Gamification in Education: the good,the bad, and the ugly

6

The good…

  • Gamification can help at any educational stage
    From toddlers identifying colors, letters and numbers, through to teenagers learning algebra, to student pilots using simulators.
  • Gamification helps both ways of gaining knowledge: being taught, and self-learning
    With self-learning, especially when it’s online or digital, gamification provides badly-needed interactivity between a student and the ‘instructor’, even when the latter’s actually just game-based logic. It can also help teachers, by reducing some of the responsibility to keep students motivated and involved, and providing welcome variety in pace and style.
  • It can add layers of engagement for students
    Gamification can increase understanding. Instead of just reading on the topic, students are actually doing something while going through the same content. It can also increase awareness, putting students into scenarios that make them do and understand things which, in normal computer-based training, they might ‘tune out’.
  • It can work outside the classroom too
    Gamification can reward many school-related issues, not just knowledge acquisition. For example students with perfect attendance records, or who hand in all homework assignments on time, could earn bonus “points”, which can accrue towards some form of reward scheme.

The bad

  • Repetition can reduce interest
    The problem with some gamification schemes is that, once the initial novelty has worn off, they can become repetitive and actually disengaging. This matters if you need students to use them several times to gain sufficient depth of understanding.
  • Losing and learning don’t always mix!
    The point of education is to motivate students to achieve. This doesn’t necessarily sit well with ‘games’, which usually involve an aspect of losing as well as winning.

The ugly

  • Gamification can get in the way
    Gamification is meant to add an aspect of interactivity to a task (i.e. learning or understanding something). Pure gaming, on the other hand, is pretty much an end in itself. If the balance tilts towards the latter, then a student isn’t benefitting in a genuinely useful way. They’re just playing.
  • If the gamification is poor, it can adversely affect how students perceive the content
    Students are savvy and ruthlessly aware when something’s inferior. If they regard the gamification element as ‘rubbish’, then their opinion of the content it’s meant to support could also be tainted.
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