Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hacking Has Been Gamified

Hackers have always been seen as a shady subculture that almost everyone with an internet connection has encountered in some form. Most hackers never gain notoriety though unless they hack major companies or release devastating viruses across the internet.

While most hacking activities have always been underground (for obvious reasons), is bringing hacking to the mainstream. The site is luring hackers in utilizing the same engagement methods as many games, a leader board system. The site claims to be the hacker community’s “first elite hacker ranking system.”

The system allocates points to successful hackers based on the popularity of their chosen targets. Hacking Yahoo! earned one member 37.5 million points, propelling the code-wizard to the top of the leader-board. Hackers win more points for more complex attacks. The website gives veteran hackers greater incentive to compete with one another, encouraging ever more difficult hacks on the fattest targets. It also encourages a new generation of hackers to pick up the trade or raise the overall likelihood of future cyber-attacks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Money Doesn't Grow On Trees At DoughMain

Raising a family is hard work. Between band recitals, karate class and soccer practice you also have to deal with the kids always asking for money for games and junk food. If only there was a way to teach those kids of yours about the value of a dollar.

Enter, DoughMain, a startup that combines family coordination and financial education into a simple, realtime, and gamified platform. It wants to give families across the country a simple solution that allows them to coordinate household activities and, in doing so, expose their children to important financial management skills.
It offers services like an integrated family calendar, a chore tracker, and an allowance (or rewards) tool. Family members can view each of their own responsibilities, as well as that of the entire family, and see what chores still need to be accomplished.

The platform also offers teacher-developed content through safe gaming platforms like, a Flash game that teaches basic money management lessons for kids ages 5 to 9, or through, a multiplayer virtual world where kids ages 8 to 12 manage a family candy stop, or, finally,, a site that features financial content and contests for teenagers. These sites are similar to the multiplayer 3d virtual world in the Virtual Team Challenge that students and classrooms across the nation are competing in while learning about basic business concepts.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Property Investments Gamified

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia launched a website this month that allows Aussies to try their hand at investing in homes. The site is aptly named “Investorville.”

The website is targeted at existing home owners who want to invest in real estate, as well as consumers who already own an investment property. As with any simulation, the website is meant to replicate of the ongoing costs associated with owning a property without the risk of losing capital. Information about the current Australian property market is included from RP Data, a company who specialize in property information, risk management and analytics.

"The properties and data are reflective of the Australian property market and the types of properties available" says Mark Murray, Consumer Marketing General Manager for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

“The really beneficial part of Investorville is that users can, in the true sense of the term, try before they buy.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Codecademy Gamifies Coding

For anyone that has tried to learn coding and failed horribly, there is finally a solution. Its name is Codecademy. Via an interactive interface, users can simply start participating in free simple online lessons on Codecademy -- without any need to sign up or log in.

The startup launched just last week, having been in creation for a week and a half. It is the work of Ryan Bubinski and Zach Sims, a Columbia alumnus and Columbia junior year student respectively. Sims explains: "I thought about the best learning experience I've had, and realized it comes down to motivation and reward systems. The problem with learning things from books and videos is that you're just reading or watching them by yourself, and there's no reward when you've finished."
The interactive interface gives the user points for completing exercises and keeps them motivated." Codecademy's reward system comes in the form of badges, which successful pupils can triumphantly share across the web through Twitter and Facebook. The social aspect is important. Codecademy also has networking options to allow users to code with their friends, monitor each others' progress and keep those essential motivation levels high.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Venti Soy Mocha Latte, With an App on the Side

The last time that the two gargantuan companies Starbucks and Apple teamed up, they gave us “Pick of the Week” where coffee drinkers would obtain a card at their local Starbucks and receive a free song on Apple iTunes. The new promotion will be much in the same fashion, with java junkies being rewarded with a card to download a free app.

The first giveaway is Shazam Encore, an ad-free version of the popular Shazam music identifying app. Shazam Encore sells for $5.99, so these "Pick of the Week" cards available to Starbucks customers are more valuable than the single-track downloads that are typically made available.

Ideally Starbucks will keep these weekly picks coming. It would be a win-win as app developers would receive some welcome publicity, and Starbucks should benefit from an increase in foot traffic.

As smartphone owners grow in number, real-world chains have every right to worry. Barcode-scanning app sand easy access to comparison shopping sites make it easy for in-store patrons to make sure that they're getting the lowest prices possible. Since retailers can't get smartphone owners to turn off their devices the way air carriers do, they may as well engage them.

