The need to restructure and create engagement in education is probably one of the biggest drivers of the meteoric rise in the interest in Gamification. Participation in digital engagement conferences like EduTech (http://www.edutech.net.au/workplacelearning_speakers.html) has grown to record levels. The amount of education providers that were present at the Gamification World Congress this year was also impressive.
So why is the education sector so interested in Gamification? Because it offers solutions to a sector often out of sync with current reality and in need of serious overhaul (as we wrote before in Octalysis Gamification: Changing the Education Game). Why does it need overhaul and how could we start to make education a lot more engaging?
Well, we have listed 3 issues that urgently need to be addressed if we want to keep educating our children for the future rather than for non-existing future jobs. We will close with good entry points for creating the engagement necessary in education.
The current system generates Fear of Failure
Today’s homework nowadays is pretty much like this: you either pass or fail and have to move on. You do your homework, hand it in and get a grade. Failed? Too bad son! No time to try again, as there is not time and we have to move on with new topics to learn. Homework is currently more like a zero-sum assessment than a learning opportunity.
Compare this to how we learn in game like experience: you fail to pass a level? Try again immediately, but now from a different angle. In a game, you are trained not to fear failure: you are conditioned to overcome it. What matters in games is that you get the solution to the problem in front of you, not getting it right at the first try. Homework is an opportunity to find ways to progress rather than to show how far you have progressed.
Lack of time
Teachers are often under massive time constraints. There is just enough time to go through the subject matter that they are told to go through. There is hardly time for any personalization or detailed attention to specific children. But all of this is mostly the fault of the system, not of the teachers. Teachers have no time to give the instant feedback that students need while they are learning.
In addition, if class size goes above 10–15 pupils it becomes almost impossible for teachers to track where each and every individual student is at and with what issue they are struggling. This is where games and gamification come in. Gamified systems as such can give the rapid feedback that students need and teachers can actually concentrate on what they are best at: teaching new things and exploring depth in topics. At the same time, the learning experience can be adjusted to every single student real time, while ensuring that the correct information is presented.
I remember that my father (and many other teachers and professors like him) spend endless hours correcting the work of students. Can you imagine what teachers can do with the time saved on correcting?
What if they could spend this time creating more learning opportunities, supported by technology, games, and gamified learning programs? It would revolutionize the way children would learn. It would create the space needed to focus on problem solving rather than knowledge assessment. In short: it would train our children to obtain the skills they will need for future jobs rather than jobs long gone when they will be adults like us.
Lack of 4Cs
So what are these key skills that people need in the new economy? They are often called the 4Cs of 21st Century skills: Critical Thinking, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Cs_of_21st_century_learning). These are the skills that are needed for our modern society and can only be learned through experience, not by rote learning.
And when you play games you always employ these skills, so in a sense many children already are trained somewhat in these skills through games.
Think of when people team up to play a game of League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm with their friends: it is all about communication and collaboration.
When I see my daughter play Minecraft and she needs to find the best solution for the world around her? It is all about critical and creative thinking
So why not just have them play games then? No need to change the educational system right? Wrong.
What is missing is that the children that play these games, do not actually understand that they are in fact learning all these skills. They lack (educational) context. And this is where teachers come in. Teachers give perspective, give background and can create a broader framework for where the learned skill can be connected to real world applications. Games can get kids to be excited about the content and teach kids basic concepts. Teachers can make all that knowledge meaningful.
So how do we implement a Gamification strategy in education?
Well, we have to address some of the misconceptions and fears that many teachers have about the effects of Gamification in education. Contrary to what many teachers fear: gamification is about empowering the teacher, not making them less relevant. I do not believe in fully stand-alone game-education. The teacher is still very important.
In fact, some research from the USA has shown that just letting children play educational games in class has less impact than having children sit through conventional lessons (in fact conventional lessons had a 60 times higher impact). However, when the power of games and the teacher were combined, all of a sudden the children performed almost twice as well as in a teacher-only setting (and more than 100 times better than in a game-only setting.
So it looks like Gamifying our curriculum/classroom can have exciting rewards. But, like other Gamification projects: it has to be designed correctly. We should never forget that playing a game is a voluntary activity. The experience itself needs to create the excitement and hunger for progress in children in order for them to want to even engage in the first place. Many educational platforms these days though are function focused: the games are just a digitalization of the content that is presented in books. It is neither more engaging, nor enriching, nor does the teacher get intensively involved. As shown by the mentioned case study in the USA, the teacher needs to get involved heavily as enabler, facilitator and coach.
In addition: do not try to “kid your kids”. Children see through games that are just used to test them (like the old system does). Just because the test is in digital form doesn’t make it more engaging. Think about creating experiences where they can make their own choices, and discover their own path to solving obstacles. Teach them how to search and analyze rather than getting ‘your‘ answer right.
In Octalysis terms: design for the Core Drives that motivate people to be creative, collaborate and communicate, whilst giving them a sense of progress. We would look into what design creates enough Core Drive 3 (Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback); Core Drive 5 (Social Influence and Relatedness), as well as Core Drive 2 (Development and Accomplishment).
What would be ideal is if we can also make the learning connected to Core Drive 1 (Epic Meaning and Calling): how about being able to practice your math to calculate the heating of the earth, whilst combatting this heating by identifying the main culprit-nations to be arrested by the Climate Change Police?
Throw in a bit of Core Drive 7 (Curiosity and Unpredictability), with some surprise moments in the experience (a sudden solar eclipse anyone?) and you have the recipe for a really fun, and engaging gamified education.
So, changing our educational system is not that difficult to do, but of course we need political will too. Now that is more difficult, I admit, and not that easily gamified…
If you would like to know how we at The Octalysis Group create really engaging experiences, contact me: