Gamification in school education: an analysis of recent trends

Do you remember the times when mobile devices and other technologies didn’t sufficiently enter our daily life? Predominantly we were controlled by curiosity and some wishes to learn new details about the world around us. Each new day was just a reason for discoveries. I would not like to trick anyone, but this need accompanies us nowadays as well. But it happens differently; most of us don’t use paper books and encyclopedias; almost all answers are on the world wide web, which is entangled in its networks, so that’s impossible to get out of them.

Each historical period has its own established cycle. The development of human culture isn’t static. Society changes the vector of directions. It’s difficult to find anything that happened twice because the world is changing, trying to adapt to the conditions surrounding us.

What else characterizes modernity? First of all, it’s the highest pace of life, with constant movement and noises. The “slow living” method is no longer suitable for people. Everyone seeks to realize their ambitions in some work-life areas and find themselves. The active one replaces the passive one. Secondly, it is the virtualization of both daily life and our work or study life. We constantly access our smartphones or computers in almost all of these industries, thereby consuming new information every day. This is not always helpful and not always harmful.

The most controversial opinion is caused by such branch of the digitalization process as a videogame. For most people, they are just a Time Devourer and don’t lead to any productive results. However, their accessibility has changed modern society’s approach to the perception of information and the way of life in general. People began to find it challenging to concentrate on something if there wasn’t some high level of involvement and active participation in the process. It is becoming quite arduous for us to adapt to the area. The motivation to complete a particular task is relatively low and lacks attractive charges and unique methods of encouraging their solution.

On the contrary, the gamer feels more significant during the game process. His or her performance of specific assignments is inspired both nominally (which can be certain coins or inventory for the game character) and in reality (support from other players). This motivates you to earn more and more points during each new round, and each new goal becomes harder to get, which allows you not to lose interest in the process. It seems that a person has never been as productive and interested as in the process of playing. But how can this efficiency be transferred to other spheres, which, among other things, are utilitarian? For example, education?

With education and the involvement of pupils or students in the process, it has become much more difficult. For the most part, schools and universities today are just one long series of requirements, standards which is only an obstacle for students and their motivation. Especially for kids, absorbing the culture of video games, it becomes even more challenging to survive during the learning process than for previous generations, not belonging to the digital age. They need to be engaged in the process, have fun, and obtain a valuable result for their future life, and that’s an area that, as a rule, is lacking in modern education.

No doubt, this problem has long been noticed by educators. And they, trying to overcome this difficulty, decided to integrate games into the educational process, to make it more attractive and interactive for pupils. The solution was gamification in education. It represents the addition of game mechanics in non-gaming industries, like business, education, medicine, etc.. This phenomenon is still just a beginning to emerge mainly in Western culture, especially in the United States. Still, gradually it is beginning to be applied in the curricula of other countries.

On the one hand, game contexts and methods used in such areas are sufficiently motivating and allow us to immerse ourselves in the learning process. On the other hand, they still control our behavior to some extent, introducing specific patterns to us. Indeed, although the material becomes gamified, the ultimate goal of the result of activity remains the same — gaining knowledge, becoming a diligent student. The only difference is that a student becomes interested in the process itself, and the vector of emotions he receives shifts from negative to positive. By making learning a game, educators and educational experts strive to provide students with new meanings and benefits that will encourage them to return to learning again and again.

What methods can we classify as games, and how do they help in the educational process? These, for example, are various flashcards that are used to memorize foreign words or other point information. The method of using cards is quite exciting and valuable since they allow you to activate various types of memory: mechanical (when writing the cards themselves), visual (we constantly look at the written information on the card), as well as auditory (when pronouncing a word aloud or if in the process playing in the card, each of the players pronounces a word) and emotional (positive impressions of the game, which can also have a competitive nature — who can name more comments from the cards). I always use this method when I study German or English, so the words are memorized well. It is also actively used in various educational applications and platforms, such as Quizlet or Anki app, which shows its growing popularity among teachers and students.

Another exciting method of gamification in education is the use of student rankings. This way is also no less effective. In some ways, it can even be compared to earning points in video games. It’s the same here, only points are warranted for specific educational tasks (doing homework, speaking at conferences, and likewise), while they also give a particular benefit to the students. The top of the ranking can receive privileges with further payment for tuition, the opportunity to get on an additional course for which there is high competition, or other options. In Russia, at the moment, a similar teaching method is used at the Higher School of Economics. This system is quite convenient for organizing the educational process: as in computer games, the student understands what his goal is, what specific actions need to be done to achieve it (for which points can be obtained), and how these actions can be measured (how many points you can earn), which significantly simplifies the cognitive load.

In computer games, gamers are not lonely. They are always participated in a specific community along with other players. They have a common goal, a common problem, and share resources to solve it. As a result, they have to work together to develop the most correct and successful strategy. This method has also moved into the field of education, and it is called brainstorm: if a problem is posed in a lesson, students try to come up with a solution together in the process of discussion. Most often, they stick all the proposed ideas on various stickers or write them out on a different medium, and then discuss which of them could be most effective and valuable for solving the problem, and which ones would be just a waste of time, which is not even worth testing this hypothesis. Brainstorming does not only contribute to the activation of creative thinking but also allows you to learn how to work in a team, solving conflict situations and other problems, which in turn helps to develop soft skills, which are not given much attention in education, even though they can play a more significant role in career development.

Video games are also often used in teaching. For example, professors at Harvard University have created the EcoXPT game simulator, which allows students to learn how ecosystems work. The simulator itself is a kind of virtual world in which the primary mission of students is to discover patterns in the states of ecosystems when broadcasting specific indicators. Their main activity is collecting data from water bodies or other resources, studying methods used in natural laboratories of scientists, conducting experiments, formulating particular hypotheses, and testing. So, playfully, students immediately in practice learn simple ways of studying ecosystems that will be useful to them in the future.

Besides, gamification in education can be considered not only as some introduction of games into the learning system but also as the transformation of an educational institution into an ecosystem where the game will permeate all spheres — every lesson, every activity, and every task, all of them must be organized according to the scenarios of multiplayer simulators. So, in one of the New York school’s Quest to Learn, the entire learning process is a kind of game quest, which each student must go through. For them, homework in mathematics is a daily mission to solve the code to the safe, which is in the library, and each student also has a certain number of skills that he or she can share with others. Secret missions, levels, exchange of special knowledge, points, knowledge levels — all these methods used in the Quest to Learn school are very effective and contribute not only to the involvement of students in the process but also to their emotional attachment to learning.

I haven’t identified all methods of gamification in education. Still, even having given a small part of them, I believe that the process of learning must be transformed from a passive process into an active one. Though it seems hard to introduce game processes in some areas and subjects of study, it is worth trying to do this. I suppose that the knowledge gained during the game process will not only be fixed in theoretical terms but also allow students to gain some certain skills: communication as well as creative thinking, teamwork, the ability to solve non-standard situations. All these qualities will undoubtedly be helpful to them in their life after training.

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