Gaming in education

I’ve just finished reading this press release titled ‘Gartner Says by 2015, More Than 50 Percent of Organizations That Manage Innovation Processes Will Gamify Those Processes‘ by Gartner.

It’s a short article and worth the read itself, but for the sake of this post the article highlights some of the ways that organisations are beginning to use gaming as a method to nurture innovation, collaboration and communication. It also lists four reasons why this form of ‘workplace’ is becoming more successful and I couldn’t help but see the immediate connections to education and the benefits that educational gaming can provide. 

At this point, I want to clarify what I am now (after reading the article) think of gaming. In the past I always thought of gaming as just that, games where educational objectives or inspiration can be drawn from it. Gaming in my mind now is more broad that that. It is any online/computer based environment that provides users with short term and long term objectives in a fun and stimulating way. Often an avatar is representing the end user and rewards are issued for achieving the goals. One perfect example in my mind is http://www.mathletics.com.

Back to the article…

Gartner identified four principal means of driving engagement using gamification:

1. Accelerated feedback cycles. In the real world, feedback loops are slow (e.g., annual performance appraisals) with long periods between milestones. Gamification increases the velocity of feedback loops to maintain engagement.

 

  • Feedback is critical for learning. One teacher in a room of 20+ students simply can’t physically provide the instant feedback to students like games can. Students learn what they know and what they don’t yet know as they progress – not a week later when the learning opportunity has passed.

 

2. Clear goals and rules of play. In the real world, where goals are fuzzy and rules selectively applied, gamification provides clear goals and well-defined rules of play to ensure players feel empowered to achieve goals.

 

  • This to me is a critical element in successful teaching and learning. Students need boundaries, guidelines and limits – but not restrictions. Games can provide the general rules of play in the learning context, but the learning objectives can be changed within those rules.

 

3. A compelling narrative. While real-world activities are rarely compelling, gamification builds a narrative that engages players to participate and achieve the goals of the activity.

 

  • Narratives and story telling have been shown to be very successful in helping students learn and remember their learning. Enough said!

 

4. Tasks that are challenging but achievable. While there is no shortage of challenges in the real world, they tend to be large and long-term. Gamification provides many short-term, achievable goals to maintain engagement.

 

  • Many educationally designed games not only allow teachers to assign appropriate learning objectives to individual students’ needs, but the games themselves then adjust based on the students’ performance. If the student is doing well, the content gets harder and vice versa.

I hope that Gartner are correct in their prediction of the impact of gaming on organisations and companies, because there is no doubt this will help to impact education too.