While educational games might be very important to the learning process, one of the biggest downfalls of this genre is that the learning objective is quite evident to the learner and often doesn’t have much meaning for the learner. In more interactive educational games, the learning objective is submerged in a rich world that creates learning opportunities [Ahuja, Mitra, Kumar & Singh, 1994]. Despite the mixed success of educational games designed specifically for learning, the impact of digital gaming has drawn many educators and researchers to question how they might be used to facilitate student learning. Over the past decade, the use of educational gaming has prompted considerable attention in exploring how and why games might be powerful tools in the classroom. As a result of this interest, there are potential benefits of this for education and learning in schools. Some important reasons why educational games should be fully implemented in primary schools are enhancing learning skills, engaging and motivating the children and preparing them for living and working in the 21st century.
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The first reason why educational games should be implemented in primary schools is to enhance learning while developing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills. In playing educational games, it is evident that skills and competences are developed. Using teacher evaluations of mostly simulation and quest-based educational games found numerous skills to be developed through their use [McFarlane, Sparrowhawk & Heald, 2002]. Some of the skills developed playing educational games are, strategic thinking, planning, communication, decision-making, personal skills, spatial skills and social skills. Some educational games cultivate these skills by just engaging in them. If educational games have such a great impact on the development of a child, it should be incorporated in the curriculum of our primary schools. It will create a learning-based environment in which the children can fully utilize their learning capabilities.
While the curriculum set by the Ministry of Education is academic, educational games will develop the basic motor skills in children of that level. The challenge is to identify how a certain educational games would connect to the curriculum. Educational games are tools to engage children in learning. The game is the hook or the stimulus, both for the learner and, in many cases particularly at primary level, for developing a rich and wide learning context. In classes, educational games provide a particular focus in one subject, for example, Mathematics or English Language but it is still valued as a stimulus for learning. An example of an educational game is Simcity which can be used to teach aquatic habitat in the subject area of Science. Educational games offer a rich mix of audio, video, text and the manipulation of the mouse to enhance learning. There is no comparison with an inert textbook. Educational games facilitate the multiple intelligences of children such as verbal, mathematical and spatial.
The second reason why educational games should be implemented in primary schools is to engage and motivate children via a student-centered approach to learning. Children can enter environments in games that would be impossible to access in any other way, for example going back in history, understanding the complexity of running a major city, managing entire civilizations or nurturing families. Games require engagement with complex decisions by allowing the player to explore the effects of different choices and a multiplicity of variables. Ongoing and responsive feedback on choices is usually given which encourages the users to discover new limits to their abilities. Games stimulate conversation and discussion since players are able to share ideas, hints and tips in what increasingly tends to be a very lively and supportive learning community [ELSPA, 2006].
Educational games allow children to interact and the nature of the games provides three main factors for motivation: fantasy, challenge and curiosity [Malone, 1981]. Fantasy relates to the use of imagination and the child’s inherent inclination towards play. It provides a way for the children to feel freedom to fail, experiment, interpret and identify. Challenge is created by the task or puzzle in an educational game and when appropriately aligned with the child’s ability level, the challenge falls within their zone of proximal development. Curiosity here is the sense of testing the educational game or exploring to determine what happens if the child does a certain task. Educational game creates a way for children to be motivated at the cognitive level and in using the new technologies; these games will have a greater impact on children’s everyday lives. One excellent example of motivating children via a student-centered approach is the world education games originating from Australia. Students play Literacy, Mathematics and Science against fellow students in a live, global forum. The teacher’s role is a facilitator of learning. Feedback is provided for participants while they develop their ICT skills.
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Finally, the third and most important reason why educational games should be implemented in primary schools is to prepare the children for living and working in the 21st century. Technology has certainly taken over many aspects of life. Children of today are using computers more often as well as handheld consoles. Teachers and school leaders want their children to be prepared for the world of work and to see them inspired towards a relevant future career. Educational gaming can help equip children with the skills required to adapt to the outside world. While the Ministry of Education is slowly implementing the game-based learning in schools, teachers are using the computers in their schools to facilitate educational games and provide game-based projects to the students. Educational games will provide the learning outcomes beneficial to excelling in the higher levels of education. With technology advancing at a rapid rate, individuals will be required to have skills in computing and other electronic devices in the future. If educational games are implemented in primary schools, it will certainly prepare the children for the future and it will provide a new perspective of learning in schools.
In conclusion, it is clear that educational games present an opportunity to engage students in activities, which can enhance their learning. Like any successful outlay, outcomes need to be well planned and classrooms carefully organized to enable all children to engage in learning. Educational games seem like a viable way for the future learner to bring their existing interests, skills and knowledge into the classroom and then use the games as a hook or stimulus to build the activities for learning around them. Educational games provide a forum for learning in a happy way while developing cognitive and psychomotor skills. It prepares the child for their future life and so it is imperative that educational games should be implemented in primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.
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