Gamifying Education: Developing the Tech Culture of K-12 Schools

By Wladimir Hinz, Altitude Accelerator Tech Blogger

Gamifying Education

There’s great potential in the field of education gamification, especially when our innate need and desire to learn is almost never completely met by the current education system. The new gamifying tools and techniques being developed nowadays can provide some solutions to this problem.

We already know that games and education can easily blend to help children achieve a higher education level. What education-tech startups are doing right now is not mundane work anymore. Recent developments are not like their predecessors which consisted of simply presenting information to children to test them for retention and understanding. The modern educational approach looks to engage students by stimulating their interests and creating a healthy and encouraging learning environment.

Gamifying education goes beyond simple game elements and design techniques like badges and progress bars. In addition to the endorphin producing effect that playing games has, there’s also what Big Data and the Internet of Things can do in this field.

The Startup Sandbox

The learning process produces a considerable amount of data that startups are trying to harness to generate personalized insights and analytics about each student in almost real time. Clever is one of the best examples of this.

Combining games with education makes the pedagogical experience highly communicative and socially interactive. The constant feedback and reinforcements produce an effective educational atmosphere that is also fun. Numerous startups have introduced gamified learning to K-12 students, showing promising results when they take away the pressure of rote learning.

Global Trends

Most of the startup action seems to be centered in North America and Asia.

In the U.S., 7.6% of the GDP is generated by education related activities (US$ 1.3 trillion), with educational technology accounting for a third of that number. The K-12 market alone generates US$ 670 billion annually. The list of education-tech startups in the U.S. is amazing, with big names like Duolingo, ClassDojo, Goalbook, and Coursera, but of course there are many more smaller players.

In Canada, the K-12 market adds up to around CAD$ 60 billion, with Ontario accounting for almost half of that amount. Considering the size of the North American market, the potential for startups is exceptional. For more specific statistics on Canadian education-tech, please refer to this article from MaRS.

Although great advances have been made in gamifying the education system, many challenges remain, particularly regarding the legal framework of the system.

Nonetheless, the Canadian education market is very strong with plenty of examples of platforms and applications. The most promising startups are ones like Erudite Science from Montreal, which provides children with an online math tutor that’s not actually human, and TopHat from Toronto which looks into ways to increase student engagement with teacher-led classes. And there are also platforms and programs like Spongelab, Thriver, and Brightspace, which offer integrated solutions that take advantage of data analytics to deliver a personalized learning experience.

Among the global examples, there seems to be a copious amount of startup activity in India, where the educational market is expected to reach US$ 40 billion by 2017. There, you can find startups such as Callystro, Funtoot, and Edsix Brain Lab, which use game-like platforms to engage students in a wide variety of subjects such as science and math.

Virtual Reality

One of the most exciting learning resources that is currently being developed is the virtual reality platform by Alchemy Learning. This is a startup based in Baltimore, D.C, that is looking to bring virtual reality into the classroom. Employing virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, this technology could present an opportunity to help children that have trouble retaining information from textbooks and other printed material.

As this article reveals, it’s difficult for teachers to continuously adapt to new technology that’s constantly emerging. For most, it’s hard to keep up with every new piece of education technology as it comes out. So it’s up to the individual startups to consider this and prove their concepts by helping teachers make a soft transition to the new devices and software.

Technology Investment

One of the key takeaways from this field is that the educational system won’t invest in technology for the sake of technology, as it’s usually oversold and underused. The issues that persist in classrooms even after adopting computers are mainly due to pedagogical assessment issues, arising from teachers not being on board with the new methods. Technology can’t be foisted upon all teachers so continuous adaptation needs to become common practice.

Education technology will inevitably become a large part of future schools’ culture, and schools need to be prepared for the massive and constant changes coming in the near future. Startups can help guide them as technology advances, because they will surely continue to play a major role in this rapid tech evolution.

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