As all educators know, people have different preferred learning styles. Some people prefer to learn through visual aids, while others prefer a more hands-on approach. Regardless of the style, we can all agree that learning can be challenging, and fully engaging with the learning material is an essential step in the process. This is where games come in.

Video games have evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. People of all ages enjoy playing games, and it's no surprise that games have found their way into the education sector. Video games can be effective in classroom settings and are seeing greater use as 91% of school-age children play and enjoy games. By incorporating animation, audio, and interactivity, video games have the potential to accommodate all learning styles within the one experience. This blog post will explore the different learning styles and how games effectively cater to each.

Learning Styles and Video Games

In 1987, Neil Fleming introduced the VARK model, a popular learning theory that has gained widespread recognition among educators. The model identifies four main learning styles: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.

An infographic on the various learning styles

Visual Learners

Visual learners prefer to learn through images and graphics. They process information better when it's presented to them in a visual format. Most games incorporate visual elements, which can be particularly effective for this type of learner. For example, puzzle games that require the player to solve problems using visual cues can be very effective for visual learners.

Auditory Learners

Auditory learners, on the other hand, learn better through sound. They process information better when presented to them through speech or other forms of audio. For example, language learning games such as Duolingo require the player to listen to and repeat phrases which are highly effective for auditory learners.

Reading/Writing Learners

Reading/writing learners prefer to take detailed notes during lectures and may benefit from textbooks, handouts, and other written materials. These learners typically have strong verbal and written communication skills and may enjoy expressing themselves through writing. Educators can incorporate text-based elements into games, such as instructions, dialogue, and written feedback, to cater to this learning style. Games that require reading and writing, such as interactive narrative games or role-playing games, can also help these learners.

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners prefer to learn through movement and touch. They process information better when they can interact with the material. Games that require physical movement or manipulation can be particularly effective for this type of learner. Kinesthetic learners also gain enhanced learning from exploring 3D digital game worlds that incorporate the benefits of being a digital learning experience, scalable, reproducible, the immediacy of results, and measuring results. For example, games like Eco are sandbox crafting games with an environmental twist that ensures players engage with broader learning topics.

Problem-based, Project-based and Inquiry-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL), inquiry-based learning (IBL), and project-based learning (PjBL) are all approaches to education that focus on engaging students in real-world problems or challenges. These approaches emphasise active learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills and have been used successfully in game-based learning environments for many years.

Problem-based learning 

involves presenting students with a real-world problem or challenge they solve. This approach emphasises collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills and encourages students to take ownership of their learning. Games like Kerbal Space Program use problem-based learning and often incorporate scenarios or challenges that require players to think creatively and strategically to find solutions.

A screenshot of Kerbal Space Program that teaches problem-based learning

Inquiry-based learning

involves guiding students by asking questions, investigating, and reflecting on their learning. This approach emphasises curiosity, exploration, and discovery and encourages students to participate in their learning actively. Games such as The Witness use inquiry-based learning and often provide opportunities for players to explore different scenarios, environments, or concepts, ask questions, and investigate to learn more.

Project-based learning 

involves giving students a real-world project or task to complete, which they then work on independently or in groups. This approach emphasises creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving skills and encourages students to take ownership of their learning. Games like Cities: Skyline uses project-based learning, often providing players with a goal or objective to work towards and allowing them to design, create, or build something as part of their learning experience.

Video Games that Help You Learn

The beauty of games is that they can cater to all learning styles. Video games can incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements to create a well-rounded learning experience. For example, educational games can use visuals to explain concepts, sound to reinforce information, and physical manipulation to engage kinesthetic learners.

One famous example of a game that caters to all learning styles is Minecraft. Minecraft is a sandbox game that allows players to create their virtual worlds using different types of blocks. The game incorporates visual elements in different block types and textures, auditory elements in sound effects and music, and kinesthetic elements in player movement and block manipulation. The game also requires a lot of reading, sequencing, and mathematical reasoning. 71% of teachers using the game in the class reported increased student numeracy and computational thinking.

Minecraft can also be a powerful problem-based, inquiry-based, and project-based learning tool. In problem-based learning, students can tackle challenges like building sustainable cities, designing efficient transportation systems, or constructing complex Redstone machines. In inquiry-based learning, students can explore various biomes, investigate ecosystems, and experiment with in-game mechanics to understand cause and effect. Finally, in project-based learning, students can collaboratively plan and construct elaborate structures, recreate historical landmarks, or develop architectural designs, fostering teamwork, creativity, and critical thinking. Minecraft's sandbox environment provides a versatile platform for immersive and interactive learning experiences across multiple educational approaches.

A screenshot of Minecraft Education to help various learning styles

Another example of a game that caters to all learning styles is The Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail is a historical simulation game that puts players in the shoes of a pioneer travelling west in the mid-1800s. The Oregon Trail game caters to different learning styles by offering diverse elements. Visual learners can engage with the game's vibrant graphics and visual representations of historical events and locations along the trail. Auditory learners benefit from the game's audio cues, dialogue, and sound effects that enhance the storytelling.

Kinesthetic learners can make decisions and actively participate in the game by selecting supplies, managing resources, and strategising for their journey. Finally, reading/writing learners can delve into the game's historical context through written descriptions, diary entries, and informational text about the Oregon Trail.

A screenshot of Oregon Trail and how it helps students learn

Video games and Motivation

Games cater to different learning styles and can be highly motivating. Players are often more willing to engage with material if presented as fun and interactive. Games can provide a sense of accomplishment and progress, motivating learners. Games can also provide immediate feedback, which can help learners improve their performance.

A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students who played an educational video game were more motivated to learn and performed better on subsequent tests than students who learned using only traditional methods. 

Video games have also been shown to improve perseverance in learning. Another study published in The Journal of Current Biology found that playing action video games can improve cognitive flexibility, switching between tasks, and adapting to changing environments. Increased cognitive flexibility can help students overcome obstacles and persevere through challenging tasks.

The Future of Video Games in Education

Games have proven to be an effective educational tool, and their potential is only beginning to be explored. 60% of students learn with games in school in Australia. Globally, over 74% of teachers say they use games for instructional purposes in the classroom.

The adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in schools is steadily increasing. According to a report by EdTech Magazine, as of 2021, approximately 23% of K-12 schools in the United States were using AR or VR in their classrooms. This indicates a growing recognition of the potential educational benefits these technologies offer. In parallel, game literacy among students increases as gaming becomes increasingly prevalent. About 70% of children aged 8 to 12 played video games regularly. This familiarity with games can be a foundation for integrating educational games into their learning experiences. A report by IGEA also showed that 92% of parents believe video games are educational, with three in four actively using games as an educational tool with their children.

This blog has explored just a few of the ways that video games can benefit the classroom and a variety of learning styles. The future of games in education is promising, with the potential for highly immersive and realistic experiences using virtual and augmented reality technologies.

An example of how vr and ar can be used in the classroom

In conclusion, games are an excellent educational tool that can cater to all learning styles, improve knowledge retention, and motivate learners. Educators can create engaging and interactive learning experiences that can help students succeed by incorporating games into the classroom. As we continue developing and exploring new technologies, the potential for games in education will only grow. 

So let's embrace the power of games and unlock the full potential of learning! Book a FREE brainstorming session with me today if you want to chat more about how educational games can help your classroom.