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How to use gaming to connect with pupils

Winston Poyton, Director at Capita SIMS, believes that schools can use games like Minecraft to engage students

Posted by Lucinda Reid | September 21, 2017 | Technology

If you’ve ever tried having a conversation whilst someone is engrossed in playing an online game, you will know what a fruitless task it can be.  Games by their very nature are designed to be engaging. The best games absorb you to a point where you are unconsciously learning and oblivious to outside distractions.

Minecraft is a master of this type of user engagement.  It has captivated 55 million people across the world and a large proportion of this number are school aged children. I must confess, I have spent a period of time being hooked on the game too. This came after being involved in several confusing conversations with my children about changing skins and the need to create a nether portal which made me decide it was necessary to learn to speak Minecraft.

Minecraft’s attraction comes down to a human’s natural desire for competition, achievement, communication and self-expression

After just a few hours I was a convert and I was more than a bit territorial about my world, resorting to saying things to my children like, ‘Stay out of my world!’

I’m not proud of this, but what this experiment did show me is how a decent game can captivate and motivate you to want to keep going back to refine your skills.  All over the world, children are spending hours of their own time enhancing their architecture, shape, natural science, construction, maths and problem-solving skills whilst playing Minecraft.

Now imagine being able to take Minecraft’s appeal into the classroom? There’s no doubt that this type of engagement could be a powerful tool.  Picture a class full of students focused on their work and oblivious to any kind disruption.  OK, maybe that’s too ambitious!

Minecraft’s attraction comes down to a human’s natural desire for competition, achievement, communication and self-expression. These are all values that sit comfortably within the education sector.  It’s not a new concept to motivate students by offering rewards, points, achievement badges or levels. 

But perhaps we should be engaging students with a medium that appeals to them. The traditional ‘star of the week’ for the most improved student needs to evolve for today’s children.   We need to think differently, perhaps by incorporating digital leader boards where pupils can log in and see where they are positioned in the class for specific areas such as attendance, behaviour, achievement at any given time from a device of their choice.

Gamification is a fantastic way to encourage teamwork. One idea is to organise a class-wide rewards system to inspire camaraderie among students. For example, set an achievement of, if 90% of the class complete their homework on time then the entire class will receive a reward. That way, students are supporting and working together to reach an end goal.

Minecraft has shown us that it’s ok to fail and that success can be had by persevering, asking for help and trying again

Games, in any form, increase motivation through engagement and nowhere is this more important than in school.  The lesson Minecraft has taught us is that connecting learning with fun not only engages a student but also encourages them to persevere to solve problems and be responsible for their own learning.

Minecraft has shown us that it’s ok to fail and that success can be had by persevering, asking for help and trying again.  Educators will notice that this is not a new lesson for schools, they have been instilling these core life skills into their classrooms for years.  However, gamification could be the key to building on these values and ensuring students continue to drive their own learning outside of the school gates.

For more information about Capita SIMS, visit their website.

 

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