To prepare children for the digitally-driven future that awaits them, it is essential that STEM education is deeply integrated into their learning cycle. During the foundational years of their education (3rd to 8th grade), children are most receptive to learning and knowledge acquisition. Educating them in a way that they cherish STEM topics, will significantly expand their horizon of learning as well as application of STEM in their future lives. Today, STEM education practices are being designed on an interactive and discussion-based approach instead of mere learning of formulas and theories through reading and writing. Another major change is seen in the integrated approach towards teaching science, technology, engineering, and math instead of treating them as separate subjects.
Children are the leaders, business owners, employers as well as the workforce of tomorrow. When we are able to inculcate knowledge and problem-solving skills into their education, we prepare them not just for academic, but also long-term life and career success. They need to be familiarised with different concepts, challenges, developing an understanding of the situation before them and gathering the right information/resources to solve the challenge.
STEM and Gamification
When we talk about STEM and gamification, it doesn’t imply that children are merely left to play with toys or have fun. There is also a clearly defined strategic integration of gaming activities that motivates children to achieve a specific learning-based goal with each task or game. STEM topics can be a bit challenging for a lot of children and gamification of their classroom education when done right, enhances the ease and ability of learning for all. As a part of this approach, children are given tasks that feel like interactive games with stages and goals, achievement of which is linked with learning a specific topic. Another major benefit of gamified learning is that it eliminates the fear of failure. When children learn through a STEM gaming app such as Wizar, they relish the experience and learn from their failure to try again instead of becoming disappointed.
How to gamify STEM learning
One of the biggest challenges for teachers is to transform book-based course materials into activities that enthuse their students, and encourage them to participate. Gamification makes learning of course materials easier and long-lasting instead of the conventional practice of memorizing what is written in text books. It has to be understood that all interactions are not gamification. If a student answers a question in the classroom, that’s not going to gamify the learning. However, if the teacher approaches it as a quiz and each right answer given by the students earns them points, there will be a lot more engagement as children will feel motivated to compete and win.
App-based learning platforms such as Wizar are bringing about significant transformation in the arena of STEM and gamification. Before we find out how the Wizar app benefits the children, let’s take a look at 15 ways to gamify STEM learning:
1. Harnessing curiosity – Children are curious by nature, and when learning is based on a model that makes them curious about finding out more, half the battle is won. Curiosity will lead them to want to find out the solution or the answer to the given question or challenge. It could be solving a mystery through information provided. At the end of the activity, children get to learn something new.
2. Tracking of progress – The progress tracking and feedback mechanism has to be revamped. Instead of quarterly or year-end exams that tell students how many marks they scored, a better option is to keep children in the loop by sharing feedback with them about how much they have learned. When students are regularly apprised of the progress they are making, they feel proud and encouraged to achieve more. The feedback and progress tracking can be through visual aides which would make it even more engaging.
3. Time bound tasks – A key element of games is that they have a specific time period allotted to complete the task. Put the children against the buzzer by giving them a task that they have to complete within a stipulated time frame. When there is a clock ticking away, the children are more likely to be absolutely focused on the activity at hand and complete it before time runs out. This fosters a sense of urgency and accomplishment at having completed the task in time.
4. Competition – Children are competitive by nature, and by making them compete with their classmates in completing a task, teachers can make the task more enjoyable and the outcome more satisfying for the kids. However, this kind of activity should be given to only those children who are socially active by nature. If a child who is reserved or unsure of their competence is involved in such activities, it might discourage him. Therefore, assessment of students is necessary before making them compete with each other.
5. Team competition – Team activities and competitions are great for balancing skills, making children work better as teams and evolve as collaborators. Another benefit is that team activities also encourage those children who vary in pace and are less socially active than the others. As collaboration improves and every child is given a specific role in the team to take care of, it can make them feel responsible and encourage them to contribute to the learning objective.
6. Exploration – Few things work better for the children than being given an opportunity to explore. Whether it is a field exploration or a trek, or even a treasure hunt on a STEM gaming app like Wizar, exploration would bring about the best in children.
7. Customisation – By giving children the ability to customise their tasks or assignments, teachers can encourage originality, individuality and creative expression.
8. Challenges– Children love games that challenge them. Encouraging them to apply their learning to complete a given task even if it appears tough, is a great way to push them. However, while designing a challenge, it has to be kept in mind that it shouldn’t be too easy or too difficult for any child to complete. If it is too difficult then the child may lose interest and if it is too easy then it could prove to be boring. Hence, a balance has to be struck.
9. Conquests – Create a series of tasks which resemble a mission or a conquest. Typical to a gaming app, these kinds of tasks have different levels or smaller chunks. As children go on completing each level or each part of the task, they learn something new and use that learning to advance in the game. By the time the game is completed, a whole concept or chapter is learned.
10. Collecting and sharing – Similar to the good old card games, these could be activities wherein children need to collect different objects and trade them with each other to complete a given task. For instance, there could be a geography task given to one, and another task to the other student. As they go about collecting cards or objects, they can exchange relevant pieces with each other to complete the tasks given.
11. Knowledge sharing – When children are encouraged to share what they know, or to use their knowledge to help their peers, they become motivated and feel confident about themselves. This kind of knowledge sharing fosters a healthier learning environment.
12. Innovation – Give the children a task, and some ready solutions and options. Encourage them to approach the problem in their own way and find new solutions. It could be redesigning an existing object or coming up with ideas on how to do things differently.
13. Opinion sharing – At times, it is a great idea to let children share their opinions and involve them in decision making through voting. They can be asked to choose what they wish to learn next or what kind of activity they want. The idea is to encourage them to assert their opinions freely and equitably.
14. Leader board – A visually designed leader board can be placed in the classroom or integrated into the app. It will display the progress students make as individuals or as teams in the given activities. There could be leader boards for behaviour, learning speed, timeliness, and so on.
15. Rewards – Nothing works better than rewards, not even for children. Offering prizes for children who participate in activities can be a great motivation. However, the key is to ensure that the students don’t become habitual of getting rewards for doing their tasks. Instead, the rewards should be linked to good performance, voluntary efforts or for efforts in areas that children typically tend to ignore. At Wizar, a lot of thought and effort has been given to STEM and gamification, and the app-based platform has integrated a number of activities which incorporate the above listed ways of gamification. Since the children in 21st century are digital natives, they tend to feel at greater ease with web-based platforms and smartphone apps. Wizar is leveraging this affinity to bring about excellent gamified learning opportunities in all aspects of STEM for the children between grades 3-8. You can learn more by visiting the following links: Website: https://www.wizarlearning.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wizarkids/ Insta: https://www.instagram.com/wizar_learning/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/wizarlearning