Cross section of games in education

When I tell people that I am interested in gamification of education, I get a mix of responses.

“I love playing quiz games in class!”
“What is he going to do? Teach them math by playing monopoly with them?”

I don’t know that I don’t mean either of these things, but these are what some people view it as. Here are the different uses of games in education.

Educational Distraction
Its time to play mat ball today!

Playing heads up seven up, or various other such games in a classroom has a use: It is a reward to reinforce other behavior. It can also teach proper social skills. But often it is done for ‘worse’ reasons, when a teacher has some down time and doesn’t know what to teach that day.

Quiz game
“I’ll take ‘tedious’ for 1000 Alex”

Very often I see people using jeopardy type games in classes for test review. Sometimes there will be a sort of ‘red rover’ style game where you challenge the other team with quiz questions and when another team loses they have to sit down if they answered wrong.

Lesson based on a game

Here we actually use a game and teach about the systems behind it: What is the mathematical strategy behind ‘skunk‘. Sometimes things can be learned from ‘civilization’ or ‘trivial pursuit’ (wait… isn’t that like above?) too, it is just a matter of the right worksheet / reflection afterwards.

Games that ask you questions

Or not necessarily asks you questions but requires, w/o teaching to you, the content such as graphing lines through cockroaches to zap them. There was another fully immersed environment that had you running around a troubled town collecting items, but along the way you had to answer progressively more difficult questions to move ahead (with no bearing what-so-ever as to WHY you had to answer these questions to move ahead).

Games that trick you into learning… something?

Some of these are really good. Some of these seem that the content being delivered is residual… or maybe I lack understanding of lower grade band education? Some seem tantamount to delivering education in a somewhat more engaging way than a text book almost like a quiz.

Learning as Natural Biproducts

These don’t necessarily start out as games that are intent on teaching you much of anything, but during the process of playing them, you come out better at something, which was, or was not the original intent of the game. World of Warcraft players, if they’re REALLY into it, can learn about rates, percentages, networking, social structures. I learned a ton about space flight and mythological beings and the occult from GURPS, DnD and Vampire the Masquerade in addition to improving my reading and chart reading and in addition to the social aspects of some of the aforementioned. These just come with the game!

Granted, this also requires a change in mind set… an inquisitive frame of reference. A desire to ask why, or to improve (one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other).

Adding Game Elements

Take aspects of games and then add them to the system. I spoke on some of these aspects at a conference in 2012. Scroll down and find Alexander James. OR just read here… When you think about games I think about

Interesting hook, clear victory condition / objective, engaging content, familiar but new content, interactive mechanics, easy to start / hard to master, good components / sound effects and track, knowing how well you are doing (feedback), difficulty level selection / multiple roads to victory, chance to recover, company willing to change content / make new editions / upgrade components if missing, good local support / tournament support / my friends are playing / all the cool kids are playing it, ranking, badges, rewards for doing well, incentives to keep trying, expansions. Oh and playable in about an hour OR solo-able.

Did I just perfectly describe some of the main strategies utilized in modern education?

Game indistinguishable from curriculum

THIS is my idea of gamification. Say you have a system (in my example… education!). Instead of saying “hey everyone, let’s go to school!” you instead say “hey everyone! let’s play school!” You have invented a game that has many or all the needed (?) characteristics from the previous header. Students care about what they are learning because they care about the game. The game is either such that they desire to learn more or such that they are learning as they are playing. The learning isn’t a distraction from the game, in happens during the game, before the play, after the playing. By completing the game, they will have mastered the content the curriculum would normally have asked of them.

I have little idea how to do this. Perhaps continuing to hold the torch aloft will help others see a path to this goal.

Excuse me while I go contribute my few hours this week to the 3 billion hours a week we spend playing games.

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One Response to Cross section of games in education

  1. nomnomnivore says:

    Heads up seven up was the worst. Even at the tender age of 10, I knew the teacher was stalling for time.

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