In the Forbes article "The Video Game Blurs the Line Between Education and Entertainment," a game that can enable middle schoolers to strengthen their pre-algebra skills while playing is described....

In the Forbes article "The Video Game Blurs the Line Between Education and Entertainment," a game that can enable middle schoolers to strengthen their pre-algebra skills while playing is described. Is this a passing fad or perhaps only the tip of the iceberg in this style of teaching and learning?

Expert Answers
sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Is the "gamification" of education a passing fad or the tip of the iceberg?  

I'm going to say both, but I need to explain why.  Ultimately, it will be a passing fad, but the fad may last for many decades.  I've been teaching long enough to have seen and been through styles of teaching that have been around for many, many years, and I have seen long standing, traditional styles of education begin to fade out.  I believe that given enough time, any current style of teaching and learning has the ability to go away.  Games to learn math through isn't any different.  I believe the better question is how long will it stick around?  

I believe that it will stick around for a long time.  I do indeed believe that it is the tip of the iceberg.  For example, the school that I teach at is in the second year of one to one education.  That means every student has a laptop.  My school is not the only school in San Diego to do this.  It has to be stated that the way teachers in my school address their content has changed because of the technology.  For example, our technology class has students design working apps for Android, Chrome, and Apple.  Sure, we teach the basics of how to code, but the majority of that learning is done through a game that teaches students how to code.  That is then followed by the students using trial and error within the actual coding programs.  The curriculum works much better than traditional lecture and test.  

Science classes make use of Google Maps and the satellite view to see how rivers and deltas really look.  English classes use timed racing games (with virtual cars) for vocabulary review.  History classes make use of apps that have students design quiz shows.  The quiz show is displayed on the big screen monitor, and student teams have to select the answer (digitally) before another team does.  

Education conferences are becoming more and more focused on how teachers can integrate technology and "gamification" into existing curriculum.  I have even presented at a Google Conference on how I integrate into my own classroom.  Many companies are designing and selling self contained digital curricula that seamlessly attempt to blend traditional education with teaching and learning games.  Schools are slowly beginning to adopt things like that, but many of them are in their infancy.  They will only get better and more popular.   

In addition, the Forbes article even admits that the blurring of teaching, learning, and gaming is probably a good thing.  

Done responsibly, it may in fact be a good thing to blur the line between education and entertainment.

As more and more educators realize the benefits to learners that games for education offer, the more teachers and schools will ask for it.  Add that to the fact that companies like Amplify are for-profit businesses.  As more and more companies like Amplify realize there is a market that can make a lot of money, they will start competing very hard for school money.  The products will get better because of that, which will in turn increase demand.  The entire process will become cyclical, which is another reason that I think educators are seeing the tip of the iceberg.  

pnrjulius eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's no fad. It may take longer than a lot of the optimistic proponents predict, but gamification in some form is the future of education—and probably business in general.

How do I know this? For one thing, it's already happening: eNotes itself is highly gamified. I "earn points" and "gain levels." You wouldn't have seen that even ten years ago.

Why do they do this? Because it works. Games are spectacularly good at motivating humans to do things, even highly complex, difficult, and otherwise tedious tasks.

Indeed, not just humans—mammals in general. Playing games fulfills some deep cognitive function in mammals that is still not well-understood (much like sleep, as a matter of fact). We've hypothesized that playing games may contribute to learning or social bonding, but found scant evidence of either. What we do know is that almost all mammals play, and those that play more tend to survive better.

Game designers have honed their ability to make tasks motivating and enjoyable over literally thousands of years—from the invention of Go to the release of Fallout 4. There is something fundamental about the structure of gaming that taps into the human capacity for motivation and learning.

We already use games to teach many subjects, and even to make progress on complex computational problems (like protein-folding) that are easier for humans than computers. This is going to happen more often in the future, not less.

Whether we will literally apply video games to learning is less clear, but I think it's quite likely. Video games offer a level of immersion and interactivity that simply can't be matched any other way, and may finally offer us a true replacement for face-to-face, one-on-one education (which is clearly the best form of education, but way too expensive to give to everyone). So video games are likely to be the medium where gamification is most successful—unless we go to full VR or holodecks, of course.

I can't tell you exactly when this will happen—it could take years or even decades. Many attempts at it will surely fail, as always happens with any new technology. (Ever heard of Betamax? But Blu-Ray worked, now didn't it? Both were made by Sony.) But I'm quite certain it is coming. Games could turn out to be as important a technology to the future of learning as books and pencils.