Ed Tech 532 – 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

After  Ted Talk presented by Tom Chatfield it is glaringly obvious that educators can learn a lot from participant interaction and enthusiasm for gaming. The ultimate goal in education as discussed at many faculty meetings is to find the best way to engage learners in the learning process. It is a age old question that has been asked year after year. However, as our technology as a civilized global society has advanced so rapidly over the last few decades, keeping up the trends of the masses has become increasingly difficult. The wheels of change in educational institutions tend to be slower to turn than that of societal norms. Which bades the questions why is gaming so appealing for our students and how do we harness this in our classrooms? One of the major things that the gaming industry has become very successful at is looking at data. The use of the data collected during game play is used to refine game design, maintain gamer interest by mapping trends, and keeping the reward system such that it is challenging while still attainable. The gaming industry is using this data much like educators may use an item analysis for a state assessment for a gap analysis to determine which standards need to be honed in upon. In games the players are given continual feedback throughout game play. The feedback can occur in a variety of ways leading players to the ultimate goal of achieving the winning condition. In the case of a classroom environment, students need timely feedback in regards to the progress so they may adapt and change their approach in order to earn the desired grade in the course they are seeking. These are just but two parallels that the classroom environment can have with game play. The next topic of rewards is much more evident in games than it is in the typical classroom. Elementary teachers are amazing at giving rewards to students to get them to keep playing the game. For example, my daughters first grade teacher uses fuzzy pom poms and buckets. When students are following the rules of the classroom they earn pom poms filling their buckets. When their buckets are filled they can turn these in for rewards such as: bring your stuffed animal to school, being the teacher for the day, or the line leader. These are simple things but in the eyes of my 1st grader they are huge and make a difference for her and her peers in the classroom. In my experience, this sort of reward system is much less evident in middle schools and high schools. This might be due to the fact that the management of this becomes a bigger task when there is one adult rewarding 60 or more students for their efforts in one class at the secondary level verses one adult rewards 19 students at the elementary level. In game play there are typically multiple check points when progressing through a game or short term goals and the ultimate long term goal of beating the boss at the end of the level of play. These smaller successes or checkpoints of achievement lead to the gamers wanting to continue as the dopamine in their brain is released with the excitement of the next unknown. Games are great at getting avatars and sprites to collaborate to achieve a common goal. In the classroom through project based learning and tools such as Google Apps for Education teachers and students can collaborate in a safe synchronous and asynchronous environment that doesn’t need to be schedule or building dependent.

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2 thoughts on “Ed Tech 532 – 7 Ways Games Reward the Brain

  1. davidgibson says:

    Great posting. I agree completely on the data points you make. On the rewards aspect, some people are concerned about “extrinsic” rewards taking away from intrinsic motivation (e.g. doing stuff for money, turns school into hoop jumping) so I’d be interested to see you deal with that problem in your theory.

    • I guess I feel that schools are always coming up with ways to motivate students in ways that reward various desired behaviors. This can be done through a token economy or for the pure joy of learning. However, in the world students are growing up in today with everything realistically at there fingertips the rewards seem to need to be bigger and better all the time. How does an educator compete in the classroom when students have an I pod at the ready to locate information, take a picture, record a video, listen to music, etc. The answer is you don’t compete with it…. you use the power of bring your own device in a reward model and teach students how to use such technology for learning. By having students earn electronic time in school for desired performance goals or behavioral goals this motivates them while not breaking the budget of schools. Upping the anti continuously will just lead to a perpetual cycle of this. Really all students want is a bit or recognition. This can be in the form of a digital badge that has standards based learning attached to it or in the form of a piece of paper catching a student doing something well. The key in either circumstance is to make sure they earn that badge, award, or free I pod time. I have found in my course the badge system in digital form works well in 3D Game Lab.

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