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How do games help people learn?

The teacher’s monotonous voice drones on and on, lulling everyone in the classroom to sleep. I grab my pen and doodle something in my exercise book to keep me awake but my eyes feel so heavy. I have no idea what the teacher is talking about. My classmate next to me is staring blankly at the writings on the whiteboard, completely zoned out. I can’t wait for the bell to ring so I can go play outside...

We’ve all been there. We’ve all wished that we could be playing instead of studying.

But what if playing could also mean learning?

While games have long been associated with recess and believed to hinder learning, growing research is now exhorting the merits of learning through games. Game-based learning allows students to play a central role in their learning by actively participating in the whole process. Games help people learn in four major way:

1. Games motivate people to learn

How many times have you given up on a math problem when working in your exercise book? Or simply skipped the whole thing when it got too challenging? Now, how many have you found a game so hard but somehow tried again and again until you got all three stars or until Super Mario finally jumped down that final pole?

Learning can be hard and challenging sometimes but when people learn through games, they are more motivated to face the challenge and plough through it all. When you like doing something, you engage in the activity. You might even want more of it; you get curious and want to discover even more. And with games, you do it in a fun way!

2. Games lead to content mastery

People are more likely to remember things that they learn through games as it often takes place within some context. This helps people connect concepts and ideas and learn them in a meaningful way. For instance, many of us learnt how to use money through Monopoly.

The high retention rate can also be due to the repetitive nature of some games: you practice the same skills over and over again. Many games also use a reward system that directly affects our brain and encourages us to play (and learn) more. Think about how good it felt to complete a level on Candy Crush and how that made you want to do one more level, and one more, and one more.

3. Games promotes higher order thinking

Games can encourage children to think on a more complex level. When we think of games that make the brain work, we think of chess, crossword puzzles, and sudoku. But children can also develop varying degrees of problem solving skills, strategic thinking and risk assessment skills through popular games such as Master Mind, the board game Risk or even the Angry Birds game. In addition, many games require players to multi-task and assess the situation to decide on the next best move.

4. Games help develop social skills

Many games are played with other people, be it virtually or in person. Remember how your child became best friends with a random child at the park? Games can hone communication skills and encourage collaborative work. Players learn from one another, motivate each other, and help each other in their learning process.

With proper planning and guidance, games can play an important part in teaching and learning. With the mission to empower change makers through game-based learning, Katapult carefully designs a range of activities and games to make learning fun, meaningful and effective.

Do you learn through games? Which game has helped you develop a skill? Do you play any games with your child? Share with us and the Katapult community in the comments below.

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