Learning Should Be More Like Angry BirdsInspiration
While the idea of gamification of learning has been around for quite some time, new and emerging technologies—such as VR headsets and mobile applications—are allowing the concept of gamification to impact education and workforce training in new ways. In fact, gamification—which is the approach to instruction that facilitates learning and encourages motivation using game elements such as mechanics, game-based thinking, and reward systems—has recently moved beyond the limits of video games and into a broader sphere. From K-12 education to employee development to the government and its communities, gamification has taken hold of all forms of learning, enabling students to engage in a more creative and productive manner.
Due to gamification’s fairly new popularization within mainstream education, there still remain many myths that surround it. First, many people often confuse gamification with technology-based learning—and while gamification is usually augmented by technology, game mechanics such as receiving badges for accomplishing a work-related task could also be considered gamification. Second, many believe that gamification is only effective on younger people, but several studies show that all age groups are interested in games, such as an Entertainment Software Association’s report which reveals that 48% of adults aged 50 and older play video games and more traditional card and board games on a weekly or even daily basis. Finally, there is a common misconception that there is a lack of science behind gamification, but a Georgia Southern University study discovered that using brief, spaced quizzes as a form of gamification increased retention of quiz material by as much as 40 percent, an outcome which ultimately shows that gamification can make use of a plethora of established learning practices—such as retrieval practice and spaced retrieval—to enhance retention of knowledge and learning rates.
Gamification has proven to not only be effective, but also enjoyable. Pep Boys, for example, recorded a 95 percent employee voluntary participation rate for its gamification efforts for all employees. Similarly, popular food chain KFC has recently announced a virtual reality training program designed to educate newly hired employees on how to inspect, rinse, bread, rack, and pressure fry virtual chickens through the use of a virtual reality headset in a mere 10 minutes, as compared to the 25 minutes it traditionally took to train employees. Through virtual reality, companies can step away from traditional training videos and instead focus on training new employees in both company practice and hands-on experience while also gamifying elements such as employee onboarding and staff re-training, cooperation and collaboration, and informing on company policy—thereby allowing employees to retain new knowledge in fun and sustainable ways.
A recent Futuresource Consulting report estimates that the number of students who will have access to virtual reality and augmented reality will increase from 2.1 million in 2016 to 83 million in 2021. With the rapid expansion of this new technology will come a plethora of potential uses of gamification, including the creation of virtual labs, mobile applications tailored toward individual learning, and expansive virtual libraries. The Library of Miss Gadish, for example, is a mobile app that has gamified reading through the use of animations and a reward system to incentivize readers to read books to completion. While there are many other potential applications for gamification, the use of creativity and engaged learning will engage younger students on a deeper level and increase retention rates of information.
Perhaps one of the most interesting institutions involved in gamification, Quest to Learn—a grade 6-12 charter school located in New York—is an educational establishment whose entire curriculum is founded upon game-based learning. In a 9th grade biology class, for example, students may spend the entire school year role playing as workers in a fictional bio-tech company whose job revolves around the creation and maintenance of dinosaur clones, while in an English class, students may work together as “storyweavers” to create collaborative stories through role play. These forms of gamification are not only engaging, but also allow for more flexible learning, and while most institutions do not include as in-depth gamification-based curriculum as the charter school, Quest to Learn’s program demonstrates that gamification can be applied to nearly every classroom.
Interestingly, gamification can also be used to increase engagement between both national and local governments and their communities. In Santiago, Chile, for example, in order to combat childhood obesity, the city created local-level competitions in which 10- to 12-year-olds form teams to earn points for healthy behavior that can be used towards prizes such as a trip to the pool or new playground equipment—a program whose success has spurred involvement from parents as well. In terms of civic engagement, the city of Salem, Massachusetts has created a game called “What’s the Point” that seeks out resident ideas for neighborhood improvements and rewards posts with virtual currency, which can then be used to fund real causes in the community. And in Hawaii, the government has gamified its government employees’ online services by creating a website used by all departments in which employees can create a profile and keep track of how much time, paper, and mileage they saved by completing government transactions digitally—and through a community board, employees can then compete against each other with these stats in order to win prizes.
Ultimately, gamification can apply to all forms of learning, whether it is in training new employees, teaching 6th graders math, or bringing together communities and their leaders. Indeed, through the engaging and entertaining nature of gamification, learners will not only be able to retain knowledge better, but have an enjoyable time doing it—and with new discoveries in technology each day, technology-driven gamification may very well be the staple educational tool of the future.
About the author: Ana C. Rold is Founder and CEO of Diplomatic Courier, a Global Affairs Media Network. She teaches political science courses at Northeastern University and is the Host of The World in 2050–A Forum About Our Future. To engage with her on this article follow her on Twitter @ACRold.