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How to Beat the Game- Motivation in Education

boy walking with carrot dangling from a stick via a hat contraptionMotivating students to achieve, learn, retain.  It’s what instructors and instructional designers want.  The question continues to be how to do it best, your newest buzz word- what’s “best practice”?  Gamification is another buzz word being throw around in various sectors from corporate business to education, with claims to increase interaction, sales or engagement by supposed triple number percentages.  Gamification is the process of applying game elements to ordinary activities to affect a desired change. A best practice, possibly. Get ready for a news flash: education is already gamified.

But, Education Is (Poorly) Gamified

Is education is already gamified? Some say yes it is, yet poorly. We say poorly because students aren’t effectively engaged and compete poorly on a global scale.  Let’s address some game design elements currently used in education:

  • Course objectives are goals for attainment.
  • Students earn points for completing tasks (assignments=quests).
  • Students collaborate in groups (guilds).
  • Students get feedback through grades.
  • Students level up based on points, moving from C-> B -> A. Students level up through grade years as well.
  • Grades K-12 have honor rolls while universities have the Dean’s List in the way of leader boards.
  • The ultimate badge/certification is a diploma.

The imperative is to address these game elements, as well as others, in order to make them more effective towards the course objectives. Game design is everywhere, as Elizabeth Sampat argues.  Gamification is one tool for learning in education, not a solution or magic formula.  It depends on the design, the mechanics.  Good Design = Good Gaming.

Get Practice in Game Design

Before you begin to apply game elements to your lessons, you may want to get into the “trenches” first. Playing well-designed games is a great way to start to get experience in gamification and game design.  Find games that have a “stickiness” factor- the addictive qualities or that desire to make you want to keep playing.  Ask yourself why you keep playing?  What makes you think about the game when you are not playing? What game elements are used and what continues to motivate you?  What frustrates you, though not enough to make you want to give up? These are the elements you should captivate and employ to increase collaboration and engagement in your courses.

Check out 16 principles of good game design by James Gee for more details how to apply game elements to education.  My favorite is “pleasantly frustrated,” whereas I continue for the past 249+ days to try to beat level 147 in Candy Crush with the sound turned off (because it is annoying), without contributing any money to it’s company, King.

Examples of Applying Game Elements to Education

1) BOSS LEVEL

Applying game elements to education is especially effective when you teach the players how to build their own game.  This Edutopia article describes how students create their own boss level assignment to overcome. The phrase “boss level” refers to the culminating challenge in a video game where players use all the skills they have to solve the problem. Students apply what they have learned during the semester to create a challenging task, a Rube Goldberg machine (a machine designed to accomplish a simple task in a complex way, usually through chain reaction)- transitioning the learner to leader.  This approach provides prime opportunity for a student-centered learning environment.

2) LECTURES

Professor Lampe from University of Michigan teaching informatics shares how he gamified his class lectures here through- *gasp* a video. Prof. Lampe has received testimonies from his former students noting they have a better recollection of the class experience and the course content compared to others classes.  Study is still ongoing to quantify the result of the gamification of his course.

3) THE QUEST

Steven Johnson from Temple University introduced The Quest to his MIS3538 Social Media Innovation course.  He used self-paced learning and self-selected activities that progressively got more difficulty providing feedback through points, badges, ranking through a leader board and recognition for leveling up.  Read more about it.

Hopefully this has your brain gears churning away of how to apply gamification principles to engage students.  Don’t forget to leave us a comment especially if you think Candy Crush’s music is weird or if you have used gamification in your course. Until next time, keep on gaming!

Size Matters! Grow a Bigger Brain By Playing Video Games

Proof is in the pudding, so they say.  Businesses look to the “bottom line” and growing their wallets so yes, size does matter!  In the field of education we look to grow a person’s passion for learning, learning retention and brain power.    Lifehacker quotes a study where playing games, specifically Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes over two months increased certain areas of grey matter in the brain.  Generally increased grey matter has been associated with better memory, while decreased grey matter has been associated with mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and dementia.  Specific areas of the brain that grew were related to regions responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, muscle control and spatial navigation.  Here’s an article from Huffington Post that mentions this brainy video game study and others- 9 reasons why videos games are good for you.

Does Playing Video Games Increase Learning Retention?

Brain X-RaySo if playing games increases grey matter (which we can universally agree is good) and if those games contained educational content, would that improve learning retention?  Similarly what if immediately after playing a stress-relieving game, you received instruction- would that also improve or maximize learning retention?  This blog article by 1 to 1 Schools mentions several instances that notes game play improves learning retention short-term, although video games are too “new” to scientific study for long-term data.  Anyone willing to play games for the good of science?  However, this white paper states active learning increases long-term retention.  Simulation games are a great way of fostering active learning.  It’s all in the design.  Leave us a comment if you’ve played a game that has helped you learn something new or help you learn a topic better.  Do you think in the future that you’ll tell your kids to play some video games before they do their homework?

Infographic about Neurology of Gaming

Video Games Represent the Most Powerful (and Potentially Dangerous) Era

See on Scoop.itgamified2learn
Boy with headphones playing videogame on TV

Video Games Represent the Most Powerful (and Potentially Dangerous) Era in …
Huffington Post
Over the course of one weekend, I lost 12 hours, 42 minutes and 1 second. I don’t know how it happened. It took me like a fever.

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Do you think videos games are dangerous or does it depend on the type of game?

See on www.huffingtonpost.com