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Game-based learning gaining popularity in UAE classrooms
Game-based learning has been around for a while
Playing games in classrooms isn't exactly what comes to mind when most people think of school. However, this is precisely what some teachers in Dubai are doing to help their pupils learn.
Although game-based learning has been around for a while, it seems to gain more traction as creative learning, virtual-reality (VR) tools in classrooms, and artificial intelligence as teacher assistants are becoming common in schools- making the traditional form of teaching and learning increasingly redundant.
A teacher at the GEMS Metropole School in Dubai, Jacob de Leeuw has integrated popular forms of gaming tools in his class. "I have been using a mathematics game called Prodigy Maths Game with my Year 6 classes for the last few years. It is a turn-based game where an avatar battles against other characters or classmates by completing mathematical problems," Leeuw told Khaleej Times.
"As a teacher, I am able to set certain tasks for my class, based on what we are working on. When students complete their tasks, I am also able to generate a significant amount of data that feeds formatively into my teaching and learning.
Informative, free, addictive, and very engaging. How engaging? 1,500 questions answered in the first week of implementation."
The game also helps "reluctant learners" participate because of the progress the avatar makes in the game, Leeuw said. He added that the students also learned skills such as problem-solving, mastery of concepts, and fluency of basic skills when they participate.
He then uses the data generated from the game to focus on his students' strengths, as well as areas where they need more support.
"Gamification also supports students with rigour and patience because the more they play, the more they are able to develop their avatar and, directly, their learning. Student potential is moved into their own hands and they have the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning," Leeuw said.
Young students are also benefiting from game-based learning in classrooms. A grade one teacher at the GEMS Modern Academy, Alyson Norman, said games enabled students to interact and communicate in a group or individually.
These activities are particularly helpful for shy students who tend to "come alive" during gaming sessions, she said.
"As active learners, my students enjoy game-based learning. Only recently, while learning 'Blends' we played 'Blends Jeopardy.' Blending is the skill of joining individual speech sounds to make a word. It helps students decode unfamiliar words using letter-sound patterns. It also develops listening skills and helps pronunciation.
During the game, students look at pictures, read and spell the word, putting together all the sounds," Norman said.
"Learning through games breaks the monotony of a lesson. Games are challenging, motivating students to maintain effort. They also offer the opportunity to practice oral and written skills, in the form of comprehension and expression."
Khaleej Times has also reported previously how classrooms in Dubai are seeing a rise in the use of VR headsets in learning.
Through VR, students can virtually go anywhere without any geographic or time restrictions.
Lessons better understood with fun activities
Dubai students are welcoming game-based learning in classrooms and have insisted that it helps them learn more effectively. A student in Dubai, Dhanvi Sayani, said that gaming could make learning "more fun" and will also make memorising and understanding concepts much easier.
"Game-based learning can be very effective in classrooms, because in a world where children are engrossed more into their screens, if they are given games that help them learn, they will concentrate more on studies," she said.
"If games are used by teachers to conduct plenaries, teach a new topic, and revise, it will make the class more fun and will make our studies easier. This will also make understanding things taught in school easier. We will be able to recall everything we learned in school easily as it was taught in a simple manner through games."
One Dubai-based student, Zainab Zujar Lokhandwala, believes game-based learning has become essential in the 21st century.
"Today we are growing up using devices like computers, mobile phones, and video consoles for almost any activity-from studies and work to entertainment or communication," she said.
"Game-based learning creates an interesting play-and-learn method that is very effective. It creates a lively and pro-active environment in the class rather than the same monotonous lecture given by the teacher every day. Therefore, we prefer the play-and-learn method over the old-school lecture method."
Hurairah Faatimah Muzammil, another Dubai-based student, said that more schools need to implement game-based learning as it can "benefit students and teachers".
"Schools must be a place where fun and learning go hand in hand. Students understand the subject more when they are involved in it mentally. I strongly believe that game-based learning must be promoted in schools because they improve the quality of interaction."
"Students will learn to use every aspect and skill to improve learning methods. While many might see it as a distraction, the students will start prioritising and viewing it as a step towards education. When classrooms are made fun, enthusiasm will prevail and learning will prosper," Muzammil said.
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