Serious Play in Seattle

I am off this morning for Seattle where I have been invited to speak at the Serious Play conference at DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Wash.

“A Boot Camp for Serious Learning”
Serious Play Conference speakers will include authors of the latest books on game development and design, the top analysts covering serious games, senior developers of award winning products and project directors already leveraging games for corporate and military training, healthcare and education

My topic

Enabling the Workforce to Create their Own World through Play
Games enhance organizational performance and individual development by translating the dynamics of business into self-led experiences. This session will examine Sims in corporate learning that create authentic, nuanced environments for risk-free practice and skill set development through learning by doing. We’ll look at how games can modify themselves to better “fit” each individual by observing our decision making and problem solving skills to learn what interests and challenges us.

For more information, visit

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gamification Backlash

When teachers gave you gold stars for good work, you were played at school. The stars would be put against your name on the wall, which we’d now call a leader board. This encouraged competition: ten stars might have earned you a sticker or a treat, much like boosts or pickups in a computer game.

In classes based on ability rather than age, you might even have earned enough points to “level up” to a higher class. Quests, assignments, rewards, achievement points, leveling up: these are the mechanisms that underpin video gaming. They’re also the ones used in gamification – the use of gaming mechanics to make real-world tasks more compelling.

Gamification is now being applied in the workplace as the gamer generation moves into the mainstream workforce. It will be up to management, often of pre-gamer generations, to figure out how to educate themselves to the gamer culture, and how to speak to it effectively.

Not everyone believes the gamification hype. Professor Richard Bartle, co-creator of MUD (Multi-User Dungeon), the world’s first multiplayer online game, says that gamification is
currently “just a marketing view: people are doing it because they want you to buy their stuff. When people use loyalty cards to earn points, they’re not doing it because they’re loyal, they’re doing it because they’re being bribed.”

A “gamification backlash”, which is being tracked by Jesper Juul. This links to research that shows people are unmotivated by extrinsic rewards (such as points) and do their best work when the rewards are intrinsic (they like what they’re doing).

Michael Wu, principal scientist of analytics at Lithium Technologies, says three factors drive human action: motivation (the player wants to do something); ability (they have the resources to do it); and a trigger, or “call to action”. According to Wu you have to have them all at the same time. Wu’s point is that merely applying gamification techniques do not necessarily work: you have to design the software to drive actions.

The use of computer graphics for simulation and training, for example, with challenges, a goal you have to achieve, multiple paths you can take, timed moves forward – all those things are familiar video game techniques.

In the future, we’re going to see more companies incorporate those techniques to motivate their employees in a way that is more friendly, and has a better interface. We all want to have fun in our daily lives, and games have been part of human life forever.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hemp Tycoon Stokes Game-Based Learning

The inevitable blend of advergaming, game-based learning and self-parody gets fired up at [adult swim] Online, which Cartoon Network has grown into a lifestyle brand that includes a record label, clothing and merchandise, and an ever-expanding library of games.

Hemp Tycoon is the game with the highest current user rating. As the name suggests, this game parodies Roller Coaster Tycoon and also salutes Farmville. It's depth and its alignment to CN brand are an example of taking the platform to a new level. Stay tuned, man. Visit this great blog for more to feed those late night intellectual munchies.

Meanwhile, tune into SXSW and vote for the latest tract under consideration: Play Time? Kids and Game-Based Learning. Vox Populi says 'sounds like fun'.

Sara DeWitt of PBS KIDS and Drew Davidson of Carnegie Mellon University will weigh in on games in Austin. Their agenda:

There is a lot of talk at the government, industry, and producer level about the promise of games in education, but has anyone really proven true educational outcomes from informal gaming? In this presentation, Sara and Drew will share some of the most effective gameplay mechanics for teaching kids, discuss how challenges and rewards influence outcomes, showcase video of kids engaged in gameplay, present some of the latest theories for skill-scaffolding within games, and share outcome data from real educational gaming evaluations.

Answered How can games help with learning?
What are the characteristics of a good learning game?
What are good learning gameplay mechanics?
Why are games and learning similar?
How can you design a strong learning game?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why Don't People Finish Videogames?

Videogames have grown immensely in the last 30 years to become a mainstream fixture alongside movies and music. But you wouldn't know it by how often players finish their games.

In fact, the attrition (or bounce rate) of video games is pretty pathetic. 90% of players who start a game will never see the end of it. That's a lot of unfinished games.

