Games show how learning can be fun

Posted on: 29 August 2016

Game-based learning, using computer games in the classroom from junior infants right up to third level, has shown a strong effect on motivation. This is backed up by research that will be delivered today and tomorrow (September 1, 2) in Trinity Long Room Hub and the Arts Block at the IGBL (Irish Game-Based Learning) conference.

Now in its sixth year, this year’s event is jointly organised by Ann Devitt (School of Education), Mairead Brady (Trinity Business School) and Neil Pierce (Learnovate).

Ideally all students should be motivated to learn, rather than being motivated to get good grades, and gaming is a way in which this can be achieved. By employing gaming we can also move away from the ‘memorising facts’ educational model that has come in for criticism of late.

The IGBL conference will showcase the latest research on gaming within an educational context. The two-day event, aimed at educators, researchers and the ed-tech industry sector, also includes a mix of academic presentations, practical workshops, digital and non-digital games demos.

Some research highlights that will be delivered at the conference include:

‘Autonomy and challenge in simulation games for marketing education’

Marketing planning is a key concept that is taught on marketing courses. Mairead Brady and Ann Devitt’s research used an online marketing plan simulation game to teach the marketing planning concept, where students had to apply theory in practice and compete to produce the best marketing plan. This led to better quality knowledge assimilation.

Some of the quotes from students afterwards included: “It is hard to imagine how we would have been taught all these business-relevant skills if not through a game.” The game was “a lot more useful than reading a marketing plan from a textbook” and gave “real world context to the material covered in class”.

‘A design-based research approach to development and evaluation of a computer game for children learning Irish’

Recent research demonstrates significant challenges for teaching Irish at school, in terms of motivation and confidence. The implementation of a virtual reality computer game for learning Irish, aimed at primary children, led to improved outcomes in this research that was conducted by Ann Devitt and Gene Dalton from the School of Education.

Some comments from students afterwards included: “It is much better than books, much better than having to go to the back of the book to check the spelling.” “I didn’t really know how to read Irish that much and I didn’t really understand it, but my friend helped me. We were reading all of the mysteries and I learnt a lot more.”

‘A case study of the use of Minecraft to develop computational thinking in an Irish primary school’

‘Computational thinking’ is one of the skills that should be part of the modern education system if we are to get away from the more traditional style of rote-learning. A way in which computational thinking has been successfully employed in the classroom is through the highly popular game Minecraft.

Minecraft: the computer game has been successfully used in the classroom to teach 'computational thinking'

Keynote speaker at the event is Derek Robertson, who addresses the conference today. His research interests focuses on video games and learning, social media in education, digital communities that link older and younger generations, and professional attitudes to and behaviours with digital technology in schools.

Co-chair of this year’s IGBL Ann Devitt commented: “This conference provides a wonderful opportunity to generate a dialogue between game designers and game users, teachers and researchers. Effective games for learning must integrate the learning and gaming goals so both perspectives are key to educational and commercial success.”

Co-chair Mairead Brady, Trinity Business School, commented: “Game-based learning brings the textbook and the class content alive; they are actually doing and engaging. Letting students play while learning, by creating a dynamic online realist competitive business environment, ensures that they don’t just write about theories but they show that they can put them into practice and gain valuable, business-relevant skills while doing so.”

Neil Peirce of Learnovate, who is also co-chair of the conference, added: "Game-based learning is no longer a niche research area focused on school level education. It is increasingly being used for soft-skills learning, where complex social concepts can be conveyed and assessed in realistic scenarios. It has growing applications in higher education for student orientation, and more recently in corporate environments for recruitment, on-boarding, and performance assessment."

Gaming is increasingly being seen as the norm and the sector only looks set to grow further. Figures available from the US show that 155m out of 220m people there now play games on a regular basis and four out of five households own a device used to play video games.

The IGBL conference concludes tomorrow afternoon. For further details visit


Media Contact:

Helen Hanley, Former | | +353 1 896 4168