Calculus on a Console: Is Gamification the Solution to some of Educations Biggest Problems?

In 2011, It was found that 91% of children aged 2-17 in the U.S. play video games as a regular past time. Project officer Sam Keat discusses how this conceived problem can be used to address some burning issues in modern education.

There’s no doubting that the vast majority of youngsters – and even adults – would rather pick up a controller and play their favourite game than open a textbook and learn about a certain subject. Often recreation outweighs education.

In this presents the crux of the problem with education: how do you motivate a student to learn about a particular topic when they would much prefer to spend their time indulging in video games?

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Many figures – including keynote speaker and author Yu-kai Chou – believe the approach known as gamification is the solution to this pressing issue in education.

How can gamification help?

For years, education at a variety of stages has found itself at a stand-off with student motivation levels. With certain pupils it can often feel like getting blood from a stone to try and get motivation towards learning a topic.

The motivation to do something recreational neutralising the lack of motivation to do something worthwhile – resulting in a motivation to learn; the holy grail of education.

However, the gamification of education approach helps scale this obstacle. Essentially cancelling out the perceived negatives of both gaming and modern education – the motivation to do something recreational neutralising the lack of motivation to do something worthwhile – resulting in a motivation to learn; the holy grail of education.

Yu-kai Chou is an advocate for using gamification in education, and uses the octalysis approach for defining and cataloguing motivation. Of these 8 key drivers, meaning, accomplishment and empowerment are key factors that apply to education.

Accomplishment keeps students motivated

Accomplishment is often considered the core driver that is missing from education. Lack of immediate rewards and obvious short-term accomplishments can often alienate students from wanting to learn.

Yet, this doesn’t necessarily mean that students should be given a physical reward – such as sweets, badges or certificates – every time they complete a deadline or get a question correct. Chou believes clear completion of challenges and activities that exercise creativity are more of a realistic and dedicated accomplishment for education gamification.

Implementation of this factor in education can provide the important motivational driver that’s missing

This is founded on the idea that people don’t play a video game purely for the in-game points and badges. Instead the accomplishment comes from the feeling that something has been achieved, such as defeating a boss which gives genuine scale to an achievement. This feeds the argument of intrinsic vs. extrinsic value – intrinsic value taking a better fit in educational accomplishment.

Therefore, implementation of this factor in education can provide the important motivational driver that’s missing. However to keep this finding realistic, the platform that this education is presented should be game informed as opposed to game based.

Game based education can often be poorly designed, overly-specific and a distraction from the goal. This is why gamification in education is often game-informed as opposed to game-based: using the principles of video games to structure leaning and teaching as opposed to developing a complete education video game.

Fear of failure is disillusioning students

Gamification can also address another issue in education. Dr. Alfred Boyd, Jr. of Mississippi Valley State University believes that gamification can change a student’s relationship with failure; alleviating their fear of failure by adopting the trial-and-error approach of most video games.

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In many popular video games, such as classic first person shooters, death in game (or failure in this case) is often quickly undone via an instant respawn. This instils the game-player with the belief that the death (or failure) is not the end of the world, but you can restart the game immediately after. Therefore fitting in with a trial-and-error approach as opposed to no-room-for-error.

Dr. Boyd Jr. believes this approach should be an incentive in education: replacing the no-room-for-error mentality conveyed by exams, punishments and demerits with a softer trial-and-error approach. This therefore avoids the fear of failure and ridicule felt by many students, which ‘will cause many a student to refrain from asking questions when they need to.’ This fear of failure can even become ‘demoralizing enough that children will just give up, deciding they are stupid or “bad at school.”’

A trial-and-error approach as opposed to no-room-for-error.

The softer trial-and-error approach to learning aims to replace the ‘fear’ of failure with a belief that it is a necessary part of a learning process, just as ‘dying’ in a game serves as a stimulus to change the players approach – ‘an opportunity to learn from the mistakes and improve’.

Thus, taking the game informed approach of gamification, if adopted correctly, can be an incredibly powerful method to address the fundamental problems in education.

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The University of Exeter’s Education Incubator scheme. Promoting pedagogic innovation and collaboration with an aim to enhance learning across the University and beyond.

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