And it's not just dull games that go unfinished. Critically acclaimed ones do, too. Take last year's "Red Dead Redemption." You might think Rockstar's gritty Western would be played more than others, given the praise it enjoyed, but you'd be wrong. Only 10% of avid gamers completed the final mission, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions.

Of every 10 people who started playing the consensus "Game of the Year," only one of them finished it.
How is that? Shouldn't such a high-rated game keep people engaged? Or have player attention spans reached a breaking point?

Who's to blame: The developer or the player? Or maybe it's our culture?
The correct answer is, in fact, all of the above.

The aging gamer
At the beginning of the 21st century, the average gamer was pushing 30 -- mid-to-late 20s, to be exact. They weren't playing as often as they did in their adolescence, but in between entry-level jobs, earnest slacking and higher education, there was still ample time to game.

Fast forward to today, and the average gamer is 37, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The average age of the most frequent game buyer is 41 -- nearing Just for Men-type levels. They're raising kids. In the middle of a career. Worried about retirement. Not only that, but time is precious for gamers of all ages.

The longer the game, the higher probability a player will abandon it. "Red Dead Redemption" takes upward of 30 hours to complete, according to, and few players are willing to commit that much time.

A glut of games
Not only that, but the accelerating rate at which new games are released cannibalizes existing games and further distracts the already inundated player.

Not only did gamers have more time in the eight- and 16-bit days, but they had fewer games to complete.
Of course, engagement levels vary by genre and difficulty. 'Red Dead Redemption' is the lowest completed high-profile game because it's so big.

The gaming platform has an impact on completion rates as well. Low-caloric and hyper-short web games are finished 85% of the time, according to, a website that helps players finish the games they already own before buying new ones.

Either way, this shifting demand is more than enough to sway developers in a different direction. For starters, they are creating less epic games, at least in terms of duration.

With the expectations so high for visual and audio fidelity, lifelike animations, enemy behavior and movie-quality cinemas, it can take two years for a team of 100 people to create six hours of playable story. At an average burn rate of $10,000 per man month, that's $24 million just in developer cost. You're not likely to find a publisher that will foot the bill for extending that campaign to 20 hours. Of course, why make a 20-plus hour game when most players aren't completing them, as is the case with "Red Dead Redemption"? The answer is, most publishers don't.

Growth of online multiplayer
Which brings us to perhaps the biggest contributing factor in the decrease of lengthy campaign modes. It is this: Gamers may say they like playing epic single-player games. But when push comes to shove, what they really want is online multiplayer.

"The trend of low completion rates is equally driven by the growing importance of multiplayer," says Scott Steinberg, head of video game consulting firm TechSavvy. "Companies are more aware than ever of where and how games are being consumed, and what features players look for. As a result, they're de-emphasizing single-player, which seem to demand lower levels of player time, energy and investment."

Case in point: "Call of Duty: Black Ops." At an average of 67 hours played, it's the most-played recent game by far, according to Raptr, followed by "Halo: Reach" at 43 hours.

But that's not entirely true. What's really happened is that with their change in lifestyle, gamer tastes have evolved. Instead of "Zelda"-like games that take longer to start and resume, they're more inclined to play stop-and-go titles in bite-size games.

The future? Shorter games
So it's come to this: People have less time to play games than they did before. They have more options than ever. And they're more inclined to play quick-hit multiplayer modes, even at the expense of 100-hour epics.

Is that a problem?

Not at all Steinberg agrees: "Just because you don't slay the final boss or rescue the princess doesn't mean you can't see most of, if not all, of what a game has to offer in the hours leading up to it."

Gamers are already warming to the idea of shorter games. Many games now have a 40% to 50% completion rate, thanks to 10-hour campaigns instead of the 20-30 hour ones of yesteryear. Of course, that's good or bad depending on how you look at it. It's better than before. But it still means that more than half of all game content never gets appreciated.

Thanks to Blake Snow for the great piece. See more

Monday, August 15, 2011

Diner Dash -- for Cash

Ready to Smile?

How does any company encourage teamwork? At Pret a Manger, executives say, the answer is to hire, pay and promote based on — believe it or not — qualities like cheerfulness. There is a certain “Survivor” element to all of this. New hires are sent to a Pret a Manger shop for a six-hour day, and then the employees there vote whether to keep them or not. Ninety percent of prospects get a thumbs-up. Those who are voted out are sent home with $57 and no hard feelings.

(This Pret Post content derived from post by Rob Horning based on a a link to this NYT article about Pret à Manger and their monstrous use of surveillance, emotional management, and gamification to motivate.)

