Monday, January 11, 2016

How To Change The Education System: Gamification

At a simple level the education system can be considered a competitive platform game of levels, tests, rules, players and outcomes.

Players enter the game with cards they have been dealt and use these in the grading tests that divide the players and determine their fate.

At each level players must learn and remember specific things on which they will be individually tested - performance in the tests determines whether they can stay in the game and whether they can win enough points to gain access to the next level

The education game is a big investment with high stakes - performance in the grading tests is life changing - for some its a life sentence certified as failures for some its a life enhancement certified as winners.

Its no wonder that educationalists have taken to gamification and that the education system is comfortable this  - gamification is no threat to the way things are.

Performance managerialism exploits gamification to disguise, promote and condition thinking inside the box to reinforce conformity and control by authority using the rules, tests and finite outcomes of the game. At its worst data obsessive compulsive managerialism turns the education game into a Red Queens Rat Race of spiralling workloads from endless rules, tests, reports and the need for data that forces players to run ever faster just stay in the same spot on the treadmill. The players become exhausted - the game becomes everything - education has been played - its a strategic win for management and a loss for education.

While the Fins are changing their education game few countries have this type of political vision - for most they will need to change the parameters of the existing game and use the machinery of the education system and its penchant for gamification to bring about change. The power of gamification is all to evident in the UK education system - set up league tables and watch schools jostle for position, set up targets and watch the players attempt to hit them. The power of the system can be used to bring about change - the type of change depends on how the game is rigged - e.g. whether the game sets students to act like machines and memorise times tables or race with the machines using technology to carry out mundane tasks and develop as people as humans.

Education can be a game changer but first we need to change the game - ultimately this requires political vision!

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