May 1, 2013

The Debate: Gamification and Education

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Tags: Gamification

As gamification continues to infiltrate our society, it has also reached the education system and is changing the way we learn by employing the new techniques that accompany gamifying systems. Although it excites students by providing a fresh and exciting way to learn something that otherwise might be boring material, many are concerned that it can have a negative effect on its participants, especially younger children. So the debate arises, should we keep learning a personal process with the human interaction of teachers and classrooms or spice it up with exciting games that still teach the underlying concepts?

Positives:

Tech Mastery- Can you remember when they replaced typewriting classes in schools with keyboarding classes using computers instead? Now, it’s practically assumed you are a decent typist before you even enter your basic computer education classes and they may now go as far as teaching you basic graphic design and Microsoft Office skills. Technology advances quickly and it is important for students to be able to use and practice new computer skills before they are thrown into the job market which will require this knowledge (if not more).

Multitasking Frame-of-Mind- In most gaming environments, participants are required to handle and interpret multiple things at once. You don’t always get this in your traditional teaching environment, yet it is a requirement for most jobs to be able to multitask efficiently.

Teamwork- Believe it or not, but a properly set up gamification system can encourage teamwork through building a social network within the game. Most people would perceive games as an isolating activity but there are ways to encourage teamwork through adding a social component into the game itself.

Focus and Planning Skills- In traditional schooling you have deadlines for big projects or papers but how do you keep a student’s focus in the meantime? Gamification can help with this dilemma because in a well-designed game, players become engrossed in the action which heightens their concentration. We all know of people that can spend days straight playing a newly released video game and using is in the educational sense will also play on that same principle.

Personalized Instruction­- A gamification program is tailored to each individual student which allows them to work at their own pace and perfect their work. In a traditional classroom, it is extremely difficult to personalize lesson plans for each student. Typically the progress through material depends on comprehension as a collective, so you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Negatives:

Expensive- To develop an effective and well-designed gamification system, it will cost you… a lot. Between the cost of the equipment, software, and any additional training for teachers/instructors, it will be very expensive to implement. However, after the initial costs, the main financial strain should lessen as long as you don’t incur many maintenance/upkeep expenses.

Limited Content- Since game creation can be rather complex, you would be limited to the content originally created as far as learning material goes. However, we all know that learning is an evolving process and incorporates many different things, so a game may fail to target everything it needs to.  Instead, games are better for focused learning and used as one element of the broader curriculum.

Lack of socializing- A positive of gamification is that it could include teamwork and a social network, but that doesn’t mean it is guaranteed in your specific game. Even if the game does include a social network, you won’t have the same face-to-face and real-time interaction as you would sitting in a classroom with your peers.

ADD­- Attention Deficit Disorder has been an ever-growing problem with children and some like to link the root of the cause to video games. They believe that people exposed to high doses of gaming expect the same quick action and fast results in real life as they receive in games.

Whether you are for or against gamification in education, there are definitely pros and cons to each side of the argument. What may work great for one school might not for another, so it’s important to decide whether implementing a gamification system would benefit your students and enhance learning. If your motive is just to provide a “more fun” environment, you probably won’t achieve an end result of better grades and participation from your students. The real point to gamification is to bring education in a new way and combine it with technology and our human desire to play games in order  to provide students with the best education possible.