Amidst the fun of a family game night, it can be hard to recognize the educational layer of some favorite board games. How Scrabble pushes vocabulary; Monopoly, an understanding of mortgage and real estate; and the countless others that push strategic prowess. Games have been used for centuries to support learning environments and make learning accessible and engaging to all types of learners. It is proven that activities build upon skills and games are one way that encourages participation in learning.
Surfing the technology boom of the last few years, digital game-based learning emerged as a prevalent curriculum tool that allowed categorization of teachable elements in a new, engaging format. Both in and out of the classroom, applications and games designed with teaching in mind have allowed skill practice and discovery at all ages.
Perhaps one of the earliest recognized digital learning games is the still-popular Oregon Trail. Developed in 1971 (yes – almost 50 years ago!), the game takes user along a simulated journey, similar to that of the nearly 300,000 pioneers who traveled the Oregon Trial in the 19th Century. Intended to reflect the lifestyles and experiences of that time, the game brings real-life distress, obstacles, and behaviors to the user, congruent with those in history. It can be easy to forget while playing, just how much one is learning while trying to digitally make it out West.
Studies show that motivation to learn and recognition of information learned has increased through game-based learning. The ability to interact with information in new ways allows learning to become more intrinsic and interesting to the user.
For educators, game-based learning also allows for educational upkeep, which benefits all parties involved. As relevant as textbooks are when they arrive, the information can date quickly or not encompass recent updates to a subject. Game-based learning allows updates to happen quicker, avoiding dips in information and building more streamlined knowledge transfer.
As more and more learning applications and games enter to the market, it will be exciting to see the growth of this unique curriculum tool and how the digital space will continue to meld learning and interactivity.