UNDERSTANDING WHY VIDEO GAMES AND EDUCATION ARE COMPLEMENTARY TO EACH OTHER 1/3

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Getting our children’s attention, sending them a message, helping them progress and learn... all of them are noble causes! Ah, but did you think we were talking about school? No, we were actually talking about video games! Both have been seen as so opposed to each other, to the point that, most of the time, they are pitted against each other, that it’s still a surprise to be able to say that video games and education can be actually be complementary.

Surprisingly, and almost certainly bolstered by the wave of paranoia about new technology, these two spheres, rather than recognizing each other as siblings that could have grown up alongside each other, continued to drift apart, secretly jealous of one another... But couldn’t video games become a part of the educational system, once the latter realizes it has so much to gain from them? Wouldn’t video games provide a powerful tool for channelling and holding the attention of children who often have trouble concentrating in class? What are video games if not one of the best ways to apply the current educational approach of active learning? Trying to make content more fun is the logical next step in this approach.

Let’s stop pitting both of them against each other and stigmatizing them for their respective shortcomings! Instead, let’s try to focus on the ways they can be complementary to each other, to work out how these two realms can come together, learn from each other and ultimately combine for the greatest benefit of our children. With PowerZ, we firmly believe that gaming and education are mutually beneficial. Find out how through this 3-part dossier.

With Grégory at the helm, the chimera can sleep soundly

With Grégory at the helm, the chimera can sleep soundly

Artificial intelligence or a means of adapting to each child

They are complementary because our traditional education system, which is run on a national scale or limited to the size of a class cannot – no matter how much the teacher cares or how determined they are – adapt to suit each child even though it upholds the principle that everybody should have equal access to education (and this failure is obviously regrettable). The education system therefore has everything to gain from using a solution that IS capable of accommodating each individual: video games. Ultimately, one of the greatest strengths of video games is that they offer an experience that every player can make their own. Whatever your skills or preferences, video games have the ability to adapt and become usable by us – all without even knowing us personally or physically. Incredible, right?

PowerZ is an educational video game for children aged 6 and over, that adapts to each child’s needs and ability level, for a genuine learning experience. The game has a powerful and responsible artificial intelligence system. From the very first chapter, it analyzes a host of data in order to create the optimal learning experience for each child. Ultimately, it will help us work out the best way of learning for that particular player. It’s neither new nor heresy to point out that listening in class isn’t all a child needs in order to retain something. Not for the majority in any case. It can help obviously, but other methods are sometimes required to help children memorise something; for some, this will be repeating it out loud, for others it will be making diagrams or reformulating the lession through writing, etc. PowerZ will soon be able to work out each child’s learning profile and thus develop solutions tailored specifically to them that will optimise the way that they pick up knowledge!

Our artificial intelligence also supports us with adapting the game’s difficulty and keeping the player in the flow state (to use a games industry term) or the Zone of Proximal Development as defined by Lev Vygotski (to use an educational term). Put simply, both of these mean the distance between what a child can do or learn on their own and what they can only learn with the help of somebody who is more expert, be it parents or teachers. In other words, this means the perfect difficulty level for them – neither too easy nor too tricky. In this zone or state, the child is never discouraged or bored, but is stimulated to the height of their abilities! What education system can truly say it offers each of its students exercises that are so well suited to their abilities and personal progress? Video games can act as personal tutors! How many times have we found a particular exercise too hard or too easy at school (okay, mostly too hard, to be honest...)? It’s frustrating isn’t it? On the other hand, it’s a real joy when you work out something by yourself! Can you imagine the power of such a solution? Video games have made this one of their specialities. In games, if you keep giving the player a sequence or a mechanic that is too finicky or too easy, it’s a guaranteed game over!

“By giving pupils an intelligent method, you give them the method to become intelligent.”
Antoine de La Garanderie

So, from the very first chapter, our AI can generate games sequences procedurally, which means an almost infinite number of levels that increase in difficulty. It’s designed to constantly assess the child’s level, to split exercises into difficulty clouds and to give them the ones that suit their current abilities, with a couple that are a bit easier to bolster their confidence and a few that are a little harder so the child is challenged. This is what we call Adaptive Learning. This adaptability at present applies to specific locations in game, Aria’s Hall of 1000 Doors or the temples in the Azamar Desert for example, but soon it will apply to the entire adventure! We train our Artificial Intelligence so has the ability to work out each child’s strengths or areas they need to work on, tell their parents about this via our app and suggest – just like a virtual coach – training programmes, resources and advice tailored to the skills targeted. This is PowerZ’s main aim, to go above and beyond a simple educational game and become a unique learning experience.

Children’s games aren’t child’s play! This is a complex arena and there’s still a long way to go. Now for the next issue, where Super Mario (yes, the plumber) will explain to us how he’s a pioneer of new learning methods.