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Play, the Miracle Strategy

(cue scary music, background shrieking)

In a world where school testing starts in kindergarten and continues, unstoppable, throughout high school, where graduates are rarely well-prepared for the rigors of the real world…

(transition into a happier melody)

research has determined that play, not testing, can nurture youth who are “confident, co-operative, intelligent, creative, and successful.”  To be fair, this information is from a site that focuses on creativity, and one could say that they have a vested interested in promoting play.  Ironically, the post spells out rules for play. One must play the *right* way.

To their credit, however, they do extol the benefits of unstructured play. I personally had the good fortune to grow up a) in a safe neighborhood b) with lots of neighborhood kids around my age, give or take five years and c) in an era so very long ago when children ran unsupervised from after school until the street lights came on.  That potent mix of socialization, creativity and risk-taking is difficult to artificially construct, even in less restrictive afterschool or camp programs.

Not everyone has those benefits.  That is a shame.

 

Gamification Eureka!

badge a paloozaThat is to say, the reason for my discomfort around gamification came to me in a flash (just now). Could it be that the idea of programming awards and incentives smacks a bit of the old-school behaviorist interpretation of online learning that focused on training?  As if we were all transparent stimulus-response organisms just waiting for our ego fix.

Having said that, it appears that providing bogus rewards works for certain apps like Foursquare and a fitness app called “Zombies, Run!”  Interestingly, in that article extolling the benefits of gamification are several training examples:

“Gamification is also employed by businesses to squeeze extra productivity out of their staff. Freshdesk Arcade gamifies customer support, rewarding staff with points and badges for solving support queries quickly and for satisfying customers.  While it’s always nice to clear your support queue, I have to wonder whether emphasising speed leads to more mistakes or a lack of personalisation in customer support responses.”

Mind you, this seems less like gamification and more like applying a game-like system to your real work and quantifying your output for your next performance review. We’re also talking about adults here.

I have heard anecdotally that younger learners (say, age 9 and younger) enjoy competing for awards online.  My hunch: enjoy it while it lasts.



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