Gamification for learning – we found the formula

Illustration of people with a joystick

Like our founder Baljeet, those of you with children who’ve tried primary education apps and websites already will know there are very few that cut the mustard when it comes to keeping children engaged. There are, of course, many games available that do keep their attention, but sadly these don’t deliver much value on the education front.

Our founder created KidSmart App to address this need for his daughter who has a limited attention span. The key to keeping his daughter engaged is gamification, which when used correctly can support learning in several ways. Below we dig a little deeper into this topic and then outline the features we’ve incorporated in KidSmart to maximise the benefits of gamification.

“The benefits of gamification is not a new concept. Gamification as a strategy is used in many other industries, including education, to improve engagement but at KidSmart we are focusing on how best to use gamification in the learning process to maximise it’s benefits”

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart.

Attention & Retention

Brain research tells us that when the fun stops, learning often stops too. Students need to be engaged, motivated and feel minimal stress for information to flow freely through the affective filter in the amygdala. It’s under these conditions that they achieve higher levels of cognition, make connections, and experience “aha” moments. 

On top of this, what really turbo-charges learning is when the experience is pleasurable, as this is when the brain releases dopamine. Dopamine works in two key ways. First, it is a neurotransmitter that activates our “reward center”, so the more dopamine that is released, the more we want to repeat that activity. Second, dopamine stimulates the memory centres and promotes the release of acetylcholine, which increases focused attention.

“At KidSmart, we have put our research into maximising engagement and motivation by using multi-level gamification. There are gems to mine, KidCoins to earn, stickers to collect, personalised prizes to suit each child’s individual taste, trophies and more”

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart

KidCoins, stickers and personalised prizes

When your child gets a question right, they are awarded KidCoins. Sometimes, to add more excitement, these are accompanied by gems that vary in value and rarity. But getting these goodies is just the first level of ‘yay’ they experience using the app. 

Those who score 100% on a worksheet receive a sticker. Scoring 100% is not often easy, so to keep kids motivated, we’ve included the ability to retake a worksheet when you get a question wrong – so they can try again for the all-important sticker!

Two more endorphin-releasing features (that are particularly adored by Baljeet’s daughter Avni, year 5) are trophies and personalised prizes. Students are awarded a trophy when they hit their monthly target. This is set by parents and can be adjusted to make sure it’s challenging but not impossible.

What really is a winner when it comes to motivation is how KidSmart gives your child the opportunity to win real-world gifts that you pick! As a parent or grandparent, you know exactly which gift, gadget or day out they desperately want – and will work hard for. So all you need to do is set these up as a reward in the app and set the price to an appropriate number of KidCoins. When your child has enough KidCoins in their bank balance they will be notified that they can receive that reward – and will be sure to let you know toot suite! 

My daughter’s favourite is buying “Make a parent clean your room” gift card.

Baljeet Dogra, Founder of KidSmart

Not making life too easy

Another important factor in keeping students motivated is not making the topic too straightforward, or so difficult that they give up.

To address this, KidSmart App uses adaptive technology to work out the right difficulty level for your child. But again, every child is different, so after experimentation, we realised the need for parents to have additional control. This means that if at any point your child feels stuck, you can just relax the difficulty level to help boost their morale right back up again.

Another intriguing feature in the ‘not too easy’ category is that children have to pay (using their precious KidCoins) to see explanations. Now, on first hearing this, we’re sure you will be a bit bemused as to why we put a barrier in between your child and new information. But, fear not, this feature was actually suggested by Avni, and makes a lot of sense!

Avni pointed out that by making all explanations free, it was too easy for her to cheat! It meant she was simply reading explanations all the time, often the same ones multiple times, and busting her way through the levels. By having to pay for an explanation, Avni was utterly determined to ingest the information so she didn’t have to pay twice, i.e. it actually ensured she was learning.

A healthy dose of variety, mystery and competition

To keep a child’s attention, it is important not to be predictable. So we’ve incorporated plenty of features in KidSmart to surprise children and keep them on their toes.

These include dopamine-rich experiences like receiving a ‘double reward’ or ‘triple reward.’ These are bestowed at random when kids answer questions correctly. They come with a firework display and boost the child’s KidCoin count, so are highly exciting.

We’ve found our testers are also greatly intrigued to find out which Sticker they will win next, so this is a strong motivator to score a perfect 100%. Then there are a few extra treats that pop up at random to keep students entertained, such as jokes, funny videos, and Super Mario style games!

The final factor we’re mentioning here is the option to have a healthy bit of competition. With KidSmart, you can connect with friends – and compete! This is another one of Avni’s favourites.

Would you like to try KidSmart App? Register here for 14-day FREE trial

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