Breaking the monotony: teachers learn about games-based learning approaches
There’s a reason many of us still remember “A for apple, B for banana,” but may have forgotten about Ohm’s Law or trigonometry; and the reason is relativity. In childhood, when our teachers taught us the English alphabet to a sung tune and used objects from our daily lives, we paid more attention and things stayed in our minds longer.
Following the same concept, teachers today try to be more creative even when it comes to upper grades. They now use board games, number games and other techniques to teach children science concepts, English grammar, general knowledge and even basic math concepts.
“As teachers, we understand how much children love to play games. To explore this question further, I intend to see if we can play games while learning to speak or write English. I was amazed at how much fun the youngsters had learning phonetics, nouns, adjectives and other topics with the use of board games,” said Daljeet Arora, who teaches English. in classes 1 and 2. “To supplement my lesson on several occasions, I also used the Kahoot quiz method (a series of questions with several multiple-choice answers to choose from). We also had a lot of fun playing dice rolls, and one of my favorites was making letters using our bodies, like H.”
These practices have multiplied during the Covid-19 pandemic. “It became difficult for me to get the students to concentrate. Children in classes up to age 9 or 10 were losing focus because the digital classrooms were starting to get monotonous. They were sitting alone in a room for almost three to four hours, attending one lesson after another and it started to affect them negatively,” said Khushboo Jain, a teacher in Ghaziabad. “So I started using example card games to teach numeracy in junior grades and I used racing games to teach the concept of speed and/or complicated calculations.”
Some college professors are also moving towards a hands-on approach to teaching, rather than giving the usual theoretical courses. “At the undergraduate level, there used to be a chemical engineering course that focused on catalysts, reactions, and reaction mechanisms. It involves memorizing many equations, reaction phenomena, energy diagrams, etc. We designed bingo cards and played a class game with about 25 questions. Students really liked it as it sparked attention and curiosity in class,” said Kartic Vaidyanathan, Founder of LetsPlayToLearn and Visiting Professor at IIT-Madras. “Other games like Think-Pair-Share, which lead to interactivity and fun in the classroom, have also been tried. In biotechnology engineering, a board game was designed for the subject species reaction, which generated a lot of engagement in class.
This is not limited to academic subjects. Some teachers use decks of cards to teach students sensitivity and life skills. In such cases, they ask students to choose a card that would have a situation written on it, share their possible reaction to that situation, and teach them about social responsibility accordingly. “A friend of mine started using decks of cards to teach her freshmen concepts of law and they learned those difficult concepts faster that way,” Jain said.
The need for game-based learning
Teachers think that while theoretical lessons are important, they tend to become monotonous in a world where everything now works in shortcuts and at the speed of a bullet. “Students learn faster when they receive quick feedback. Although the theoretical courses are important, the feedback loop is often slow. Games accelerate feedback in which the student learns whether an answer is right or wrong and recalibrates their understanding accordingly,” said Gayatri Sharma, Principal of Narayana e-Techno School, Gurugram.
Another reason instructors turn to game-based instruction is to provide students with a safe space while learning. “Learners of all ages, whether young or old, need a safe space where they are not judged for their mistakes. A typical classroom or training space does not provide this, as most people are reluctant to speak up in forums for fear of being wrong or being judged,” Vaidyanathan explained. “Games are useful here because in a game, losing or making mistakes is perfectly acceptable and accepted. It doesn’t demotivate them but, in fact, pushes them to try again, which leads to better learning.
This method also allows students to stay curious about the next lesson or class, rather than dreading another hour of theory lessons. Neelakantha Bhanu, Founder and CEO of Bhanzu, explained, “While students are aware that math lessons will not only be based on theory, they will also be curious about what happens next in the classroom.
Additionally, game-based learning also provides immediate but less harsh feedback. If a child’s answer is wrong in a game, they will find out as soon as the results are in, laugh about it for a minute and then move on. However, in the traditional classroom setup, where students are rewarded with grades, that score will remain forever in the student’s academic record, which may seem like a stain to some. “One of the most important benefits of a game-based learning methodology is that games, by design, immediately encourage correct actions and incorrect actions in the form of points/rewards or progress. As part of the learning process, the learner receives instant feedback,” Vaidyanathan said.
Some teachers believe that these games also increase performance in classrooms. “When they play, they unknowingly acquire certain skills that translate to greater productivity and excellent academic performance and the results indicate that for students who actively participate, their problem-solving skills and cognitive skills have greatly increased,” Yogita Govind Malviya, English teacher at Tomoae School said.
“If we increase the use of games in the teaching-learning process, students can grasp concepts better and retain ideas longer. With the Prodigy Education tool, students are motivated to answer math questions in a fun and engaging way. It makes learning math fun and provides simple solutions to problems they face every day. It’s a great learning tool for kids,” said Uma TM, Principal of Kids International School.
However, some also add that this practice should not be used excessively. “We can increase our use, but with caution so that students are not overexposed to gadgets. Classroom instruction as well as game-based learning can help students learn better,” warned Bharath Kumar BN, Founding President of Aditi Public School in Bengaluru.