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From Duolingo to Wordle: How educational games are changing the way we learn

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of educational games. These games come in all shapes and sizes, from casual mobile games to immersive virtual reality experiences, and are designed to make learning more fun and engaging. 

Why are educational games popular? 

There are many reasons why educational games are so popular. First, they appeal to our natural desire to play and have fun. When we play games, we release dopamine – a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and motivated. This can help us to learn more effectively, as we are more likely to focus on the task at hand when we are enjoying ourselves. 

Second, educational games often incorporate game mechanics that are familiar to us from other games – a concept known as gamification. This can make them more engaging and stimulating, as we are already familiar with the rules and objectives. For example, many educational games use a points system, which can give us a sense of accomplishment as we progress through the game. Another example of this is Duolingo, which encourages you to build your daily ‘streak’ as high as you can by practising one lesson every day, promoting consistency in learning. 

How do educational games work? 

Educational games can work in a variety of ways. Whilst some games use the gamified approach outlined above – where they incorporate game-like elements into the learning process such as points, badges and leaderboards to encourage competition – other games use a more immersive approach. 

These more immersive games create virtual worlds in which players can explore and learn. For example, a science game might use virtual reality to allow students to travel to the microscopic world of cells, or a history game might use an interactive map to let students explore different historical periods. 

What are the benefits of educational games? 

There are many potential benefits to using educational games in the classroom. Studies have shown that educational games can: 

  • Improve knowledge retention: Educational games can help to improve knowledge retention by making learning more active and interactive. Players are more likely to remember information that they've learned through playing a game than information that they've simply read or listened to. 
  • Offer personalised learning experiences: Education games can also tackle traditional education’s limited personalisation by catering to individual learning experiences and adapting to each student’s pace, interests and strengths. 
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills: Many educational games require players to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to progress through the game. This can help to develop these skills in a fun and engaging way. 
  • Promote collaboration: Some educational games are designed to be played collaboratively, which can help to promote teamwork and collaboration skills in players. 
  • Increase motivation and engagement: Educational games can help to make learning more fun, which can lead to increased motivation and participation in the learning process – especially when compared to more traditional, passive methods of learning. 

What are some examples of educational games? 

There are many different examples of educational games available. Here are a few of the most popular: 

Duolingo is a language learning app that uses a gamified approach to teach users new languages. The app incorporates game mechanics such as points, streaks, and leaderboards and offers a mix of activities including spoken, listening, and written activities. 

Wordle is a word game in which players have six tries to guess a five-letter word. The game provides feedback in the form of coloured tiles: green for correct letters in the correct position, yellow for correct letters in the wrong position, and grey for incorrect letters. 

Minecraft Education Edition is a modified version of the popular video game Minecraft designed for educational purposes. The app allows teachers to create custom worlds and lessons, and it provides students with a variety of tools and resources for learning. 

Kahoot is an online platform that transforms educational content into interactive quizzes, polls, and games, encouraging active participation and knowledge retention. 

Foldit is a protein-folding game that challenges players to solve complex protein structures, contributing to scientific research while learning about biology. is an online platform that teaches kids how to code. The platform offers a variety of interactive lessons and activities that are designed to make coding fun and accessible to children of all ages. 

Khan Academy is an online educational platform that offers a wide range of free courses in a variety of subjects. The platform uses a gamified approach to help users stay motivated and engaged, and it provides students with a variety of tools and resources for learning. 

The future of educational games 

The field of educational games is constantly evolving, and there are many exciting new developments on the horizon. For example, virtual reality and augmented reality are beginning to be used to create even more immersive and engaging educational experiences. 

As we move towards a future where technology and education only continue to intertwine, I’m keen to see how gamification has the potential to shape the way we learn, preparing students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. 

As well as exploring varied learning methods, we believe in investing in new assessment methods which break boundaries and test new ideas – learn more on our Assessment Innovation Fund page.


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