I like the idea of games in learning, generally speaking. Why shouldn't learning be fun? Set the capitals of the states to music, turn the stock market into a game, great. But lately the eLearning community is all aflutter about the gamification of learning. Game this. Video that. Avatar all the things!
Sure, I think there's a place for games in learning. Yes, I think to some degree games can improve learner engagement. But what about retention? What about actual knowledge gain? And mostly, what about the message we, as eLearning developers, are sending? Should everything be a game?
A game-based school for 6th graders opened in Los Angeles. It looks like attending the school would be a blast. But I have to wonder how kids attending a school where everything is a game are going to turn out. Will they be motivated to do anything if there's not a prize at the end? Will the students want to learn for the pure joy of discovery and the attainment of knowledge, or will they always only be focused on leveling-up? What about when they enter the workplace? Will their jobs need to be set up on an instant gratification game system? Or will it even matter, because at that point all of our job training and all of our work will be gamified as well?
Conversely, maybe these kids will go on to be super-motivated brainiacs because they "learned to learn" in an environment based upon fun and games. I certainly don't know. What's concerning to me, is that I'm not sure if anyone knows. Are we gamifying things because it's the new, fun, thing to do? Or are we doing it because it works? We'd love to hear from you.
I have mostly questions, and no answers. I've yet to come across any research that goes beyond how gamification can be applied, instead focusing on whether or not gamification works. What I did find was an interesting survey conducted by the Pew Research Center (Gamification: Experts expect 'game layers' to expand in the future, with positive and negative results). I found it interesting because it looked at gamification from both sides, pointing out that some industry experts think gaming can be "fun, useful, increasing engagement and personal improvement" while others say it can also be "manipulative, insidious." Because it was only an opinion survey, however, there was no statistical data on whether the gaming is working.
Check out this infographic from Knewton about the Gamification of Education. Looking for more? Here's an infographic by OnlineSchools.com that goes into a little more detail about gaming in education. (And, if you'd like to know how to make your own infographic, check out this blog post on using PowerPoint.)