[UPDATED] Need to Read: 3 Levels of Gaming in Education

via Thijs de Vries @thijsdevries, creativeseeds.nl

Already a few hundred years before we started counting our years, there was a Chinese philosopher who at that point already understood how we should deal with the transfer of knowledge. Confucius knew that if you want to learn something to someone, you should really involve people in the process. He said:
“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.”.
Wat Confucius around 500 BC preached, is what we nowadays call engagement design. The design of product or services where we really try to involve people so they understand a lot better why things are the way they are.

Shift towards lean-forward media

Only this involvement is not so easy to accomplish. Since the introduction of all kinds of interactive media it is more difficult to focus on a certain topic. In the beginning we consumed media from a sender receiver principle, but now we want to control more and more how we deal with interactive media. We want to influence how media is entering our lives. A good example is the change of the television. The television always had a clear one-way street if it comes to information; the television broadcasts and the viewer is watching (mostly in a relaxed state on the couch). But this one-way street is changing and the viewer becomes more and more a player. Therefore we can now control what we want to see and how we want to see it. Media is becoming lean-forward.

The gaming industry knew already for a long time that dealing with media is not a one-way street. By offering choices to the player and letting him making his own decisions, the experience of this medium can be far more stronger and durable. Good games are capable of holding the attention of a player for a very long time.

Education should also have been on the train to lean-forward media, but never got on board. Television, apps and games are capable of shifting towards this new media, but education seems to have a lot more difficulty getting there. Schools are designed around the old sender receiver principle. A teacher tells his story and the student listens. And unfortunately this did not change. This has broaden the gap between school and home enormously. At home a child has a huge amount of possibilities in games (running, jumping, shooting, aiming, building, breaking, throwing, puzzling, etc.), but at school a student can only sit, listen and write.
But is not too late. There are already several initiatives were interactivity has a big role within education. The first iPad schools are emerging and curricula are getting more interactive. This initiatives seem to work and therefore need to be further developed. But we should also aim for the integrating of games in education. Because these games can provide the right motivation for students which we were seeking desperately for a long time.

Three levels of gaming in education

There are three levels of game integration in education. First complete games can be used in the classroom. These so called serious games can learn students knowledge about several topics. For example math (MotionMath or Lure of the Labyrinth) or English (Check Out learns English for Dutch students). These games are designed in such a way, that students can play these game independently.

The second level is the integration of games during the class, but were there is a clear didactic role for the teacher. These are the ‘games in contact’. These games are no longer single plater, but can be played by several students at once. The teacher has the important role of game master. He can stop the game to ask students questions about the game or ask about specific decisions a student made during the game. Example are the World Peace Game of John Hunter of the use of MindCraft during a class.

These first two levels are about games that are played within the classroom. But what if you would use games outside this classroom? What if you start to see school as a game? The third level describes this situation were inspiration from games is used to transform school. This is called ‘games as context’ or ‘ramification of education’.

Gamification of education

Gamification is applying game elements to non-game contexts. With other words, the creation of an experience were the user pursues clear goals and were this user find himself in a state of flow.
Lets dissect this definition for education. Four concepts are important; experience, user, goals and flow. The (positive) experience is what we would like to create. The student, the user,  is in the middle. This user encounters clear subgoals on his way to the final goal. These subgoals can be succeeding for certain subjects, but also the completion of smaller assignments or receiving a certain status. The flow describes the journey to the end goal and has to feel as a logical sequence of subgoals.
Also this third level has already been successfully implemented in education. For example Quest2Learn, a school in New York who applies flow in their curriculum. Or take a look a the TEDTalk of Paul Anderson  an inspired teacher who integrates gamification in his classes. And the first startups already begun developing products trying to integration gamification in education.

The first results of gaming and gamification in education are very promising. But we are not there yet. To be able to get students, or better players, motivated and involved in school, we must develop more and better games and gamified products. At the moment we mainly focus on the first level, but the second and third level are far more important. We need more attention to games integrated in education and on gamification of education. Because if we can motivate players with games, why don’t we do the same with our students.

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