Friday, August 19, 2011

A little more on Gamification

I attended the Games for Change Conference two months ago through the AVI CHAI Foundation's generosity, because I was interested in understanding how gamification could be harnessed to improve student outcomes in education.

If you haven't heard about the idea of gamifying education before, take a little time to watch the video below. It's definitely worthwhile:

While the conference itself offered very little in this regard, the idea of gamification and education has only continued to gain in the popular press. Forbes, and HuffPo have recently posted articles on the subject, and even more recently, EDUCAUSE's 7-Things You Should Know series (Which as an aside is my absolute favorite edtech resource) posted their latest white paper on 7 Things You Should Know About Gamification (pdf).

In was in this zeitgeist, when last week I noticed a somewhat random link on my twitter feed to an article written by Ian Bogost entitled Gamification is Bull... -- (title edited for content) -- The whole post is absolutely worth a read, but the gist of it is that this idea of 'gamification' is nothing new, but simply marketing mumbo-jumbo that makes it appear as if people are changing the status quo and making meaningful 21st change, when in practice it simply conceals and coverups the underlying challenges and problems that need to be changed.

I often feel very much the same when I hear people talk about educational technology and Jewish education, or when I read some of the comments and links on the #jed21 twitter hashtag. Just because we can do something technologically, doesn't inherently make it pedagogically sound. I have witnessed teachers who are masterful at utilizing every single function of an interactive whiteboard, but whose lessons still remain a chalk & talk style that doesn't engage the students. Digital tools are powerful only insomuch as they change the power dynamic in the classroom and place the students at the center. If we harness them to simply to augment the same thing we've always done, we shouldn't expect any different outcomes. The lessons we want to teach are not mimetic, and we need to reflect our pedagogy to fully engage our students.