Learning Curves Topic
  • Digital Content & Curriculum
Learning Curves
April 26, 2018

Learning Puts on its Gameface

MHT Partners  | Education Investment Bank

If you ask an elementary school student if they would rather read a textbook or play their favorite game, I bet you can guess the most common answer. Fortunately, an increasing number of opportunities exist to bridge the gap between learning and fun. As an education investment bank with 15 years of history serving clients in the quickly evolving education space, MHT Partners is ever focused on the different learning methods at play in today’s modern classroom. One such approach loved by educators, parents and students alike is digital, game-based learning.

The game-based learning market has evolved over the last several decades. The origins of learning games trace back to the 1980s, when early computer game software was developed for children. School subjects quickly began making an appearance in children’s computer games: Math Blaster entered the arcade game scene in 1983, Carmen Sandiego (who taught geography) entered the videogame market in 1985, and by the 1990s, Mario Teaches Typing was prevalent on computers in many elementary schools!

Fast forward to 2018, the appearance and delivery of game-based learning has changed quite a bit since its humble arcade origins. Now, gamification of learning represents much more than Mario and a keyboard. Children have new devices on which to play games as well as to access a much broader range of supplemental, and even standards-aligned, curriculum in games. Parents and teachers can select game-based content online and via apps that has child-safe certifications, and in many cases, monitoring capabilities.

Another significant factor in the evolution of game-based learning is its place in the classroom. Following a huge push for personalized learning from legislative leaders and educators, the demand for quality digital curriculum and classroom-based technology has grown exponentially. One indicator of this trend is evidenced by the install base for Chromebooks in K-12 education, which grew 225% in just two years , (2014-2016). As technology becomes more pervasive in the classroom, more opportunities arise for new digital curriculum, including educational games to improve learning. With digital game-based learning applications in the classroom, a teacher can provide not only a personalized learning environment, but also a fun experience!

Several companies have started flourishing in classrooms and homes with online educational games serving a wide spectrum of ages, subjects, skill levels and technology devices. Even traditional education publishers are taking notice of this space. In 2017, Scholastic acquired Ooka Island, an adaptive, game-based program that develops early reading skills. McGraw-Hill Education acquired Redbird Advanced Learning, a digital personalized learning provider for K-12, in 2016.

Digital game-based learning is not without its challenges. These include concerns around equality in student accessibility to technology as well as the difficulty of aligning game content to the myriad of curriculums and standards across the U.S.

Despite these challenges, game-based learning has the potential to enhance student learning outcomes with its one-to-one learning applications, and more importantly, to coalesce education and fun. Without even realizing it, students are empowered to learn textbook material from that fun game they’ve been playing on their tablet for the last two hours!

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