Help or hindrance? Technology and learning outcomes

Help or hindrance? Technology and learning outcomes

A new study has found that students can improve their academic outcomes by playing video games, and suggested they be incorporated into classroom activities.

The study – by the International Journal of Communication – used PISA results and information on the amount of time students spend online to measure how video games and social media impact on maths, science and reading among 15-year-olds.

However, Economist Alberto Posso from RMIT, who commissioned the report, cautioned that social media use can have the opposite effect, with students who used Facebook or chatted daily scoring 20 points below their fellow maths students who never used social media.

“The results suggest that using online social networks reduces academic achievement. Conversely, playing online games increases scores,” Posso said.

“It is argued that although both activities are associated with a high opportunity cost of study, video games potentially allow students to apply and sharpen skills learned in school.”

Posso added that playing video games regularly had academic advantages, most notably for science students who picked up 17 points above the average score.

Evidence suggests that Australia tops the US and Europe when it comes to Internet usage among adolescents. Posso suggested that with so many Australian children using the Internet, it was “important to consider how this practice affects their educational outcomes”.

“This is crucial for a number of reasons, none more important than that educational outcomes can impact labour market outcomes in the future,” he said.

Melissa Loble, vice-president of partners and programs at Instructure – an educational technology company – explained how gamification can play an important role in engaging young children at school. 

“There are some key elements to games like being challenged and having a leader board that kids really like and find engaging,” Loble told The Educator.

“When you can apply those game experiences to a learning environment, it helps keeps kids engaged and focused on the learning that’s happening as opposed to getting bored and wanting to do all those other things that can distract them.”

Loble said that younger students are comfortable with “fairly complex” game-based learning because the technology is easy to use.

“Complex software is where you get in trouble, but if you keep the technology simple, you can gamify in a pretty advanced way – even with young kids.”

As for the future of gamification in schools, Loble has high hopes.

“I think it can have a great future,” Loble said, adding that the broad educational benefits which gamification offers deserve greater discussion among educators.

“We need people out there talking about how gamification really is impacting learning.”