Gamification is finding its way into almost all walks of life. At GamEffective, we’re concentrating mainly on solutions for the enterprise, but we’re always keeping up to date with the latest innovations and advances in our field.
One of the most fascinating areas that could be transformed by gamification technology is education and the school system. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? School is all about discipline and hard work. We want our children to know that there’s a time for games and a time for seriousness, and muddling the two seems quite strange, or even dangerous.
Well apparently, for no good reason.
One of the things that games are best at is achieving a state called ‘flow.’ This is described as a state of total focus on the task at hand and was initially described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. For flow to be achieved, several conditions need to exist. Firstly, a clear goal, or a set of several goals. This allows for structure and a sense of direction. Secondly, it is important that immediate and accurate feedback exists, since it allows people to change their actions in accordance with the desired results. Finally, in order to achieve flow, a person has to be dealing with a challenge that is at an appropriate level. If it will be too easy, they will be bored, yet if it is too difficult they will become frustrated.
Imagine going through school while experiencing this state of ‘flow’, and having education feel like a playful and enjoyable endeavor, that contributes to growth and development. Many education innovators believe that the experience of school can be one which resembles this, instead of the stressful and anxiety ridden experience many of us might remember.
Many educators see gamification as a great way to achieve flow in schools, where many times classrooms are crowded and noisy, and attention is easily disturbed. Gamification also helps teachers in getting children out of their normal routines, which in itself can help students achieve a state of novelty and flow.
When you think about it, gamification has existed in education for ages. What are ‘gold stars’ if not a gamification mechanic? And how about the competition between different ‘houses’, prevalent in parts of the British education system? What’s new here is that technology is being used to gamify different parts of the educational process on a larger scale than ever before.
One great example of an education institution which is trying to implement gamification into different elements of their process is the Institute of Play. The institute is based in New York City and aims to create learning experiences which are rooted in game design. They also help teachers in implementing different gamification mechanics into the regular education system. The institute’s’ first major initiative was Quest to Learn, which is a fully public school that teaches 662 students from ages 10 to 18 and is designed and supported by the Institute of Play.
What institutions like the Institute of Play and others are seeing, is that using gamification has several major benefits, which can be viewed as four major ‘freedoms’ that one can achieve through gamified experiences, and this is also where is becomes super relevant and interesting for those of us who are interested in learning in the enterprise:
- The freedom to fail. Games allow players to experiment, push their boundaries, act out of their normal character, etc. All this comes with no consequences, as it is all within the game.
- The freedom to experiment. Players can try different strategies, and utilize different pieces of information in different ways. This creates curious and inquisitive players who seek to acquire as much information as they can.
- The freedom to assume new identities. One of the hardest things we are all required to do is to view the world from someone else’s perspective. In games, this comes naturally.
- The freedom of effort. Games allow for controlled periods of effort, which are usually followed by times of inactivity or rest. This allows for players to focus for relevant, limited periods of time. They know that they can be “on” when it’s important and switch off when it isn’t.
Gamification in education is a movement which is only beginning. For those reading this who are part of organizations that include many training sessions for employees, I am sure that the difficulties described here are somewhat, if not very, familiar. At GamEffective we’re hoping to ease those difficulties. We believe that training at work doesn’t have to be something that people dread. Rather, we think that it can be a facet of work-life where people feel that they’re developing and acquiring new skills.
This can create organizations which are constantly growing and improving, and where there is no need to constantly be looking for new talent because the talent that already exists in the organization is on a constant improvement path.
This post dealt with ‘flow’ and the freedom that gamification and games in general allow. In this post’s second part, I’ll elaborate on what can hinder gamification interventions, and what should be avoided for successful gamification implementation.