‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ This proverb makes immense sense in today’s world where parents and teachers are obsessed with how the child fares in exams. Are grades high enough? Did the child outperform others? Indeed, the demands are high and stakes even higher. In Singapore, like many other Asian countries, higher grades in schools eventually boost the chance of securing admission into a prominent university.
Moreover, for all this to happen, Jack has no other option than to be a bookworm. Parents, too, are happy and content when the child happens to be a devoted student. Studies, however, point towards increasing levels of stress and depression in children as young as elementary school-goers and, in many cases, even leading to suicide. Moreover, hence, there has to be a way that can balance everyone’s aspirations.
Children are naturally drawn to gadgets. As an adult, we know that even a toddler today is well-versed with how to operate a smartphone. It is this natural pull that attracts kids towards cartoons and games. But why talk about games when the focus here is on education? The argument can be that games can be anti-thesis to education. But wait. Not all digital revolution is concentrated on social media and e-commerce. The entrepreneurs of today have come with such solutions that combine gaming and education, making the latter an exciting thing for learners. Gamification is what this is popularly termed. That an interactive game can draw a learner towards learning and development is the fundamental pillar of this concept. Singapore, known for its fast adoption of modern tech, is not far from fully embracing this novel idea of teaching through games. Let us learn more about this.
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What is Gamification?
In simple words, infusing teaching with gaming designs and elements is what Gamification is all about. The kid who would use the gaming console for fun and recreation alone can now use it for learning new concepts. For example, a game that requires kids to arrange random alphabets, then they have to make proper words from them. In the same, the game developer can add a timer so that the player is enthusiastic enough to score better at each level. Moreover, to make it more enjoyable, colors and user interface can be designed to suit the preferences of children. Cartoons and bright colors and an upbeat background score are all elements that inspire more interest. Not kids alone, students pursuing higher studies too find it more engaging to learn via games than the lengthy classroom lectures. GameLead, discussed in detail later in this article, is an example.
Can it become a part of learning?
Having understood what Gamification is, let us know whether it can feasibly become a part of learning. Although it is understandable from the preceding text that games can indisputably made a part of the learning process, how that gets done is essential. Temasek Polytechnic has classrooms where students represent ‘wizards’ and trainers represent ‘masters’. Here, Gamification gets deployed in a manner that when learners give correct answers to questions posed, they can unlock rewards. It is something that cannot get achieved through conventional modes of teaching.
Designed by Dr. Rani Tan of Singapore Management University (SMU), GameLead is one example of how technology has been successfully deployed in the learning process. GameLead’s application can be used on smartphones or any desktop, and it engages the learner in an altogether new way. There are weekly quests for learners that comprise of numerous challenges. The application’s content gets based on learning and team building. GameLead has been recognized globally and won many international awards.
Knowledge Platform, a well-known EdTech company in Singapore, has developed games that have learning as a critical focus. These games use a variety of themes, including competition and missions, to engage the learner. For those looking to make maths enjoyable, Knowledge Platform’s Mind Tussle game comes handy. The game simulates the user to perform fast calculations and simultaneously engage in contests with other users. The user is expected to solve a maximum number of problems in the given time, and the interactive interface stores a variety of information. It includes rankings and user’s progress over a given amount of time. Another game that combines education is Factor Monsters. Here, the learner has to prevent monsters from attaching her/ his house by suggesting the right factor pair. The games are free to use.
Has Gamification changed Education?
Gamification is relatively newer, a concept when one considers other digital advances like e-commerce and social media. The future of Gamification, however, is promising.
Books may not evoke the same response from students as games, as the latter is more engaging and the learner does not get bored. The most significant minus point of learning only through books and lectures is it tends to distract the mind towards other things that appear comparatively more tempting. Games are a likely pull for learners who otherwise find it dull to attend classroom lectures. Imagine learning grammar and mathematics from books. By contrast, imagine a game where the user is first provided some learning and then asked to participate in various quiz and challenges that gets embedded with gaming elements. The latter sounds more promising. The kid will be drawn towards the gamified version of learning since it is both attractive and rewarding at the same time.
Pros and Cons of Gamification
Games as a way to enhance learners’ interest have their share of proponents and critics. There are good reasons to assume that Gamification can be an essential part of education. That traditional ways of learning, which include reading from textbooks and then taking exams, have not provoked much interest in learners, is well-known. Given the choice of attending a classroom or visiting a game parlor, most kids would pick the latter option. Games are inherently engaging. It is their visual appeal that piques the interest of all. Add to this the competition that comes into play and motivates the player to perform better than rivals. Who does not want to win the racing game? The same is the case when games are educational. Who would not want to be the top scorer in a game based on the correct spelling of words?
By contrast, critics can point out the negative impact that Gamification can have. Textbooks, lectures, and classroom exams may be an old-fashioned way of learning, but they are the cornerstone of education. Educational games can be limited and incomprehensive in many ways. First, they can never cover the subject and topic in its entirety, given the gaming theme that limits this. For example, a game based on mathematical calculations cannot explain the problematic topics like trigonometry in detail. Education is comprehensive, and a complete understanding is crucial to master any subject. That said, games can surely be an additional force in combination with textbooks and classroom learning exercises. Secondly, one may also fear a kid becoming addicted to games and gradually falling for non-educational games over educational ones.
Are Parents, Teachers, and Market ready for Gamification?
Parents in the city-state have always welcomed tech in whatsoever form it comes. Singapore has embraced e-commerce and social media. Moreover, now, Gamification or game-based learning is capturing the imagination of all stakeholders. From building these platforms to implementing them for learners, activities to be undertaken are many. Hence, if experts can establish that Gamification in the field of education can bring the best out of learners, parents will surely accept it. That GameLead and Knowledge Platform have found takers in the market is a clear indication of positive response from parents. Many kids, even before being enrolled in schools, are drawn towards smartphones. From watching cartoons to playing basic racing games, kids start using gadgets even before they start formal education. In such an environment, if parents are given the option to swap non-educational content on smartphones with educational content for their kids, they will support the change.
For teachers, games come as a tool to better the outcomes of learning. Teachers know that not all kids take an interest in taking exams and reading from textbooks. Classroom lectures often become boring for kids, and this is demoralizing for teachers. Games here come as a great way of ridding the classroom of boredom and inactivity. Teachers are already using various other technologies in education, for example, virtual reality, and hence, Gamification is easily adaptable. It does not need any intensive training of teachers. A simple session on how the game is to be used is enough for the effective execution of Gamification in education.
Singaporean market is a patron of new technologies. It is the reason why the city-state has been at the heart of social and economic development in Southeast Asia. Players already in Gamification include Training and Development Services (TDS) and Knowledge Platform. The market has yet to mature. With time, many more players expected to become a part of the gamification boom. Once schools, parents, and students are demanding enough to have Gamification as a part of the learning module, Singapore’s market for this sector will see a sure upsurge. Moreover, EdTech Startups and other stakeholders will be motivated to have Gamification as a key vertical.
For now, let us wait and watch how the sector unfolds in the future.