Itamar Shatz presented Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk-taking in the Language Learning Process at the 2015 Metiel Conference in Haifa. In it he discusses two concepts that relate to the cognitive science of learning: risk-taking and gamification.
Mr Shatz argues that risk-taking is a critical factor in the learning process and in particular learning a language. The main point of his paper hinges on a study involving 526 participants where each individual’s a) willingness to take risk is measured against b) their ability to learn Finnish vocabulary words. Not only did those students who measured high (a) increase their capacity, (b) they also had lower levels of anxiety and greater self confidence.
Gamification is the addition of a game layer to non gaming activities. It is actually more pervasive than we think. We see the mechanics visible as leaderboards, avatars, progress bars, and badges. This is where it has received a mixed reception among educators since it is often premised with statements like students find education boring while a game layer can make it fun (Dicheva, Dichev, Agre, & Angelova 2015). Where more interesting results seem to be found are by engaging the design principles behind game play such as social engagement, feedback loops, and (particularly to Shatz’s study) the principle of freedom to fail.
As evidenced in the ubiquitous concept of a player challenging the most ridiculous of monsters to a duel, or defying the most deadly of odds, over and over and over again till the player finally learns to overcome it, risk-taking behaviour is central to gaming. Hence Shatz proposes that game play can be designed into teaching material to encourage and promote risk taking behaviours which will lead to better learning outcomes.
In my practice as an adult instructor, I see obvious applications for the proposal Shatz is making. Particularly in my field of design education since risk-taking is a critical component of the creative process (Ideation). As an instructor I need to encourage my students to explore and entertain risky ideas. In order to do that I see value in adding a game layer to my class in particular targeting the the Ideation stage. This is the stage in the creative process where we are looking for lots of ideas. At the ideation stage judgement is suspended: there are no bad ideas. The point is to push past obvious solutions to discover the truly innovative ones.
This becomes the place where the most points can be accumulated. Students learn to wield a series of ideation techniques such as Mindmapping, Worst Possible Idea, Sketching, Formjamming, Scamper, Analogies, Cheatstomring, etc. The challenge is to generate multiple ideas for each technique against a singular challenge. Students earn points for each technique they master meaning that they are graded on quantity and range of ideas. Zero points are earned for falling into the trap of overworking the quality of individual solutions.
From Shatz it appears that gamification is powerful when it targets specific behaviours and disrupts ways of thinking. Why should I believe it?
Shatz shows his data.
Although his paper was published in 2015, it is cited by two papers from 2018 meaning that it is still relevant and even foundational to other research.
He cites 26 references, much of it journals and peer reviewed papers.
Itamar Shatz himself is now at the University of Cambridge, he has published 6 other papers along similar lines of inquiry and has 30 citations.
Dicheva D., Dichev C., Agre G., & Angelova G. (2015) Gamification in education: A systematic mapping study. Winston Salem State University. Retrieved from researchgate.net/publication/270273830_Gamification_in_Education_A_Systematic_Mapping_Study
How to Fingerspell the Alphabet in American Sign Language. (n.d.) Retrieved May 9, 2019 from wikiHow: wikihow.com/Fingerspell-the-Alphabet-in-American-Sign-Language
Ideation (n.d.) Retrieved May 10, 2019 from Interaction Design Foundation: interaction-design.org/literature/topics/ideation
Scamper, Improving Products and Services (n.d.) Retrieved May 11, 2019 from Mindtools: mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_02.htm
Shatz, I (2015) Using Gamification and Gaming in Order to Promote Risk Taking in the Language Learning Process. Tel Aviv University. Retrieved from researchgate.net/publication/281969734_Using_Gamification_and_Gaming_in_Order_to_Promote_Risk_Taking_in_the_Language_Learning_Process