“Play is the highest form of research”
The subject of gamification in e-learning is currently a hot topic. You can even take courses on the subject. This is an area that I definitely need to investigate further and one that I am keen to experiment with in my design work.
I am a keen believer in creating engagement through play. When one researches learning products for young children, game-play is prevalent. Think back to your time in infant school for example, a large part of the teaching is done via games. But once we all get older, from primary/junior school, through into senior school and then college and university the
learning experience gets much more serious and game-play is lost. I recall reading an article some years ago that highlighted academic research that proved that game-play in adulthood has enormous benefits to mental and physical health. Read more on the subject here.
There is a great French language e-learning game-play based example that I found today at Digital Dialects.com. You can try any of the courses for free and as such this is a great resource that I will re-visit when developing my practice 1 design work. The courses that I tried varied in graphical complexity and sophistication but in the main used bright colours and unusual animation to assist learning. I need to really consider the use of colour and animation in my design work.
In further researching this field I found a slightly contradictory and challenging blog post that questions whether ‘game-play’ stimulates learning, or just having ‘fun’. The author, Marek Hyla, Senior Manager at Global TD&L Innovation Center, Lead in Accenture Capability Network, questions the process of awarding points and achievement badges etc. in e-learning games. He states that the novelty effect of these schemes will wear off after a short time. He also raises the interesting point that games inherently create losers – is this a healthy concept to nurture? Marek goes on to state that:
“There are many activities which introduce us to the process of heavy engagement and concentration and which intrinsically force us to do things. They have nothing in common with points, badges, and leaderboards, and sometimes they are quite far from the “game” idea:
- Why do you enter into the flow process while playing with you son with LEGO?
- Why do you like to play piano?
- Why do you lose control of time while watching the next, long awaited part of Star Wars or reading the next Harry Potter book?
- Why do you like to color the coloring book?
- … or to play Solitaire?
- … or to play basketball? (OK – some of you maybe do it for points and winning the game, but I like to do it just for the pure fun of playing).”
Whilst some of Marek’s suggestions are open to interpretation and opinion (for example you may find playing the piano fun – but you would still benefit from a gamificated e-learning course to teach you how to better play the piano), he makes a good point about ‘play’ versus ‘game’. Games should not be about gaining points, league table positions or indeed about creating winners or losers – but about engaging learners in play and enabling fun. Something that I would like to achieve a good balance of in my design work.
Interloc is a company that I found that takes the concept of gamification one step further – it’s not just about points and league tables, nor is it necessarily about ‘having fun’. It’s about creating opportunities for collaborative research and discussion with your peers.
“Interloc realises Digital Dialogue Games for learning and thinking through combining synchronous group interaction and personal activities. The dialogue games promote critical and creative discussion, reasoned dialogue and collective inquiry within the digital landscape. The approach has proven educational value that has been demonstrated through over ten years of research within the Learning Sciences.”
Interloc states that critical thinking is essential to learning and also to Professional Development. The software on offer gives structure to the learning of these skills through interpersonal and personal tasks.
This does make me consider that learning is not an activity to be carried out in isolation. Gamification should definitely act as an instigator of shared and collaborative research and learning and should not create a culture of winners and losers.