Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Gamification of education

Here’s an interesting video which was shared with me by @misterlamb today.

While I’m not thrilled about the use of experience points as group awards (external motivator), I do like the idea of incremental improvement rather than requiring students to make large changes in order to improve. I also get the point that the traditional grading system is poorly designed, and that if we must use some sort of grading system, one that expects improvement through "trying again" is a huge improvement over our "you failed, oh well" system. Further, in a system of levelling up, it would be easier to get away from the notion that how old a student is determines what path they should be taking.

There are some questions I do have about implementation of this kind of system.

  • Would students tend to become specialists in this system rather than generalists? Would they think that because they are doing well in x subject that they can forget about y subject? I’m level 55 in math, but only level 3 in writing, but it’s okay because level 55 is really good! Is this something we should worry about, or just part of the further personalization of education?
  • A huge part of any game I’ve played is the competition between the players. Most games are zero sum, in which one player has to do poorly in order for another to do well. Our comparison system of grades is such an example. In order to feel good about your A, there can’t be too many people who get one, hence your gain, is someone else’s loss. In a leveling system, being level 50 feels better when you realize you’ve beaten other people in the race to that stage of the game. I worry that this type of system might foster more competition than it would encourage cooperation. There are some suggestions in the video on how to counteract this, but none of them seems sufficient to me to overcome this effect. How can we encourage greater cooperation in a gamified classroom?
  • What do we do with a child who refuses to play the game? We have this problem already in education, where there are lots of kids who don’t participate in the classroom because they can see they will "lose" at the game, or the rules of the school game aren’t interesting to them.
  • Should we give points for mastery, or for good learning behaviours? Who hands out the points? How do we ensure that kids don’t find ways to get lots of points without really learning (gaming the gamification system)?