I admit it. I’ve been posting to LinkedIn because of the active
captive audience there. Are blogs dead? Discuss.
For the record, here’s one from last month: It was not, how do you say, a hit, but I still like it. I hope you do, too.
Waiting for the zombie rebirth of gamification in education
A recent article in EdTech magazine crows about the death of gamification in education. Let’s amend that statement and say that perhaps, for now, gamification is not the white-hot strategy many intelligent analysts thought it would be back in 2012. But like McRiblets or New Coke, this practice could very well return seasonally, or disguised in a new wrapper.
For the uninitiated, gamification is the practice of applying game-like mechanics to non-game actions. For awhile, gamification was the easy answer to flat sales and/or lack of user engagement across verticals. Want to increase grocery shopper loyalty? Introduce a game with possible instant and cumulative rewards! Need to drag your employees to training sessions? Dole out badges based on performance and attendance!
In educational circles, gamification seemed like a sure-fire way to entice reluctant learners who bolted at the sight of a book but who were more than happy to spend hours mastering the intricacies of World of Warcraft or Call of Duty: Advance Warfare.
Why I hate it:
Gamification relies on principles of behavioral psychology and neuroscience to entice engagement, not on meaningful content or an experience that can stand on its own. It’s BF Skinner disguised in, well, a new wrapper. Behavioral psychology techniques can be great for training, but are disastrous for more intensive learning.
Why it may return:
My reluctance to stick a fork in gamification and call it done are in part the reasons cited for its fall from grace: “We don’t see it making the mainstream,” an analyst in the EdTech article says. “For most people, it’s just too hard to integrate and there are no tools to make it easier.”
A few things to keep in mind:
* The analyst quoted is likely associated with the New Media Consortium’s 2015 Horizon report. The report is typically written by about fifty participants, and while it is a great and necessary read for anyone in ed tech, such recommendations need to be taken with a grain of salt.
* In the past when there have been no tools to accomplish something, you only needed to wait about two or three years for the tools to emerge. Websites, blogs, videos, and even simple game mechanics were very difficult to construct and maintain once upon a time. Now the barrier of entry is extremely low, with abandoned blogs and websites littering the margins of the Internet. I bet that someone will create a platform for designing gamified experiences by 2018.
* Designing learning experiences that are intrinsically valuable and meaningful can get expensive. It would be so much easier to hand out virtual prizes once a user reaches a given benchmark of achievement than relate informational content to local contexts, or personalize learning, or create dynamic teams, or… just about anything.
Given the logic behind this obituary of gamification, I would not be surprised if the concept crawls its way back into the spotlight in a few years’ time. Thoughts? Comments?