by Rachel Garcia
Gaming in schools is a hot topic and the recent surge of mobile devices in classrooms makes this issue even more relevant today. With many schools placing mobile devices, such as iPads, in the hands of children as young as five years old, how this technology is used, and ultimately its success, depends heavily on how it is implemented.
How important is skill mastery in early education?
Mastery of fundamental skills in primary grades is critical to future success. Children who are poor readers at the end of 1st grade will likely never catch up. Research shows that 88% of these children leaving first grade as poor readers will remain poor readers by the end of 4th grade. Further, 74% of children who are poor readers in 3rd grade will remain poor readers by the end of 9th grade.1 It is critical to catch this problem early due to the high correlation between reading outcomes and socioeconomic factors.
Does gaming help achieve mastery of critical literacy and numeracy skills in early education?
Gaming combines fun activities and an engaging platform in which children are accustomed. Without question, these are the biggest benefits of educational gaming. If you genuinely engage a child over an extended period of time then amazing outcomes are possible. However, there is a critical balancing act to ensure the gaming elements do not become the dominant focus and ultimately distract from the learning. A careful blend is necessary to ensure the game supports learning as opposed to simply being a game with some learning thrown in.
How do you determine effective learning games vs. just plain games?
There are many educational games available, especially for mobile devices, however many fail to achieve the expected educational goal. Aside from being fun and engaging, there are several elements that can shift a game to an effective educational experience. These include:
1. Immediate feedback and support. There are certain moments when a child is most receptive to feedback and support. Great e-Learning will intervene at precisely those moments providing immediate feedback and support which aids self-learning
2. Opportunity to make mistakes. with some consequences. Great e-Learning will create an environment where the child feels comfortable making mistakes, but ultimately wants to rectify those mistakes so that they do not continue to be impeded by them.
3. Rapid pace. Working at a rapid pace aids engagement, building automaticity at these core skills.
4. Adaptive to level of child. Presenting the child with just the right question at precisely the right time is the hallmark of a great e-Learning program. This creates a unique pathway for each and every child, which fully accounts for individual strengths and weaknesses.
5. Learn by doing. There are some wonderful e-Learning resources out there which show you how to do almost anything. The best ones provide expert modeling of the task. In order for these to be truly beneficial they must also spur the learner to action, letting them practice the skill.
6. Involve the parent…and the teacher. The best e-Learning programs amass a tremendous amount of data and fully involve teachers and parents highlighting specific strengths and weaknesses of the individual child.
While there is still a lot to learn about the effects of educational games on early education, new technology is making the integration into the classroom much easier. Have you or will you implement educational games into your classroom?
Rachel Garcia is the Communications Manager for Skoolbo, a free e-Learning program designed to help 4 – 10 year olds strengthen their Core Skills in literacy and numeracy. For more information on Skoolbo, visit www.skoolbo.com.
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