The crucial factor is gaining support from existing employees. Those workers have skin in the game: bonuses are awarded based on the performance of an entire team, not individuals. Pret workers know that a bad hire could cost them money.

Instead of solidarity against management, each worker becomes the face of management, another Stasi spy for the happy police. But that is not nearly enough surveillance to allow Pret’s management to discriminate among workers:

Pret also sends “mystery shoppers” to every shop each week. Those shoppers give employee-specific critiques. (”Bill didn’t smile at the till,” for instance.) If a mystery shopper scores a shop as “outstanding” — 86 percent of stores usually qualify — all of the employees get a £1-per-hour bonus, based on a week’s pay, so full-timers get around $73.

“There’s a lot of peer pressure,” said Andrea Wareham, the human resources director at Pret.

Pret reinforces the teamwork concept in other ways. When employees are promoted or pass training milestones, they receive vouchers, a payment that Pret calls a “shooting star.” But instead of keeping the bonus, the employees must give the money to colleagues, people who have helped them along the way.'

“Rewards, through bonuses or ‘outstanding’ cards, affect behavior,” Ms. Wareham says.

In the end, it’s just Pavlovian manipulation, not genuine recognition of the worker as a human. The incentivizing of feeling leaves no space for the employees to be recognized in and of themselves. That’s what is so creepy about going into a Pret—you know they are being forced to be nice to you and are being carefully watched by other fake-nice bosses and informers.

Every new employee gets a thick binder of instructions. It states, for example, that employees should be “bustling around and being active” on the floor, not “standing around looking bored.” It encourages them to occasionally hand out free coffee or cakes to regulars, and not “hide your true character” with customers.
Are human interactions so conditioned by the imperative of exchange that giving and getting something for nothing is the best way to simulate genuineness, or sincere benevolence?

Unless you believe that it’s more fun to be forced to pretend to be having fun while working a deli counter—maybe the findings that people who are forced to smile report being happier apply here also. Pret’s annual work force turnover rate is about 60 percent — low for the fast-food industry, where the rate is normally 300 to 400 percent. Stockholm Syndrome is a powerful management tool.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gamification -- An Exerblast

My friend Bill is having a blast with his invention...Exerblast. You must check it out -- wellness gamified.

Along those lines, great postings on I'd paraphrase:

The topic of wellness is the perfect space to examine gamification more thoroughly. There are 3 main reasons gamification can be so impact-full in the wellness arena.

It's true, not everyone is playing a game to win. In fact, four different types of players have been identified (achiever, socializer, explorer, killer) each with different desires as it pertains to why they are playing the game in the first place. But within each player category, individuals are still competing, some more actively and openly than others, but all competing on some level. Competition is innate to games which leverage such tactics as scoreboards, levels, achievements and earned status. As it relates to wellness, weight-loss and social motivation to lead a more active life-style, competition is an extraordinarily powerful motivator. is a company focused on setting up healthy competitions within organizations. They leverage gamified tactics and at their core, the game itself is one big competition. Enjoy their video below.

Saying gamified applications won't take hold, based on today's technological landscape would be akin to saying social networking would never take-off back in 2003. Just like social media and social networking needed the advent of the Web2.0 movement to really blossom, gamification is patiently awaiting (or perhaps helping to bring about more swiftly) the coming 3.0 era where inter-connected devices "talk" with one another for specific purposes in order to benefit the human receiving the data.

Perhaps the most logical and simple argument as to why gamification can be a game-changer specifically in the wellness category is due to the fact that the human being playing the game will actually feel the results. Playing a game to earn a free cup of coffee or receive an upgrade to first class on your next flight might be all the motivation someone needs to partake and do so consistently. But feeling better in a pair of jeans, lowering your blood pressure or simply eroding that stubborn 10 lbs. is another level of gratification and leads me to believe that gamificaiton in the wellness sphere has a long, long way to run.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

'Gamification Is @#!*% '

Repost of ripost from Bogost:

