Mum! I want to be a Zombie!
Why is school so boring and Plants vs Zombies so much fun? Is it possible to add some game elements to learning experiences in order to make them more fun, engaging and effective?
Joining dots? Sure you are!
Kids have changed and it seems all they feel like doing is hanging out, playing video games or doing whatever that doesn't involve school stuff and I kind of understand them. I've also been one of those kids that cannot pay attention to anything but the console screen, because what they are doing is so engaging, and has them totally hooked on it. I've even heard that children have lost their memory and attention skills due to video games and technology, that they have no interest for anything but games anymore or that Generation Y is a lost one...
But...what if things have changed?
Two weeks ago, I was at the Gamification World Congress 2013 in Madrid, and something amazing happened. When the event finished, there was a crowd of gamers that gathered around to see some PRO Minecraft gamers play Street Fighter on a giant screen, and they were totally engaged! Cheering and clapping as if it was the Final of the World Championships!
Besides, if we compare the time spent on studying with the hours played on video games and the results produced by both, we'll realise that there is something wrong in the way that those activities are engaging and teaching children. But do kids really want to learn, or are they just interested in playing games and having fun?
And the answer is that children, as any of us, love learning! They are usually passionate to know more about anything, but only if they have any interest on it! It's quite difficult that someone that has big doses of daily interactivity, social contact, and endless fun in virtual worlds, wants to memorize those boring school notes for 3 hours.
Games are a great source of happiness, fun and motivation, and that's something that old learning methods cannot provide. Because in the end, motivating a kid for studying the whole list of Spain's main rivers with just a textbook, is as difficult as motivating a Formula One or Nascar champion to drive his car at 50 kph in the city. Obviously, engagement and motivation tends to zero.
So...Is it impossible to motivate Generation Y students?
Not at all! We are all so much curious since we are born, and as a kid, everyone loves touching and exploring what surrounds us!
Human beings are passionate about learning but things have changed and we need to change some old techniques that are still in use for learning. Just as an example, go and ask any kid where exactly is the items shop in Animal Crossing, the complete list of their Pokemon's attacks or the way to master those difficult tricks in Fifa 13 and see what happens...
They know them all! It is just so amazing that Generation Y kids are able to memorize complete maps that are even bigger than real life ones, keep in mind thousands of data about their favorite monsters or execute really complex movement combos to beat their enemies, and that's where the power of games lies!
So... Can we extract what we learn from games and apply it to our learning methods to increase kid's engagement, efficiency and motivation?
Yeah! That is called gamification and to sum it all up, it's a design technique to improve people's motivation towards a well-intentioned purpose. If you want to learn more about why gamification works, how to gamify a system step by step or some great videos about it, just explore this blog!
Looks cool but...does it work in real life?
There are quite many examples about gamified learning systems but i like these 3 ones:
- Duolingo is a really great platform for learning english in a very simple, intuitive and rewarding way, adapting the difficulty to the learners current level while focusing on the concepts that students seem not to grasp at once. Furthermore, it offers a full set of points, badges, levels, quests, progress bars and much more. Thanks to its gamified system and its game-like user interface, it's one of the most used learning platforms nowadays and it keeps on growing!
- Quest to learn is a public school located in New York that has been turned into an epic adventure. Mixing old school learning methods and game elements, they have created a successful combination of fun, motivation and efficiency. For example, students can be assigned the quest of searching for an old map at the school library to discover the old secrets of the greek civilization, that will grant them access to infinite wisdom. How cool is that?
- Zombie-based learning is a project started by David Hunter, a geography teacher of Washington that wanted to further motivate his students to study his lessons. In a world where zombies have taken over, how would you survive? Well, aparently, geography might help a bit! But rather than going on about it, visit the kickstarter site here and see the video!
Some final words on it...
So you made it down here! Does it all seem like a madness? Well, no worries, this is quite new and revolutionary, but if you think about it, it all makes sense. First of all, human beings are said to be driven by 16 main motivators and they are closely related to what creates fun in a game (more info here). Besides, if we analyse those factors, we'll see that they are also related to the main elements of happiness (well-being).
Anyway, going back to our initial question, what is more effective and fun at the same time?: to be a zombie that perfectly knows the geography of the place in order to eat our brains out, or memorizing for 3 hours a day the complete list of the world's main rivers and oceans?