Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Gamification and Behavioural Change


Part 4 of a Blog Series

  1. Gamification of Life.
  2. Behavioural Economics and Education.
  3. Gamification in Education.
  4. Gamification and Behavioural Change.

In a previous blog on behavioural economics, I stated that students aren’t rationale. Specifically, they need to be nudged into making decisions that might best suit their long-term goals.

Can gamification can help nudge students (and teachers) in the right direction. And what is that direction? A good starting point would be:

Motivating students and raising attainment
Preparing students for a changing world
Improving the quality of teaching

Motivating students and raising attainment 
Games based learning can have a direct impact on performance in terms of subject understanding. I have seen this directly with games-ED products and I have blogged about the “proof of pudding” on a couple of occasions – Proof of the Pudding and Proof of the Pudding Part 2.

Currency (a la reward cards) could focus students on short-term. Why not take a leaf out of retailers’ books? Students could earn reward points for attendance, extra-curricular activities, helping others (students and pupils) and so on. These reward points could be traded in for goodies such as tickets for the cinema – the rewards could be sponsored from local businesses.

Preparing students for a Changing World
Games like The Sims allow individuals to see the life journey of a computer generated character. How about developing a simulation that could function as a game of life / career choice game? Maybe such a game could nudge students to make long-term choices rather than being herded along by their peers and recent events.

Games based learning and more generally gamification can go beyond improving specific subject attainment to improving personal learning and thinking skills. Simulation games allow students to explore the issue of cause & effect. And, if the games are collaborative, students work with others to see the big picture and make connections. In this way, games based learning can improve collaboration plus creative and critical thinking skills. Gamification improves personal, learning and thinking skills and can also be used to tackle specific behaviours.

Improving the quality of teaching
Games as continual professional development (CPD) for teachers – I have delivered over 400 workshops using learning simulations with pixelfountain (read games based learning). I can testify that adults enjoy playing games in workshops. Also, long-term feedback from these workshops confirms that the approach accelerates the development of skills and knowledge and changes behaviours. In addition to offering CPD, data could be saved from teachers’ in-game decision to form the basis of research.

Conclusion
In this series of blogs, I have looked at some of the issues affecting education and aligned these to the move towards gamification and the ideas presented by behavioural economics and B J Fogg’s behavioural model. They have been presented as food for thought and as always I would welcome your comments.

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Further Reading
New Economics Foundation – Behavioural Economics
Dan Ariely (2008), Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,
Dan Ariely (2010), The Upside of Irrationality
B J Fogg, Behaviour Model
Jack Schofield, PC-PRO (2011) - The Gamification of Life
Richard H. Thaler and Sendhil Mullainathan, Library of Economics and Liberty, Behavioural Economics
Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein (2008),  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Gamification in Education


Part 3 of a Blog Series
  1. Gamification of Life.
  2. Behavioural Economics and Education.
  3. Gamification in Education.
  4. Gamification and Behavioural Change.

Overview
Building on a previous blog (Behavioural Economics and Education) that considered education from a behavioural economic view point, this blog looks at gamification design in order to shift behaviours. The argument is focused around B J Fogg’s behavioural model.

Games based learning can have a direct impact on performance in terms of subject understanding. I have seen this directly with games-ED products and I have blogged about the “proof of pudding” on a couple of occasions – Proof of the Pudding and Proof of the Pudding Part 2.

In addition, by providing virtual worlds, games based learning such as simulations improve personal, learning and thinking skills and can also be used to tackle specific behaviours.  So how do we design games and game-like interventions to modify behaviours? And what behaviours do we want to change?

Gamification Design and B J Fogg’s Behaviour Model
If we want to achieve behavioural change then we need to design accordingly. B J Fogg’s Behaviour Model provides a method of understanding how we can change behaviour and specifically how we can design to increase the chance of achieving a likely outcome. The model states that an individual needs to be motivated, have ability and be triggered into action.

The following section considers the three aspects (motivation, ability and triggers) in turn and highlights the design impacts for gamification in education.

