GAMIFYING EDUCATION: Introducing Gaming to the Classroom
EDUCATION is the very foundation of our future. No doubt there are flaws in our current education system that need to be addressed. The marking system, learner agency and voluntary tangential learning are a few of the major issues in education today.
There’s a theory that tries to define each decade according to technological progress. Loosely speaking, by the end of one decade everyone had cellphones, by the end of another everyone was on Facebook, and this decade (2010-2020) it is said that everyone will be a gamer in a broad sense. It’s not a solid theory, but I’m sure you catch my drift.
Some exciting ideas are starting to surface which involved introducing gaming into the classroom — making education more fun and engaging. Again it is no solid science, but a few schools (especially in the United States) have started implementing such ideas into their teaching techniques and have started to see positive results. They have begun gamifying education.
To put gaming into better perspective — the most successful games on the market today are ones that encourage gradual progress. These award the player with experience points as he or she progresses through the game. Once enough experience is gained the player levels up, which comes with particular rewards or perks.
In a grading system a pupil tends to approach a test or assignment with an A+ in mind, at least subconsciously. With this approach there is nowhere to go but down, and poor results only act as a feedback loop for failure and can be highly demotivational. If pupils were awarded experience points instead of grades there would always be something to gain. Pupils would work towards gaining more points in order to get to the next level, which could come with pre-defined awards or perks. Everyone would start at nought and work their way upwards rather than down.
Benefits of a Rewards System in Education
Working towards clear and tangible levels with clear rewards or benefits would be a huge motivational factor for learners. Assignments and tests would feel more rewarding rather than disheartening if there is something to be gained. This wouldn’t necessarily require a major change in the way papers are generally marked. Marks would merely be changed to levels and learners would work towards a total rather than down from one.
Offering class-wide achievements, such as giving the whole class a reward if one or a few learners accumulates X amount of experience, would also encourage peer support. Rather than envying the top achievers, peer pupils would encourage their progress. The top achievers, on the other hand, would understand that they couldn’t get the best possible score unless they help the other learners improve their marks.
Gamifying Education: Agency
A huge hurdle for teachers is dealing with learners who lack a sense of agency — who feel that their opinions and choices don’t matter. They may feel that they have no control over their choices, perhaps ones that were made for them by their parents. They lack long-term goals and motivation — something that is common in young people today.
It is known that learners with a higher sense of agency do better at school. What’s interesting is that agency is the life force of games! You are in full control over the choices you make and the future lies entirely in your hands. What’s more, games teach us that if we fail, we try again (or try something different) until we succeed. This could be a huge benefit behind the idea of gamifying education.
Voluntary Tangential Learning & Information
A third challenge for our educational system is encouraging learners to pursue information voluntarily outside of the classroom. Homework, for most, is a bore — a chore that needs to be completed before we can play proper games. There are very few external motivators that encourage self-education.
An idea behind gamifying education is to turn a subject into a game by leaving out pieces of the puzzle and using information that you want learners to learn on their own as keys that unlock the next section of the game or subject. In searching for this information there’s also a chance of tangential learning — learners stumbling across other pieces of related information.
I recall one of the most exciting times in my own education, which was when different subjects started to interlink and connect up. And this happened long after high school. Learning and understanding the connections between information and ideas is so important in education. A cross-disciplinary approach could be created early on by creating the keys mentioned here across different subjects. This will also allow learners to shine in different subjects and encourage communication and sharing of education among them.
Gamifying education may also create an understanding and an appreciation of the importance of other subjects that learners may not immediately be interested in. I sure wish I had understood this when I was in high school.
- This article was inspired by the video above hosted at www.escapistmagazine.com called Gamifying Education.