Gamification in education is win-win

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Fellow students, are you tired of traditional learning? Do you often struggle with exams, holding dates and facts in your head just long enough to regurgitate them the next day? I’m certainly guilty of that. And it’s no way to learn.

While textbooks and presentation slides have been standards in education for many years, they are out of touch with the golden age of technology we now live in. We should use gamification to enhance our learning as well as our entertainment. Picture for a moment going to class and playing games with other students instead of sitting through a lecture.

Playing games can increase certain learning capabilities. In a 2012 study published in PLOS ONE, researchers used an audio-based environmental simulator to teach people with severe visual impairments how to navigate through a real-world maze using audio cues. One group used the simulator in the straightforward method; the other group was instructed with audio cues that incorporated a “goal directed gaming strategy.” People in this “gamer” group were able to navigate to an exit in the real-life physical maze more directly than the other group.

The researchers explained that “the fact that gamers demonstrated superior performance when asked to find their way out of the building by using the shortest route possible (despite a variety of route possibilities) suggests that the gaming strategy allowed for a more robust and flexible mental manipulation of the spatial information acquired.”

If you think about it, games are already teaching topics covered in education. Games like Rovio Entertainment’s “Angry Birds” (2009) or ZeptoLab’s “Cut the Rope” (2010) use a multitude of physics concepts in a fun and engaging way. What if we harnessed this method for use in education?

While some students do well with traditional learning and enjoy reading textbooks, there are a lot of students who struggle—not because of capability, but because of methodology. Not everyone is a born test-taker. Not everyone reads at the same speed or comprehension level. But with advancing technology, we have the capabilities to tailor how we present learning material to level the playing field.

Instead of staring at a textbook for hours trying to wrap your head around a physics concept, what if you could be moving objects that obey the laws of physics in a video game metaphor? Homework could become a fun activity instead of something we procrastinate and dread.

Gaming isn’t just a frivolous hobby anymore. Career opportunities in this field are increasing as more and more gamers turn their passion into their profession. Our next step should be education.

We need different teaching methods that incorporate game-based learning techniques. It’s a long journey to be sure. Integrating technology into the classroom is demanding on an already tight education budget. But I believe the endgame of an engaging learning environment for all is worth the effort.