Should education be a game?

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  • November 04, 2010

The TED talk below discusses the motivational mechanisms that drive people to contribute valuable personal resources to gameplay. Tom Chatfield asks the question, how could we use these motivational theories to improve the way the world works? After the video I will lay out some thoughts I had in response.

Tom already mentioned the most obvious candidate for an application of gaming motivational theory, education. I am currently halfway through my final year of a Commerce degree in Entrepreneurship, and I can confidently say that the experience of getting a degree is neither fun, motivating nor even intellectually satisfying for most people. The industrial era model of sending batches of students through a system to learn the same things as each other in order to compete for the same job with the same qualifications just isn’t relevant any more. I propose a system capable of allowing a student to start without knowing what they want to do, leave and return when they want and ‘graduate’ when they are ready.

Any teacher can testify to the variety of student aptitudes present within even a small class of 30, let alone a student population of 20,000 as found in many of our universities today. Does it make sense for all of the students within a study unit to attend the same number of classes for the same period of time? Why can’t we just attempt the exam first with a couple of days to cram and see if we can pass it? I can personally attest that on several occasions I have learned more about a subject in the day before an exam than in the whole semester of study preceding it. Of course there are the arguments for memory retention, but the current system doesn’t score too well there either…

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

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  • Andrew says:

    Brilliant! I like the idea of the grand, underlying build up of ‘xp’ or knowledge, in the case of education, being used as an incentive. The only problem with everyone being doing what they need to do and graduating when they’re ready is how to organise the whole thing and stopping there from being loopholes.

    • Adam Ellison says:

      Perhaps the answer would be to make part of the game “a fixing the game game” if you get what I mean! The system could evolve to self manage with a big enough population ironing out the anomalies (wikipedia style). Imagine having a 2nd year (university) project that was designing a challenge for the first years! I reckon it would be awesome!

  • Gae says:

    Have you ever seen peer-wise? It’s a web-based program used by some unis where students write multiple choice questions for their peers, which are then answered, rated and commented on by others in their class. I guess that’s kind of heading in the direction you speak of. I found it very motivating, but I know there are loopholes people could find to affect the results if they wanted to be unfair.

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