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01.12.2021
Games in Education
Education is both conservative and receptive to innovation. On the one hand, there is knowledge and skills that have been relevant since the emergence of humanity. On the other hand, economic systems, technologies, social structures, lifestyles, etc. are changing. It turns out that education cannot standstill. Today every schoolchild has a smartphone in his pocket, which is a very powerful computer that is even more powerful than the ones we had in our homes 20-15 years ago. This fact alone shows that today's children have different ways of perceiving and working with information.
Schools already have electronic diaries, projectors, and robotics kits. Communication between parents, children, and teachers has also changed - phone calls have been replaced by chat rooms.

The pandemic has also had an impact. Because of it, many schoolchildren, students, and teachers had to get used to "distant": go to Zoom almost daily, actively use e-mail and educational platforms.

"Distant", "microlearning", "inclusion"... Among these terms denoting modern trends in education, the word "gamification" can be heard more and more often. So, schools and universities have finally turned to one of the most popular leisure activities?

If we talk about computer games in the context of education, professionals have a mixed reputation. For the older generation of teachers, it is rather a waste of time or harmful activity, which educates students in cruelty ("blame the shooter games"). Middle-aged and, even more so, young teachers are more likely to view games well or neutrally. Maybe they did not sit in front of monitors for hours in their childhood and youth, but for them, Heroes of Might and Magic III or Counter-Strike is normal and acceptable entertainment.

Anyway, today's teachers and educators have to admit that their students are actively playing games - every school employee has seen kids playing Brawl Stars or Among Us.

In this article, we will break down three ways to use computer games in education.

1. Games as a source of knowledge, skills, and experience
The existence of games that can help schoolchildren and students in the study of a particular subject or topic is nothing new. Thanks to strategies from the famous Paradox Interactive many start to understand history, social studies, geography and stop being surprised when they hear "Holy Roman Empire" or "Normandy landings". The Crusader Kings, Victoria, and Hearts Of Iron series have educated more than one generation of future and current history students. Of course, even the most complex global strategies can not 100% reproduce all the nuances of historical processes, but this is not required of them.

Hardcore turn-based strategies such as Strategic Command from Fury Software, American Civil War, Birth of America, and To End All Wars from AGEod also help in the study of history. They do a pretty good job of showing the complexity of combat and deepening players' understanding of military conflicts. Even shooters like Call of Duty can work for this - with the correction, of course, that developers often sacrifice realism for spectacle.

Economic strategies, various managers, and tycoons are countless - from Cities: Skylines to Frostpunk. Isn't that a way to give students a firsthand experience of income, expenses, and opportunity costs?

Games can also help in the study of natural sciences. Spore and Plague Inc. will help in learning biology, Kerbal Space Program and Balsa Model Flight Simulator will help in physics, Heliopedia will help in ecology and astronomy.

The educational community talks a lot about interdisciplinary and meta-subject skills - in fact, everyone knows about soft skills. The ability to work with criticism, interact with teammates, plan, etc. This is where games can be useful, too.

Advising a student of a good game on a topic or using their interest in such projects is a simple and effective motivational technique. Neglecting traditional sources of information is not worth it either. Otherwise, a student growing up on Hearts of Iron might forget that Ecuadorian troops did not actually land on Madagascar in 1942.
2. Gamification: games as a methodology
Gamification is not just the use of games as a source of information or experiences useful in learning a discipline. It is the application of games to non-game processes. Why gamify education (at least in part)? You can easily answer this question by trying to give a regular lecture to fifth graders. In five minutes, they will be bored, and in ten, they will want to run away. That's why a quality lesson (more broadly, a study session) should include three or four activities, not just one.

Does that mean that every classroom should have computers and students should be sat down to play after note-taking? Not necessarily. Most schoolchildren and students have smartphones - you can use special applications. For example, Class Dojo allows you to reward students with achievement badges, and Quizizz allows you to create quizzes and interactive lessons. Google's Grasshopper teaches children basic programming skills, and Duolingo is a good helper for foreign language teachers.

In general, games have been familiar to education for a long time. For example, models and business games that simulate negotiations, international conferences, court hearings, etc. Most pupils and students are more interested in such activities than ordinary ones. They imitate real life and allow being in the role of adults who make serious decisions. In addition, they introduce an element of competition and create additional motivation. A standard lecture class rarely does this.

Gamification of education is not a cure-all. By itself, it will not save schools, colleges, and universities from the problems of motivating students and pupils, the need to raise the qualifications of teachers, and the need to modify curricula. But it will make education more dynamic and lively.
3. Game as a result of the learner's activity
In Russian schools, high school students defend individual projects. They can be theoretical or involve the creation of a tangible result - a product (a device, a prototype, a work of art, etc.). Asking the student to create their own game is a good option. Of course, we are talking about a small project, the work on which gives a person a general idea of development. A text quest made in Twine or a simple platformer game will be enough.

The same can be done at computer science classes or project work with students in the 5th-9th grades. In technical and vocational education and training (colleges, tekhnikums), this approach is even more useful - its task: to prepare qualified and skilled workers.
Looking to the future
Do we expect total gamification of education from kindergarten to magistracy? Probably not. Most likely, education will continue to differentiate - new formats will appear, and existing alternatives to mass school and university will develop. For example, family education, small private schools, distance education at home, etc. This means that there cannot be a single view on the role and application of games in this sphere.

Some organizations will take a course on a sort of digital detox returning to traditional methods; others will bet on programming and STEM; others will carefully introduce games as an optional element in the educational process. In any case, it will not be possible to pretend that schoolchildren and students do not play anything.