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Anil Saccaram: Make a Difference with Gamification

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by Anil Saccaram
Expert Educator Columnist, Mauritius

I would like to start my first blog #mieexpert2015 by sharing with you my experience with game-based learning and gamification. A lot of researches have been carried out on the benefits of game-based learning and the literature review shows a mixed feeling, some find it very beneficial while others are more cautious and find substantial drawbacks. It is true that game- based learning is not always the best strategy because it is quite difficult to find off-the-shelf games which are tailor made to suit the school curriculum and meet the specific learning objectives set. Also, it may happen that due to lack of proper supervision and monitoring students give more attention to the game side than to the pedagogical interest in playing these games.

However, gamification, which is the inclusion of video game design and game elements in learning environments (Wikipedia), can be a more interesting path to explore as you can fix your own objectives and design your activities accordingly while at the same time retain similar motivation and engagement from pupils as when playing commercial games.

anil1Game is fun and pupils derive much pleasure in engaging with the game. Motivation is intrinsic to the player’s will to beat the game. While interacting with the game, very often, a player has himself as challenger and this create an atmosphere free of shyness, inferiority feeling, shame and blame. For shy and slow learners such a secured environment is very conducive for learning. They are able to explore new concepts at their own pace and go over an activity as many times they want until they have mastered it before moving to the next stage.

Playing games is addictive and can be the drive to push a player to dare and go beyond his limits and experience “flow”. Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity (Wikipedia). During the flow state, as Prensky summarizes it, it happens that the player unconsciously and intuitively comes to find solutions to overcome a problematic situation; such situations which he himself could not think of being able to overcome before. When pupils start experiencing “flow” they gain in self-confidence and their self-esteem grow exponentially and they achieve immense progress.

What I find more especial with gamification is not only this ability to reproduce this immersive experience within a pedagogical context but at the same time it creates an authentic learning environment where learners get first-hand experience to develop 21st century skills. Playing games is a complex process of learning by doing which involves a constant process of reconstruction and re-evaluation of hypotheses and strategies in order to win over the game. While playing, the player has to quickly select, process and retain relevant information coming from different sources simultaneously and to act on them to produce the best response almost instantaneously to be able to move further in the game. This is a kind of experience unique to gaming environment.

Furthermore, while engaged in a game, the learner builds up knowledge as he proceeds from one stage to another. At any time in the game, the learner must be able to relate and apply what he has learnt previously to the present situation to be able to move further. This makes his learning process more relevant and meaningful as compared to a traditional classroom situation where very often the student does not get this opportunity to apply and evaluate the new knowledge gained in genuine situations.

Such conditions, where the learner has to work under pressure while at the same time perform a lot of parallel processing and above all enjoy same, is a unique feature to games only and is very difficult to create under normal traditional classroom conditions. Harnessing this power of games in the classroom can bring a new learning experience and make a difference in engaging the digital natives in developing 21st century learning skills.

To illustrate what has been said above, I would like to share with you a game-based learning environment which I developed some time ago for my pupils learning English as a foreign language.

I hope that you will find it useful. #mieexpert15

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