Is the gamification of education our only hope?

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 at 6:12 PM
Is the gamification of education our only hope? by The Spectator

Our society is obsessed with video games. We line up at midnight for the newest entry in the “Call of Duty” franchise to be released, we play “Candy Crush” until our fingers hurt and now, we’ll trek all over town, hoping to “catch ‘em all.” According to a 2014 study conducted by Nielsen, video game users, ages 13 and up, play an average of six hours a week. 

Gamification is the utilization of game-like characteristics in non-game situations. Many stores and restaurants currently use gamification systems. For example, when you use your Sheetz card, you have the potential to earn free items. In a similar sense, some used book stores will give you a punch card. For every $10 you spend, you get a punch on the card; when your card is full, you receive $10 off of your next purchase. In a society so focused on gaming, it only makes sense to gamify our education system.

Professors all over the country have looked into gamification, using techniques in order to enhance their lessons and engage their students. Professor Cliff Lampe at the University of Michigan uses gamification in his classes in order to better suit his students’ individual needs. He provides his students with the tools they need to create an individualized approach to his course. For example, if students are poor test takers, they have the option to skip the tests and work on assignments that will help them learn and retain the material. In addition to the individual assignments, Lampe has his students work in groups and form guilds while playing role-playing games.

According to a 2009 study conducted by The Education Arcade at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology, there are three main levels of gaming that can be used effectively in education. The first is progression or using various increments to gain achievements such as points or leveling up. The second is an investment, or feeling a sense of accomplishment while playing. Investment can range anywhere from badges, collaboration or achievements. The third is “cascading information theory,” which is having access to information all the time. Research has found that when students are able to unlock new information on their own time, they are much more likely to continue in the search for knowledge.

The same study concludes that gamification can have endless uses when in a classroom. By using gaming, students are able to use technology, learn about events from different viewpoints, conduct research about topics of interest and much more.

This fall, the National Center for Education Statistics predicts that over 20 million students will attend a college or university in the United States. However, it’s very important to think about why many of those students are in college. There are a number of people on Edinboro’s campus and campuses nationwide that if asked why they’re attending college would respond with “because society pretty much forced me to.” Our society puts so much focus on higher education and getting a degree, but we don’t focus enough on how to revamp our education system and make it more user-friendly for students. As our technological needs change, our mental needs change, causing our educational needs to change.

Back in our parents’ and grandparents’ educational careers, there wasn’t necessarily a need for educational enhancement because the technology we have today was not around. However, once smartphones, laptops, smart watches and all of the newest gizmos came out, we immediately saw a need to incorporate these tools.

Although some argue technology is a distraction, we have the power to use technology for our own good. Gamification in classrooms may sound dangerous, or nontraditional, but in order to stay updated with the newest technology, we must differentiate our classrooms and move away from simple PowerPoint and overhead lectures. Because of the new, stimulating technological devices, you’re no longer able to hold students’ attention with simple lectures. Engagement in lectures and enhancement of lessons is a large step into the educational future, but it’s one that could have positive, lasting effects.

Gamification very well might be the way to bridge the gap between education and technology.

Our Viewpoint is written by Dakota Palmer, voices editor for The Spectator. The topic is agreed upon by the editorial staff of The Spectator. 

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