Learning well is eating all your vegetables. This represents a common, implicit, and completely flawed belief of a large number of people who continue to think of learning as anything but a game. The ongoing reluctance on the part of many working in the broad area of ‘education’ to consider the relationship between learning and play is borne out in the structure of institutions themselves, right down to the design of classrooms, curriculum materials, and assessment regimes.
There are notable exceptions of course, and there is arguably more openness to playful learning when students are younger, but there seems to be an invisible threshold that is crossed when rote learning and disproportionately valued exams become the preferred, bland flavour of pedagogy. This is in some ways an unfair generalisation, but exaggeration can serve a point – and no doubt many readers’ perceptions of ‘being a student’ – whether or not they are anymore – may well match up to this. Everyone remembers a time when they were disengaged. People are not avoiding lectures these days to catch Pokemon… well, that’s not the only reason!
Are lectures obsolete? Harvard study found attendance drop-off from 79% to 43% (still pretty high from what I hear!) https://t.co/DVDPEsHGPy
— Adam Brown (@digitalzones) November 23, 2016
The latest episode of Our Gamified World focuses on Ubisoft’s Rocksmith, which on the face of it has nothing to do with the kind of crisis of engagement gestured to above, but does have everything to do with learning being fun. Playing music generally is fun too, of course, so a lot of complementary factors go hand-in-hand here. Rocksmith was first released in 2011 for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, allowing players to play songs and mini-games to enhance their skills. A 2014 sequel expanded Rocksmith‘s compatibility to be useable with bass guitar.
As it happens, Danielle and Adam went very different ways in life when it comes to music. Danielle invested and grew her raw talent to front the progressive rock/metal band Hedron. Adam never let his music career move beyond air guitar and renditions of Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ at family gatherings in the middle of August. But despite their innate differences, Adam and Danielle were able to come together to chat about Rocksmith…
As the above episode highlights, the use of game elements and the tracking and personalisation of one’s progress are used to great effect in Rocksmith, and the ‘head-fake‘ learning approach it promotes has a lot of value for educators in many contexts. A number of teachers are catching on to this, and the innovation arising as a result is as exciting as having a single go to the top of the charts (for a teacher, anyway). Learning might not always be fun, but there are many more opportunities to make it so than are currently taken advantage of. As Danielle said, ‘You have to eat your vegetables, but let’s just cover them in sugar!’
Or at least make a vegetable pizza…
Disclaimer: This blog is in no way intended to promote unhealthy eating. If reading this blog has given you cravings for chocolate-covered bacon (this is seriously a thing America?!), please visit our earlier blog on gamifying health and fitness.