We live in an increasingly digital world. From the minute we wake up by our smartphone’s alarm in the morning to the moment we fall asleep in front of a movie streaming on our laptop in the evening, we engage with digital technology. Digitalisation affects all aspects of our lives: from work to shopping, paying taxes, and entertainment.
The measures taken against the ongoing pandemic have only reinforced this trend, in education as well. This makes having digital skills as important as being able to read and write in today’s world. Most children have grown up with technology around them and know how to navigate in a digital environment. However, 1 out of 5 youngsters does not have basic digital skills, yet these skills are needed for over 90% of jobs.
Video games to foster digital skills
We can clearly see the importance of equipping all children with digital skills, especially in times of distance-learning and accelerating digitalisation. One way to do so is by introducing video games in the classroom. Playing video games in school implies the active use of digital tools in an educational environment and therefore has the potential to foster digital skills among all students. Video games can be used to bridge the gap between students who have low ICT skills and those who are already confident users of technology. The use of digital games for learning does not only help students develop their digital skills, but has multiple other benefits ranging from increased motivation to the acquisition of important soft skills.
The benefits of video games are numerous
Video games are designed to be engaging and according to teachers’ testimonies, this in-game engagement often spills over to related learning activities. Moreover, the simple fact of introducing a tool that students know well and use in their free time can spark motivation and help mobilise prior knowledge. Video games can also promote so-called 21st century skills like problem-solving, decision-making or cooperation. They can have a positive impact on students’ visual attention, memory and visual-spatial skills. Hand-eye coordination and the ability to simultaneously perform several activities can also be developed by playing video games. Video games are also very adaptive and have many characteristics that make them an interesting educational tool to use in a heterogeneous classroom, including for students with learning disorders.
Teaching methods adapted to “digital natives”
There are researchers who claim that today’s children think and learn differently because of their constant immersion in digital environments from a very young age onwards. It is argued that the thinking patterns of today’s children have changed due to stimulations with digital technologies. In this context, youngsters are often called “digital natives”, which implies that they are naturally confident users of any digital technology.
Of course, this is not true for all children, so the term “digital native” needs to be considered with caution. It has been shown to be true, however, that many students are more engaged in learning when interactive teaching methods like video games are used.
Digital technologies are a big part of the everyday life of today’s children, so it only makes sense to welcome them in schools to adapt the teaching methods to the experiences and preferences of today’s learners. However, while most (not all!) children do feel comfortable using digital technologies, only around a quarter of them are taught by digitally confident teachers.
Welcoming digital tools into the classroom is crucial to prepare children for the digital world we live in.
With our project Gaming for skills, we want to change this. The project’s aim is to give teachers guidance on how to effectively use video games in the classroom, so students can benefit from the manifold benefits that this practice can have for their learning process. With our project, we want to empower teachers to adapt their teaching methods to the digital world we live in by introducing digital games into the classroom to successfully engage nowadays students in learning. For this, we will produce different tools on the use of video games in educational context: a booklet on why video games belong in the classroom, a practical guide on how to use video games in the classroom, and different experience libraries and pedagogical sequences, because we believe that with the right tools in hand, teachers can be powerful actors of change.
If you want to learn more about our project Gaming for skills, go to https://www.gaming4skills.eu/.
 A Digital Europe needs Digital Skills. (2017). https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/digital-europe-needs-digital-skills.
 Prensky, Marc. (2005). Computer games and learning: Digital Game-based learning. In: Handbook of computer game studies.
Project website : gaming4skills.eu