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How games can transform education

  • Published at 07:44 pm May 5th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:15 pm May 6th, 2018
How games can transform education

The world is headed towards difficult times, especially when it comes to education. It is no secret that suddenly education systems, worldwide, are suffering from multifarious crises with regards to funding, management, quality, and sustainable impact.

This is largely due to the shifting infrastructure in technology and communication systems, which is not only disrupting established businesses, but is also changing necessary skills and requirements for employment-seekers.

Traditional classrooms are becoming redundant. Today’s lecture-teaching methods fail to prepare students for digitized work spaces, making them even more vulnerable to an uncertain artificial intelligence-dominated job scenario of the future.

To cope and prepare with these changes, many education start-ups are partnering with educators to create online platforms for public educators and learners. And the approach that is currently gaining traction is called the gamification of education.

Gamification is “the practice of making activities more like games in order to make them more interesting or enjoyable.”

Why gamification is needed

There is an increasing concern among education trend analysts that “most academic programs are not moving fast enough. They are not moving fast enough to update and align their curriculum with the new demands of today’s workforce,” says Sam Caucci, an entrepreneur in New York.

Using interesting interfaces, game techniques, and breaking complex goals into simpler tasks, gamification can revive the downhill trend in the impressions of what it means to be learned, educated, and well-equipped with knowledge.

Gamification of education is a sophisticated strategy for education managers. For example, Khan Academy employs level up and progress tracking mechanism integrated into their interfaces. Coursera offers online courses which do the same thing, with sophisticated, advanced level courses. Duolingo and Memrise teach language through flash card and interesting mini-games.

“The goal of gamification is to attract the attention of trainees, increase their interest in solving educational tasks, and understanding how to apply the received knowledge in practice” explains Anadea (software development company).

How it’s done

At this moment, a lot of research is taking place on how to gamify educational platforms, to cater content to learners, and to retain interest. While gamified education systems deal with massive numbers of users, they also need to have quality interfaces and authentic educational content.

Creating a single platform for learners of all levels may be difficult, as different demographic groups may need different kinds of attention hooks to suit their skills, expertise, and motivation. However, some common rules can be applied.

The first is to quantify the curriculum into small lessons and tasks. These tasks can be connected through narratives which would retain the interest of users. Small, evaluative quizzes can routinely assess the skills and needs of the users and suggest reading materials accordingly.

This can be achieved by metrics of learning, quantified values of levels, points, and achievements. Users themselves should be able to track their progress and choose lessons. More importantly, users should be able to emotionally identify with all these lessons and should feel attracted to return to the gamified platforms to learn some more.

Generating bonus assignments can also ignite interest for discovering hidden gems within the digital curriculum.

Furthermore, such systems should allow collaboration and positive interaction between other learners. Scoreboards promote competitiveness.

However, they should not distract from the learners’ primary objective, which is learning, and acquiring skills for the self-development.

The interfaces should also monitor and regulate time spent on the platform so that users do not get affected by the prolonged use of gamified environments. Therefore, opportunities to take breaks and return later should also be integrated in the design.

All in all, it should push learners to perform more and better, until he or she becomes competent to engage in a real world environment.

Such platforms would serve as simulations of the real world within a safe digital environment.

Lastly, the system should instill a clear value -- that there is no end to learning.

Scoreboards promote competitiveness. However, they should not distract from the learners’ primary objective, which is learning

Who are the main players?

The role of teachers is very important in this platform. There is a growing concern that gamified systems will render teachers jobless. I believe such concerns are not valid, if teachers consider educating themselves with innovative platforms.

In this way, they can guide their students in using the gamified platforms.

Furthermore, they themselves can contribute to the research of interface, mechanics, and design of such platforms and sustain their livelihood.

The role of parents is important too. While students will be constantly learning from a digitally interfaced environment, parents have to actively teach the humanistic elements to help their children grow as good human beings. Communication and leadership cannot be learned solely through interaction and online lectures. It has to come from families too.

Digital platforms may develop the skills of a student through providing factual information and thus structure his or her thinking, but parents have to give flesh to these structures, otherwise such initiatives will not fully succeed.

Policy-makers have to be pro-active. There is no shame in agreeing that traditional education is no longer enough. It is time to embrace the emerging technologies and platforms for the better.

To new beginnings

Public education could get a massive facelift with gamifed education platforms. A national level education system can make use of such systems to control and set curricula, design gamified lessons, make use of generated data, and easily identify the need of individuals and specific demographic groups. Such data can help to identify demographic needs and direct job market towards certain directions.

Policy-makers can also make better use of the data to correlate with national strategies and budget.

Also, it will be easier to detect fraud in public exams and avoid corruption, thus entailing accountability for all stakeholders.

However, those who administer such systems have to be very transparent, and the policy-makers have to be honest in their intention to promote digital learning.

Looking forward

The government can fund local start-ups and assign teachers as researchers for such purposes. In such a case, my personal recommendation would be to avoid bringing in external consultants and programmers and utilize the talents of our own young entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic about such projects.

It is my firm belief that such a project will be able reach out to millions using the existing cultural and technological infrastructure.

It is just a matter of choice to embrace this emerging global trend in education management and lead the nation towards a safer and better future.

Muhammad Mustafa Monowar is Assistant Manager at Bangladesh-China Power Company Pvt Ltd.