Gamification in children's learning

How gamification and tablets have become key to children’s learning


A new wave of digitised classrooms with a host of digital devices and apps enables pupils to problem-solve in new and exciting ways

We've partnered with The Telegraph to create a series of articles designed to help you embrace connectivity and use tech for good.

Children in school today have very different expectations from their parents. “They live in another world, they get bored more easily,” says Graeme Lawrie, an enthusiastic tech adopter and partnerships director at ACS International Schools.

Tablets, interactive whiteboards, augmented reality tools and headsets feature in today’s schools, allowing pupils to do so much more. Digital devices, apps and games empower them to create their own animations, interact with holograms, beat the clock in multiplication tables or create complex worlds and systems.

Technology has revolutionised education, from nursery through to college, giving teachers a new set of tools to draw upon. However, one thing has not changed—the importance of imagination. For Lawrie, this is one of the features of good teaching. As a former design and technology teacher, he taught transistor theory—“as dull as ditchwater”—by getting students to “high five” each other in turn as a mild current passed through them to launch a rocket at the end of the chain. He’s taught radio signals by staging remote-control car battles, and coding by getting children to programme a life-size robot. “Years on, I guarantee they’ll remember the basics,” he says.

The “gamification” of education is about making it so relaxed and fun that students don’t realise they’re learning. “It’s joyful to see them playing, experimenting and exploring ideas—they are completely absorbed—in a state of ‘flow’,” says Dr Clare Walsh, a former teacher who’s now director of education at the Institute of Analytics. She used to write text books and understands the need to capture children’s interest.


Teacher and students using tablets in the classroom

Games vary hugely—some help pupils master a particular skill, with algorithms designed to match the student’s ability and continually stretch them, working on weak spots. “There are some things—reading and writing—that young children have to learn,” says Walsh, and technology can develop these through enticing environments, colourful visuals, accurate feedback and rewards. Subjects such as maths lend themselves to puzzles, while more complex and creative games that offer layers of choices can develop problem-solving, analytical thinking, collaboration and social skills—the kind of attributes that employers seek today.

Games and apps also give rich feedback on what students understand and where they need to develop—without anxiety-inducing testing, says Jane Basnett, head of digital learning at Downe House School, and a teacher of nearly 30 years. She recommends interactive sites such as Quizlet and Quizziz, Seneca, Century and Up Learn. Sites such as Teacher Toolkit give up-to-date assessments of new products. But simply playing games with children and joining them in virtual worlds can build relationships and boost their development.

Technology, says Lawrie, won’t stay still. Expect, for instance, a slew of new products in the wake of generative AI such as ChatGPT and creative tools.“When it comes to learning, games aren’t a magic cure-all, but they are a magic gateway,” says Noah Rosenfield, educational games designer and creator of Addagrams. When he designs, he does so with players at front of mind—that’s the way to craft truly engaging experiences that allow individuals to learn. “Games can be an entry point for kids to discover things they find fascinating. That self-directed interest beyond the confines of the game is where the deepest learning and discovery will happen.” 


Students creating vehicles using toys

How EE supports your child’s education


Outside of the classroom, there are so many ways parents and carers can be part of their child’s learning journey, and EE is on hand to support with a host of helpful tools.

EE LearnSmart will give kids access to a network of inspiring mentors—everyday experts with real world experience—that can help kids better navigate their way through school, and life. With snackable lessons, kids can pick up new skills that will help them get on and unlock exclusive partner rewards.


Students smiling in the classroom

For parents keen to educate their child about mobile phone safety, EE PhoneSmart is the ideal companion. This is a free online course and certificate that prepares kids for the world of mobile phones by teaching them how to stay safe and be kind online. It’s available to any kids on any network.

EE GameSmart helps demystify the world of gaming for parents, helping you to create positive shared experiences with your children. With jargon busters, content walkthroughs and gameplay hints and tips, feel ready to embrace the world of gaming.

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