"Playing," goes far beyond the sandbox of childhood days, and has a place in the learning environments of all ages, and developmental levels. Neuroscience findings show that play contributes to brain development, in which neural pathways are influenced in their development through exploration, thinking, problem-solving, and expressive language. Educators around the world have responded to the benefits of play-based instruction, as a means to facilitate innovative activities, and real life situations. As a result, gamification and game-based, learning have become a revolution in 21st century education.
Author and game designer, Jane McGonigal, produces and promotes gamification and game-based learning. She promotes them as vehicles to shape learners, to become constructivists and system thinkers; shifting students' mindsets, to mastery orientation. This type of learning opens up a whole world of curiosity, where students learn through play. They are better able to understand the content, and apply that knowledge, through active engagement and experiences. This can help the students retain the information for future use. This type of play-based learning, is based on the Vygotskian model of scaffolding. Teachers pay close attention to very specific components of the play activity, and the connections being made to the content standards. while providing encouragement, support, and feedback on student's learning. Vgotsky is a psychologist, and guru in human cultural development, and his theories are richly embedded in the design of game-based learning.
Effective gaming classrooms are more task-oriented, with clear objectives. Students collaborate consistently in small groups, and then in larger groups. They do jobs for themselves, and discover multiple means to complete various tasks while in a group, and develop higher critical thinking skills. Team work, collaboration and even some competition, are all key skills for success in a hyper-connected global economy.