activity to make it more engaging or rewarding, game-based learning is using an actual game as a teaching device, De Beer elaborated, noting that many are unaware of this difference. "Serious games," he clarified, are games designed to impart players with a specific message or teach them a lesson."

The implementation of gaming in education is also challenged by stereotypes about gaming and gamers, which portray gaming as purely a leisure activity and overlook its productive potential, suggested Ryan Macquet, technical marketing engineer at Intel Education.

Yet gaming, when applied effectively to education, has been found to drastically improve the rates at which learners retain information and skills, said Hitendra Naik, director of innovation for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa at Intel.

"Children learn best when they're having fun," agreed Janet Thompson, executive director at SchoolNet SA, adding that many teachers have reported that children are better behaved when gaming is used in the classroom.

Furthermore, whereas education is traditionally "top-down" in that there is a limited number of marks learners can gain on an assignment or test, gaming is less limited in terms of what learners can achieve, said Naik.

The discussion group agreed that the gaming industry is diversifying as it gains more public recognition and grows in SA and the rest of the world.

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