Motivation
Fogg’s model puts forward three core motivators (sensation, anticipation and social cohesion) each with two sides.
  • Sensation: pleasure/pain
  • Games and gamification offer a huge potential to make learning fun and effect behavioural change without the preaching.
  • They can be used as a replacement for an existing curriculum activity or they can be used to encourage activity. In the latter the game acts as treat.
  • Anticipation: hope/fear 
  • Game’s competitive elements encourage the players (learners) to get to the end of the activity. This desire to win is probably more crucial than the fun element. In a game, players (learners) will endure frustration and challenges that in other situations would cause them to give up. This is incredibly important as behavioural change is typically something that will need to be worked at.
  • Social Cohesion: acceptance/rejection
  • Different types of games allow different students to succeed. A few years back I took a class in school, the young lad who got the highest score got an amazing reaction from his classmates. The teacher told me later that she had never seen him really engaged before and he certainly hadn’t succeeded at anything.
  • At games-ED, our games are simulations of real world situations and are collaborative in nature.  Groups build their understanding of the game, the wider world and each other.


Ability (Simplicity)
As Fogg states, there are two paths to increasing ability. You can train people, giving them more skills (more ability) or you make the task simpler. Simplicity is the least risky option and is thus the most effective way to change behaviours.

Fogg outlines 6 Factors affecting simplicity: Time; Money; Physical effort; Brain Cycles (mental effort); Social Deviance (going against the norm); and Non-Routine (breaking habits). And he notes that simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at that moment.

Questions for designers:
  • Time: How much time have teachers got to learn products and what slack is there in the existing curriculum?
  • Money: How much do the games costs including hidden costs such as potentially buying kit?
  • Physical effort: Will the games based learning session require decamping to the IT suite?
  • Brain Cycles: Can teachers and students justify the mental effort required?  
  • Social Deviance: games based learning is currently in its early adopter phase. By nature early adopters don’t mind going against the norm (indeed they get a kick out of being the first). But, to be successful games based learning needs to recruit the majority. How can gamification in education be more widely marketed?
  • Non-Routine: Isn’t it just easier for teachers to do what they have always done?

I have covered the answers to many of these questions in a previous blog (Six Key Principles of Games Based Learning), so I won’t repeat them here. But what is worth noting is the seeming contradiction between the need for simplicity AND complexity. Specifically, complexity generates a richness to the gaming experience and provides engagement and challenge yet simplicity is key to usage in the classroom.  As a designer, I have squared this circle by ensuring that the rules and interface are simple. As such, the game is quick to get into but the model and gameplay strategies are designed to be complex enough to engage and challenge within educational timeframes (hours not months). Developers, who simply reuse entertainment games, beware.

Triggers
Without a Trigger, the target behaviour will not happen. By trigger, Fogg means: cue, prompt, call to action, request, and so on.

He states there are three types of triggers (facilitator, spark and signal) which can be judged in terms of both motivation and ability requirements:

  • Facilitator (high motivation and low ability) such as trainer / walkthrough.
  • Within the context of education the teacher has typically been responsible for triggering activity and behavioural change. Gamification can become another tool.
  • Spark (high motivation and high ability) such as inspiration from a friend.
  • Using devices such as league tables and ideas from social networking, it could be possible to inspire learners into activity and ultimately behavioural change.
  • Signal (low motivation and high ability) – an instruction to act.
  • Providing the gamification intervention has been well designed (it is simple), then it might be possible to make actions autonomous. This maybe a medium term goal.

In reality, a combination of all three triggers is likely to be required, dependent on the complexity of the intervention and the magnitude of the behavioural change.

And the story continues…
My next blog (Gamification and Behavioural Change) considers some ideas for nudging students (and teachers).

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Further Reading
New Economics Foundation – Behavioural Economics
Dan Ariely (2008), Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,
Dan Ariely (2010), The Upside of Irrationality
B J Fogg, Behaviour Model
Jack Schofield, PC-PRO (2011) - The Gamification of Life
Richard H. Thaler and Sendhil Mullainathan, Library of Economics and Liberty, Behavioural Economics
Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein (2008),  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness


Behavioural Economics and Education

Part 2 of a Blog Series

  1. Gamification of Life.
  2. Behavioural Economics and Education.
  3. Gamification in Education 
  4. Gamification and Behavioural Change.

Behavioural Economics Primer
Before I delve more into gamification and behavioural change in education, it is worthwhile doing a quick primer on behavioural economics.

