As digitization sweeps across nearly every industry, it makes sense that education will soon be affected, as well. It’s already been happening for the last few years, in fact, as more digital tools and platforms — also known as EdTech — are being made available to teachers and professors.
Many of these educational technology solutions incorporate innovative tools to enrich teacher duties as well as student experiences. This brings up a rather pertinent question: What kinds of new challenges can be delivered to improve learning, in general? Are there strategies that can enhance the quality of student experiences so they retain more information and have a more enjoyable time?
Queue the idea of gamification. It means pretty much what you’d expect: the concept of taking something more tedious and less interesting and then adding game-related activities. So how will this work in education?
Just What Is Gamification and How Does It Work?
As described, gamification is about taking existing activities or systems and incorporating game mechanics, particularly to increase engagement and participation. One misconception about the term and practice is that it’s the same thing as creating a full-blown game, only with business characteristics. That’s not true at all. Gamification and games, in general, are not the same.
In an educational sense, gamification would be about rewarding students for their participation, dedication and progress. You might allow students to create a custom fantasy character, for example, and level it up with new stats and gear as they complete school assignments. In addition, one of the primary drivers would be to ensure students retain more information during a lesson, resulting in a more positive, successful curriculum.
Gamification in education isn’t just about the students, though. The way in which the systems track progress and participation allows teachers to more accurately assess how their classes are doing. In addition, it creates more entertaining experiences for everyone and enables teachers and professors to craft much more engaging lessons.
Here are some popular gamification techniques:
- Leveling or character customization systems
- Player/student scores
- Virtual currencies you earn and spend on rewards
- Live competitions and events
- Virtual gifts or rewards
- Real-time performance and progress stats
- Achievements, trophies or progression alerts
Of course, these examples are just a handful of ideas. There are a variety of ways to incorporate gamification in education settings.
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Will Gamification in Education Help American Students?
The current state of the American education system is not good. Many would even call it broken or decrepit. It’s rife with finance and resource problems, as well as corrupt politics — and that’s before you even touch on the mechanics of the average classroom. Most students these days are distracted and hard to keep engaged.
However, the concepts used for digital games — gamification in education, in other words — might be able to change a lot of that. It can be even more effective when incorporating new technologies, such as mobile devices and tablets or varying forms of desktop computers.
While it may be old news now, nothing has changed since we saw the lowest SAT reading scores of all time. Not to mention, higher-education has become incredibly expensive to the point where many are questioning its true value.
That’s because a lot of progress and performance tends to be measured in testing. The problem with this is that you’re really only measuring a student’s ability to take a test, not their aptitude for various activities or their potential talents. Games, on the other hand, can lock in on certain aspects and traits of a player’s personality. This helps people develop those abilities. Not only does this make things more fun, but is also promotes engagement and keeps players — or students — more involved.
Nearly 80 percent of learners say they would be more productive if either their courses or jobs were more game-like. That level of productivity during a classroom session or course would also mean students can retain more information, hopefully learning a lot more about the topics in question.
To top it all off, gamification isn’t necessarily costly to implement. It doesn’t have to be done through a digital system, either. If schools are already upgrading their infrastructure it’s definitely something to consider. It’s also possible to gamify an experience through physical means. Consider conventional tabletop role-playing games, for example, which avid fans have been enjoying for decades. They also offer varying forms of gamification through leaderboards, minigames and collection events.
Perhaps more surprising is the fact that many Fortune 500 companies have deployed gamification systems, and they’re incredibly successful. Known instances include Deloitte’s Leadership Academy, IBM’s Innov8, Wall Street Survivors, Bluewolf, Keas and Xerox’s Stepping up to Management program.
If it works for the professionals, just imagine how much more effective it’ll be with school-age students.