By Cristina Moya Roldán – Student of English Teaching with Emphasis on Preschool Education
The XXI Century is a century like none other, where technology, creativity, and diversity have become basic values and elements of the daily life. It has been a time of change and adaptation in all senses of life, and specifically in education. In the preschool educational context, the students’ engagement and participation with the lessons have become a primary concern for teachers, and this is where gamification comes into place. According to Kim et al. (2018), gamification can be defined as “a set of activities and processes to solve problems related to learning and education by using or applying the game mechanics” (p. 29). It is then understood that gamification in the process of learning is the way of adapting every day- classroom activities, and “injecting” gaming dynamics into it. Therefore, for a preschool lesson plan, implementing gamification is one of the most effective tools a teacher can implement for her own benefit as much as for her students’.
Education is not the only field that is positively affected by gamification, but it is certainly one of the most important ones. The implementation of this process in the learning environment from an early age in students means a greater engagement from their part towards the classroom. Children are naturally going to be attracted to game-like activities, so even for teachers “the proposal to incorporate game mechanics and principles to motivate the learner is appealing” (Dichev & Dicheva, 2017). Therefore, it is important that educators learn how to use this inside the classroom in a smart and effective way, in order to create learning experiences that can transcend.
It must be understood that the classroom is the place where students grow from being children to almost adults. They develop in a social, emotional, and cognitive way as individuals inside the learning environment. Thus, gamification is one of the most important tools that can be used by teachers in order to positively participate in this integral growth in students. Games create an environment of engagement, creativity, competitiveness, and motivation for students of all ages. In this healthy space, the implementation of games can actively contribute to the early development of various abilities, and according to Stathakis (2013), it is also useful to “focus their attention and actively immerse them” in the learning process. These aspects focus not only on the academic essence of the classroom, but also on the way the learners perceive themselves and their development as humans.
As important as the benefits of gamification, it is also the way it is implemented. Children learn “through the process of playing the game” (Stathakis, 2013), so it is important that teachers learn how to implement these in the lesson plan in a balanced way that not only focuses on the fun element. One example of how this can be accomplished is in a “mirror” activity with the teacher. Students must repeat what the teacher does related to the topics studied, and every time the student mirrors the action correctly, he gets a point. At the end, the three students who got more points receive a badge to recognize their effort. In an activity like this, children have fun because they can do physical activity, review the topics, and receive a reward for their work, which promotes competitivity.
Gamification is one of the most valuable tools that a teacher can implement in her preschool classroom in this century. It combines not only the entertaining aspect of games that so deeply engages children, but it also combines it in a brilliant way to the learning process in them. It brings a long list of benefits, and, with it, a responsibility for the teacher who chooses to apply it to her lesson plan. Educators all over the world should, in some way or another, implement this game-injecting concept in their classrooms, and see the clear and almost immediate positive impact it has on students’ perception of life and education.
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Dichev, C., & Dicheva, D. (2017). Gamifying education: what is known, what is believed and what remains uncertain: a critical review. https://educationaltechnologyjournal.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s41239-017-0042-5
Kim, S., Song, K., Lockee B., & Burton, J. (2018). Gamification in Learning and Education. Springer International Publishing.
Stathakis, R. (2013). Five Reasons to Use Games in the Classroom. https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/reasons-to-play-games-in-the-classroom.shtml