Behavioural economics considers the weaknesses in the standard economic model which assumes that individuals are rational and behave in a way to maximise their individual self-interest. Writers such as Thaler and Mullainathan suggest that “the standard economic model of human behaviour includes three unrealistic traits—unbounded rationality, unbounded willpower, and unbounded selfishness—all of which behavioural economics modifies”.

Irrationality: We are not robots and our decisions can be swayed by factors such as overconfidence, optimism, recent events, unlikely events and extrapolation. We are loss averse (a bird in the hand may not be worth more than two in the bush). And we can fall foul of mental accounting (where individuals frame value relative to their income, another product or a suggested number).

Lack of willpower: Drug dealers know it, gym owners know it, fast food restaurants know it, but do we know it? If we only had the will power we would stop doing things that are bad for us and start doing things that are beneficial for us. Unfortunately, we are habitual in our nature and our herding mentality means we tend to go with the flow when making decisions.

Selflessness: As Thaler and Mullainathan state, “Although economic theory does not rule out altruism, as a practical matter economists stress self-interest as people’s primary motive.” But this approach does not explain the huge numbers of people that give to charity and volunteer. But, as the New Economics Foundation put it, “People are motivated to do the right thing”.

Behavioural Impacts in Education
In a rational world students would put the least amount of effort in to gain the necessary qualifications to enter the professional world. The market for skills would drive students’ efforts and individuals would be magically allocated to the perfect job.  But markets don’t always run smoothly in the short term and as already stated individuals don’t always behave rationally.

Quite the opposite, students behave irrationally. They are overly influenced by short term results rather than long term goals. Their expectations can be framed by the students that they study alongside and the subjects they study rather than the wider world. Presentation of information, specifically grades, can lead to optimism and an unrealistic view of the future.

Will power has a huge impact on success in education. Handing in that course work on time, doing revision and (for some students) even attending classes require a huge amount of will power. And herding is ever present in education, as pupils are influenced by their peers. Creating a short-term reward system rather than a long-term hope system might generate improvements.

As in the real world, selfishness is a limited educational strategy and collaboration plays a huge role in success. Students need to work in groups; sharing knowledge and giving encouragement. Encouraging these behaviours improves performance and develops employability skills.

As Dan Ariely notes, individuals behave irrationally but in predictable ways. Gamification in education can utilise this fact both in terms of design and achieving behavioural change. Instead engaging students as though they will make the rationale choice (study hard, get the highest grades they can and develop the life they want) educators need to delve further into the psychology of their students.

The story continues…


Further Reading
New Economics Foundation – Behavioural Economics
Dan Ariely (2008), Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,
Dan Ariely (2010), The Upside of Irrationality
B J Fogg, Behaviour Model
Jack Schofield, PC-PRO (2011) - The Gamification of Life
Richard H. Thaler and Sendhil Mullainathan, Library of Economics and Liberty, Behavioural Economics
Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein (2008),  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness


Gamification of Life


Jack Schofield in a recent article for PC-PRO notes that “the techniques developed in computer games are finding their way into shopping, education and the workplace … Gamification is one of this year’s big technology buzzwords, and some people think it’s going to go global.”

The article doesn’t explicitly state it, but much of ideas about games and changing behaviours are based on nudging individuals to make one decision rather than another. And by nudge, I am referring to the title of a recent book by Thaler and Sunstein that considered the issue of behavioural economics and how it can improve decisions about health, wealth, and happiness.

My next few blogs are going to expand on these issues:


As ever with my blog posts – these ideas are work in progress.


Further Reading
New Economics Foundation – Behavioural Economics
Dan Ariely (2008), Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,
Dan Ariely (2010), The Upside of Irrationality
B J Fogg, Behaviour Model
Jack Schofield, PC-PRO (2011) - The Gamification of Life
Richard H. Thaler and Sendhil Mullainathan, Library of Economics and Liberty, Behavioural Economics
Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein (2008),  Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

GETideas: New Look Web Site

Home page of GETideas.org
GETideas.org have recently revamped their website. For those of you who don't know about GETideas.org, they provide anopen, online global community for 21st-century education leaders that exists to foster Global Education Transformation–the “GET” in GETideas.org–via virtual collaboration and international dialogue, including the sharing of best practices and resources.

