Gaming promotes learning

Educators are encouraging gamification in the classroom to boost learning skills and increase retention rates. A recent panel discussion by education experts of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University focused on the topic of “Gaming to Learn” as part of the theory that using games in pedagogy can promote better knowledge acquisition and retention.

The panelists said that all type of games, including games with a casino sign up bonus, are helpful to learners as they develop non-cognitive skills which are vitally important to success in learning. Kids know instinctively how to learn, said the panelists. They play, which is instinctive. But once they go to school the games stop and often, that’s when true learning stops as well


In recent years education professionals have become optimistic about the promise that playing games shows in pedagogy. A year-long Stanford course, “Education’s Digital Future,” is preparing teachers to incorporate more games into their classroom through “gaming to learn” has been around Stanford for close to a decade. This is due to more interest in and acknowledgement of gamification’s possibilities in the realm of education.

Adding games to educational setting doesn’t dumb down the classroom. Constance Steinkuehler, co-director of the Games+Learning+Society (GLS) center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an associate professor of digital media, notes that “it turns out games are hard.” She wants people to understand that it’s not necessarily the non-academically-minded students who play games.  She says that if  humans think better when they’re functioning as part of a network than when they’re on their own, games are the obvious answer to set minds free.

Through gamification, students can consider various situations and scenarios as they interact with whatever or whomever they encounter. Systems of points, leaderboards, rewards and badges featured in many games can be replicated in an educational context. Educators who have studied gamification in the classroom believe that such rewards account for the different motivations and needs that students need for interaction or self-expression.

Choice and Freedom

Panelists at the forum included many of the field’s leading figures in policy, design and academia. They promoted the concept that freedom and choice is a crucial factor in explaining why and how children learn well from games.

James Gee, a professor of literacy studies at Arizona State University who holds degrees in philosophy and linguistics said, “I think we’re all impressed by how stupid humans are. It reaches almost epic proportions. We’re stupid in dozens and dozens of ways. But human minds are plug-and-play devices; they’re not meant to be used alone. They’re meant to be used in networks.” Games allow us to do that – they allow us to use what Gee calls “collective intelligence.” In short, collectively, we’re not so stupid. 

Non-Cognitive Skills

The games help students develop non-cognitive skills that are as fundamental as cognitive skills in explaining if we succeed and how we learn. Gee says that  skills such as discipline and patience, which are non-cognitive but vital for healthy development and learning, correlate with success even more than do IQ scores. Those non-cognitive skills – skills that refer not to what you know but to how you behave – are better suited to a context that includes gaming than to a traditional classroom and textbook context. 

Steinkuehler, the co-director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Games+Learning+Society (GLS) center just finished a two-year stint as senior policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She described her research, explaining that choice was critical for ultimate performance. According to Steinkuehler, research shows that boys typically read a couple of grades below level in school. Yet when playing online games, those same boys read texts way above their grade level.  

Steinkuehler wanted to know why, so probed.  She was able to prove that, as with their text-reading as part of their gaming,  if the boys could choose what they read, they were prepared to push themselves harder. According to Steinkuehler the results were the same both for boys who were struggling and for those who already were on track.

Said Steinkuehler, “Games are architectures for engagement.” 

Collaboration, Risk-Taking, Creating and Rewards

Malcolm Bauer, director of assessment at GlassLab and former professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, notes that games involve collaboration, risk-taking and creation.  “People play everywhere except in school,” said Baer. At GlassLab the focus is on finding digital analogs for teachers’ assessment practices.  Bauer also wants rewards to be meaningful so that players feel invested in success.

Another pro-gaming educator, Dan Schwartz, runs Stanford’s AAA Lab. The AAA Lab is a technology and learning lab There, Schwartz and his colleagues have confirmed their suspicions that current learning measures do not match up with games. “Games allow us to measure learning in ways we couldn’t do before,” Schwartz said. He also echoed Gee’s discussion of non-cognitive learning, saying “knowledge is not the outcome we want; we want students to learn how to make choices.”

Schwartz and his team studied how kids played games and discovered that seeing someone walk away after failure was one of the best negative predictors of performance.   Abandonment is a measurement that does not exist in a traditional classroom yet low scores themselves were far less significant than abandonment..


Attending the presentation were students, teachers, professors, entrepreneurs and even venture capitalists. The question came up, “how can students get access to games that might teach them far more than they learn with textbooks, especially in schools that serve disadvantaged populations?”

Gee answered that “access doesn’t solve the equity problem. It is conversation that is crucial to how literacy develops; it’s interaction. The crucial thing with books is that you learn to read like a writer, you think about how it was designed. The same things are absolutely true about digital media. Giving a kid the game won’t work. You have to get the kid to play like a designer. You have to interact. Lots of charity groups say let’s give them games. But we didn’t solve the problem by giving them books.”

All attendees seemed that agree that traditional classrooms stifle some of the attributes most crucial for humans. That includes persistence, risk taking,  problem solving and collaboration.  Attributes all found in the world of gaming.


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