Monday, June 18, 2012

Gaming and Learning

Now, gaming and learning is a huge topic for me. I'm an educator (to be), and an avid gamer. In addition to the stigma that gaming receives from the 'mainstream' community, I am also a woman. Female gamers receive additional stigma from the 'mainstream' gaming community, which is ridiculous. Despite this vicious cycle, I still consider myself a proud gamer- no matter what anyone else thinks about it.

While researching for my essay on behaviourism as motivation, I went back to the topic of gamification. Gamification is the use of game design techniques or mechanics to enhance non-gaming contexts- such as school. There are a lot of naysayers about 'turning education into a game' and how students already spend enough time gaming at home. The truth is, elementary schools already use forms of gamification in their classrooms. Do all of your work? You get a sticker. Fill up your chart? You get a certificate. These response-reward pairings are basic behaviourism, so why not develop it further and take it beyond simple psychology? There is a reason why 400 million people play online social games with only virtual rewards. Gamification can satisfy human needs, such as rewards, status, achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism. It can become a valuable tool for developing intrinsic motivation in students, by using extrinsic motivation to start them off.

A good book on the subject is The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game by Lee Sheldon. He discusses using games as frameworks for delivering the content to students. Instead of "writing an essay" you can "explore". Instead of taking a test you can "complete a quest". The hope is that using the same kind of strategies which make games compelling can also cause the classroom to become even more compelling. 

Gabe Zichermann at TEDxKids discussing gamification.

John Hunter at TED 2011 discussing the World Peace Game.

I came across another fascinating project while on the hunt for gamification strategies- WoW in School. They are a group of educators who have created an after-school programme around World of Warcraft. Aimed at middle school students, it uses the medium of MMORPG as well as Tolkien's The Hobbit to improve language arts- all while following their national guidelines. I think it's brilliant, especially since I'm main healer for our guild's second raid team...Their guidebook is here if you're interested.

While my future little kidlets will most likely be between the ages of 6-9, I think that gamification concepts can still apply- even at that age. I was always a fervent gamer, even at that age (and younger!). It is the exact age-group which already uses behaviourist motivational techniques already, so I think that a motivated teacher could make a gamified Foundation Phase class thrive- see Gamification, your first grade teacher was onto something.