Contributors to the site  include distinguished education leaders, innovators, visionaries, strategists, and practitioners from around the world. They offer an opportunity for thought leaders to share ideas - see  http://getideas.org/programs/featured-thought-leaders/. I recently wrote a games based learning article for them, which you can find at http://getideas.org/thought-leader/let-the-games-begin-advice-for-educators/.

Also, the site content is in part membership driven, so why not join in the conversation: join up and tell everyone who you are on their members' profile section http://getideas.org/members/paul-ladley/profile.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Sugata Mitra – Four Implications for Games Based Learning


I recently listened to a talk by Sugata Mitra at the Education Technology Conference in Leeds.  I am sure you have all come across Sugata Mitra – he is widely known for his Hole in the Wall experiments carried out in India, which the inspired Vikas Swarup to write his debut novel Q & A, which later became the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

By the way Sugata’s talk followed a similar format to one given at TED (Ideas worth Spreading) – Child-driven education, which you can see below.


When listening to Sugata , I was struck by four implications for games based learning: 


1. Generating Interest: Sugata discussed his work with Arthur C. Clarke, who pointed out that “if there is interest, then education happens.” Games based learning can generate a lot of interest. And a lot has been written about games based learning and its ability to motivate and engage learners. I won’t repeat those points here, but what I will say is that games can suffer from being too interesting. Specifically, the design of the game needs to support the learning process – see blog post “Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning”.

2. The role of the teacher: Again, quoting Arthur C. Clarke Sugata said that “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine; should be.” It is worth noting that Sugata doesn’t believe that teachers can be replaced (well not yet), but he does believe that teachers shouldn’t be the purveyors of mere information. He believes that is what Google is for. Instead, they should inspire and help pupils analyse what they have found. Teachers can provide scaffolding and expertise, this particularly true in collaborative games based learning products such as games-ED. As game decisions are input into the game (at a class level) the teacher can ask questions such as, “Why did you buy that?” Game reports can be analysed by the students and the teacher – “What worked, what didn’t and how are we going to improve things this round?”

3. The method of the grandmother: Inspiration can come from unusual quarters. Both in experiments in India and Gateshead, Sugata discovered that students could achieve dramatic results (20% increase in test scores) just by being encouraged by an adult – “wow that looks good can you show me again”.  Again, this isn’t to say that teachers aren’t required, but it shows how important inspiration is in the education process. Games based learning can motivate learners by presenting both an interesting narrative and a competitive challenge. The role of the teacher, as previously stated, is to provide scaffolding and expertise, but they should also simply nudge the players along rather like a grandmother. By moving away from rigid traditional instructional method, teachers allow the students to work together to construct their understanding. See blog “Learn by Doing”.

4. The power of collaboration: Key to Sugata’s learning ideas is the power of collaboration. In his experiments, he encourages the students to work in groups of four with one computer. He believes that the key to delivering improved education outcomes is generating conversations. I completely agree and as I written previously in a blog titled “The Art of Conversation”, collaborative games based learning anchors conversations and enables students to learn complex subjects quickly.



Imagine Counselling


One of the Directors of pixelfountain (games-ED) has started a new venture called Imagine Counselling. Now this blog post could be a cheeky plug for Mary Dees and Imagine Counselling (which it is) but it also does have some bearing on games based learning.

Mary recently used Sustainaville (a games-ED product) in a workshop session. I blogged previously about this workshop (https://games-based-learning.com/2011/06/they-are-ok-are-you.html) so I won't go into too much detail. In brief, though, the workshop was run at ITA National Conference 2011. It examined the Transactional Analysis theory of life positions. It explored conflict and collaboration including existential and behavioural life positions in both 2 and 3 dimensions using the Sustainaville games based learning product as an anchor.

Mary and I believe that games based learning / serious games and Transactional Analysis can be used to deliver organisational change - click the following link if you want to know more about Organisational Transactional Analysis.

Imagine Counselling offers counselling and psychotherapy located in Mellor, Stockport: close to Marple, Marple Bridge, Romiley, New Mills, Glossop & High Peak, Stockport & South Manchester and Tameside.