Written by IEEE | July 9, 2015 | Updated: March 30, 2017
Getting kids interested in exploring a career in engineering or another STEM field isn’t always easy. Apps and games like Minecraft are popping up everywhere, and while parents might try to minimize after-school tech-time, teachers are embracing it.
Teachers have joined the gamification bandwagon as a way to spark an interest in STEM subjects. Energy behind gamification in schools extends well beyond the districts, all the way up to the federal government. The United States government encourages the integration of video games in school curriculum for behavior modification, as the positive reinforcement provides more encouragement than traditional correctional methods, like the dreaded red pen. Around the globe, gaming is being used to teach students of any age a range of subjects from basic life skills to midwifery to healthy grieving processes.
“Humans, as mammals, learn more efficiently through play in which they are rewarded rather than other tests in which they are given demerits for mistakes,” says Elena Bertozzi, IEEE Member and Professor of Digital Game Design and Development at Quinnipiac University. “It is a natural fit to teach through gaming, especially in areas of the world where literacy levels vary and human instinct can help people learn.”
In addition to behavior modification and positive reinforcement, the gamification of education also helps promote critical thinking skills in a format comfortable for many students, and it encourages classmate collaboration.
Parents may be surprised that despite its popularity, Minecraft is far from the first educational computer game. In fact, if you dial back your mind to the 1980s, you’ll remember educational games like Carmen Sandiego, Reader Rabbit and the beloved Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing (without which, this post would not have taken form). Backtrack a little further, and you’ll be reminded of the notorious Oregon Trail.
Whether or not your kids learn in an environment that’s fully gamified, it’s never too late to get the ball rolling – or computer booted – at home.