Education finds Gamification

Below you will see an amazing infographic designed by our friends at eLearning Infographics, which provides you with a brief overview of the how the concept of gamification came to be what it is today. In an effort to provide you with a better understanding of who we are and what we do, we thought it would be helpful to provide you this outline and fill in some of the blanks.

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As you can see from the above progression, the advent of gamification began in the business sector. From the S & H Green Stamps to the loyalty programs of travel industry giants, these games were meant to motivate and engage. By appealing to our natural human desire for contact and interaction, marketers led their audiences to view traditionally non-social entities as playmates. As our preferred methods of play developed, those companies and organizations looking to bank on this new client-clientele relationship had to become more creative. During these early years, computers began to come into the fold, and humans were now developing social customs to coincide with stimulating (albeit non-human) interactions. Here we see game developers like Thomas Malone and Mark Lepper, his co-researcher, begin to explore the merits of gaming in education.

This, my friends, is where the interesting path to Digital Nomads Edu began. While games were utilized by companies for employee motivation as early as 1900, the landscape of games had changed rapidly. By 1990, people could play video games at home; children who spent endless allowance dollars in arcades could now enjoy those same virtual experiences in their living rooms. The immense public demand for these household gaming inspired new research in the study of video games.

Developers and manufacturers wanted to understand what it was about these games that inspired players’ deep concentration and intense customer loyalty.  In 2002, the Serious Game Initiative was formed by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Initiative encouraged both companies and individuals to explore new ways to put games to constructive use, and research into possible applications in public policy, health care, employment training and education was soon underway.

Over the following decades, game developers explored how school curricula could be infused into virtual reality. Games like Oregon Trail, Number Munchers and Math Blaster paved the way by serving as interactive companion learning tools. While, the trend did not catch on immediately, the tenacity of these pioneers helped build a solid foundation for Digital Nomads Edu. Many educators and parents feared the repercussions of what they considered to be a bastardization of traditional learning. It wasn’t until the 2007 birth of the non-profit learning design organization, Institute of Play, that those barriers began to crumble. In 2009, they partnered with the New York City Department of Education to build a non-charter public school with a revolutionary method of teaching. Quest to Learn was designed to experiment with technology-based instructional design methods in place of the customary classroom dynamic. With grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, these innovators have been successful in teaching sixth and seventh graders through purely game-like methods. The material of every lesson is delivered in game-like form and students are challenged to use problem-solving skills, along with the guidance of teachers, to learn the information.

This novel understanding of games as learning tools is exactly what inspired us here at Digital Nomads Edu. Currently, educational role-play games are limited to children in the early stages of their learning development. As a result, it is assumed that changes in learning methods are less likely to have a disruptive effect on them. It has also been assumed that adults learn best in whatever way they have always learned. Therefore most gamified study tools geared toward adults operate on a skill-and-drill technique similar to early computer-cased instruction.

At Digital Nomads Edu, we challenge these assumptions. We argue that the positive use of gamified training tools in business is evidence that adults would be up to the challenge of changing their learning dynamics. Despite the demanding and specialized nature of material from higher education courses and industry certifications, we see our resources as the next step in the evolution of games in education. Why not enjoy the learning experience? We argue that academic study should be a source of enjoyment for the student, not penance for fulfilling their dreams.

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