Learning about gamification through gamification
Gamification – a concept you’ve likely never heard of, yet it may become the future of learning as we know it, and the solution to the ever-growing epidemic of stressful work environments. Gamification came as a result of one curious thought experiment – what if we included game based elements in non-gaming environments? Research carried out regarding the motivation of youth and the way it fluctuates according to different teaching techniques has shown that young people need a dynamic approach to learning in order to show the best results and keep their attention captive. As such, the best way to demonstrate if gamification and game based learning really work is to put it in practice. Thus came the Erasmus+ project – Gamification Is The Answer.
We found that through techniques used in game based learning, we were able to stay engaged in each activity longer than we would’ve if the we had to stare at a screen and pay attention for an hour and half. With each activity our full engagement was needed if we wanted to succeed and get something out of the activity, meaning that even we felt tired or unmotivated that day, we still had to use our creativity and critical thinking to bring the best of our abilities to the table. This made it so that at the end of each session we left feeling productive and energized. Yet even the most mundane activities require you to stay motivated if you want to finish the task, so what makes game based learning and gamification the key aspect in getting the best results? Simple: game based learning, like the games we play in real life, involves teamwork and competition. Even if you personally don’t care for the task, seeing other teams succeed and get ahead of you makes you want to do the best you can, so you can be the sole winner. As you watch the members of your team put their best foot forward, you feel obliged to do the same and catch up. After all, winning is a team effort. As you fight through competition to be crowned victorious, you don’t even notice how quickly time has gone by, and how productive you have been throughout the whole session. Success slowly starts to become personal to you and by the end you walk away having learned something new. Sometimes this means learning something new about yourself, having discovered an ability you never know you had. Perhaps, you’re a better leader than you thought, or more creative than you could ever imagine. In game based learning, there’s more than just learning about the activity. It allows space for personal growth as well, and it’s through that you find yourself striving for even bigger and better achievements.
Many of the activities we were involved in included role play and putting ourselves in places we otherwise would never think to be in. We had to envision and visualize concepts we knew next to nothing about before, we had to pretend to be in the shoes of those we may have never even met before. As such, we had to think outside the box, outside the confines of our biases and preconceived notions. We had to be objective in situations where we would otherwise be subjective, no matter how personal the topic, we had to look at it from a different, broader perspective. This allowed our creativity to flourish as we came up with ways to demonstrate the way we saw each topic in our minds, helping us to broaden our horizons. We developed empathy through each activity that required us to see the world through the eyes of a stranger, or even a close companion. We may have walked away not yet knowing what we’ve learned, what the purpose of each activity was until it was explained to us, but the imprint it left on our minds was undeniable. In many of the activities we had to predict certain outcomes, which forced us to pay attention to recurring patterns in people’s behavior and strategize. This further played into the element of teamwork, because your chances of success would drop drastically if you didn’t utilize the human resources and experience you had on your side. We saw this clearly in an activity which required every team to work together, yet our desire for furthering personal goals prevented us from doing so, resulting in a loss for every single team. Without reflection however, these lessons weren’t so apparent at first, as they seemed to imprint themselves into the subconscious parts of your mind. Having to bring awareness to these aspects however allowed us to get to know and understand ourselves even better.
For us, expectations were neither exceeded nor unmet. Instead, they were completely subverted. Instead of a project filled with endless writing and work, staring endlessly at PowerPoint presentations we would then have to repeat back to our trainer, we were met with games and activities we didn’t understand the purpose of in the beginning. We walked away feeling like we’ve done nothing, was this really supposed to be a learning experience? Yet at the end, we still had more to say and think about than we ever could’ve expected. This project wasn’t about gamification as a concept, rather it was about truly implementing the concept of gamification, and seeing in real time how it affects people and their ability to stay motivated even through strenuous activities. By simplifying concepts that are otherwise hard to understand, we all had something to take away from the project, without the stress and burnout that’s usually associated with this type of work. Turns out, you really can have the cake and eat it too, even when it comes to study and learning.