The Science of Learning

A lot of research has been done into the science of how we learn, but how does it relate to online, game-based learning?

Brain-based research emphasizes the fact that engagement must be the goal of all educators. When students are not engaged, their minds wander and learning isn’t effective. When engaged, students are excited to learn. Higher levels of engagement are associated with students who want to learn more and apply what they have learned in the real world.

Every brain is unique, which means strategies need to include a variety of activities that build not only declarative knowledge but also underlying cognitive skills. A great way to accomplish this is by including online activities that motivate this new generation of digital natives. Game-based learning improves knowledge along with a variety of cognitive skills, including memory, thinking, processing, sequencing, and attention.

Because people absorb information differently, generally through some combination of auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learning, blended learning programs should include activities that call for movement and a hands-on approach to learning that addresses the physical learning system of the brain.

Most students today have grown up with technology and, in a sense, demand the engaging content that they have grown accustomed to through online gaming. Students expect to receive immediate feedback and move at their own pace, which frees them from the fear of failing and satisfies both the cognitive and the emotional centers of the brain. The core online skills that students develop can then be applied to offline and online activities that focus on problem solving, communication, and creativity. 

Assessing student knowledge is the key to success. Today’s assessments typically include a variety of interactive manipulatives and tools.  Through practice, students can concentrate on answering the content questions without having to figure out how to manipulate the technology, giving us a clearer picture of what they know and don’t know.

These new types of questions can actually stand alone as learning tools for students. Different question types (such as extended response, sorting information, placing numbers on a number line, etc.) give us a much more accurate picture of what a student truly understands versus the old method of filling in a bubble.

Not only is digital, game-based learning fun for students, it’s also supported by research and provides endless opportunities for educators.