"In his short treatise On @#!*%, the moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt gives us a useful theory of @#!*% . We normally think of @#!*% as a synonym--albeit a somewhat vulgar one--for lies or deceit. But Frankfurt argues that @#!*% has nothing to do with truth.
Rather, @#!*% is used to conceal, to impress or to coerce. Unlike liars, @#!*% have no use for the truth. All that matters to them is hiding their ignorance or bringing about their own benefit.
Gamification is @#!*% .
I'm not being flip or glib or provocative. I'm speaking philosophically.
More specifically, gamification is marketing @#!*% , invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where @#!*% already reigns anyway.
@#!*% are many things, but they are not stupid. The rhetorical power of the word "gamification" is enormous, and it does precisely what the @#!*% want: it takes games--a mysterious, magical, powerful medium that has captured the attention of millions of people--and it makes them accessible in the context of contemporary business.
Gamification is reassuring. It gives Vice Presidents and Brand Managers comfort: they're doing everything right, and they can do even better by adding "a games strategy" to their existing products, slathering on "gaminess" like aioli on ciabatta at the consultant's indulgent sales lunch.
Gamification is easy. It offers simple, repeatable approaches in which benefit, honor, and aesthetics are less important than facility. For the consultants and the startups, that means selling the same @#!*% in book, workshop, platform, or API form over and over again, at limited incremental cost. It ticks a box. Social media strategy? Check. Games strategy? Check.

The title of this symposium shorthands these points for me: the slogan "For the Win," accompanied by a turgid budgetary arrow and a tumescent rocket, suggesting the inevitable priapism this powerful pill will bring about--a Viagra for engagement dysfunction, engorgement guaranteed for up to one fiscal quarter.
This rhetorical power derives from the "-ification" rather than from the "game". -ification involves simple, repeatable, proven techniques or devices: you can purify, beautify, falsify, terrify, and so forth. -ification is always easy and repeatable, and it's usually @#!*% . Just add points.
Game developers and players have critiqued gamification on the grounds that it gets games wrong, mistaking incidental properties like points and levels for primary features like interactions with behavioral complexity. That may be true, but truth doesn't matter for @#!*% . Indeed, the very point of gamification is to make the sale as easy as possible.
I've suggested the term "exploitationware" as a more accurate name for gamification's true purpose, for those of us still interested in truth. Exploitationware captures gamifiers' real intentions: a grifter's game, pursued to capitalize on a cultural moment, through services about which they have questionable expertise, to bring about results meant to last only long enough to pad their bank accounts before the next @#!*% trend comes along.
I am not naive and I am not a fool. I realize that gamification is the easy answer for deploying a perversion of games as a mod marketing miracle. I realize that using games earnestly would mean changing the very operation of most businesses. For those whose goal is to clock out at 5pm having matched the strategy and performance of your competitors, I understand that mediocrity's lips are seductive because they are willing. For the rest, those of you who would consider that games can offer something different and greater than an affirmation of existing corporate practices, the business world has another name for you: they call you "leaders."

(from Atlantic Magazine)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Harvard Business Review: Game Mechanics Motivate Employees

Of all the things that can get people deeply engaged in their work, the single most important is making progress — even if that progress is a seemingly small step forward.

This is the progress principle. As obvious as it might sound, the motivational power of progress is a big surprise to most managers. In a survey of nearly 700 managers , asking them to say which of five employee motivators they think is most important, a mere 5% ranked progress as number one — way behind conventional motivators like incentives and recognition.

They should have placed it way ahead. To keep a team jazzed about its work, managers must start thinking like video game designers. Managers may be unaware of how important progress is to human motivation, but it's one of the first secrets that every good video game designer learns.

Of all entertainment forms, video games are among the most engaging. People, especially young men between the ages of 15 and 35, spend enormous amounts of time and money immersed in the fantasy worlds of the massively multiplayer online game space. What keeps them hooked? To a large extent, it's two additional secrets of the video game designer: constant progress indicators and achievement markers. Virtually all video games feature "progress bars" that are constantly visible onscreen as players engage in the game. These bars are tangible indicators of how close the player is to reaching the next major game level, the next step within the current level, and the next mini-goal within the current step.

Achievement markers are a bit like the badges that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts can earn for mastering particular tasks. In a video game, achievements attained by each player — for any of a staggering array of ever-changing challenges throughout the game — are posted for all players to see.

By the way, that future is now, people: The Boy Scouts last year have officially introduced a video games badge into their awards curriculum. Earning the belt loop requires explaining the ESRB video game rating system, officially inking video game sessions into your calendar along with homework and chores and learning to play a new “approved” video game.

Truly effective video game designers know how to create a sense of progress for players within all stages of a game. Truly effective teachers do this in the classroom for their students. Truly effective managers do the same for their subordinates. Here are three particularly effective techniques:

1. Keep everyday progress on your mental agenda. Of course, before you can mark progress, people have to actually make progress. So the first step is to support progress every day, by creating a "climate of attention." Most project review meetings, which involved top managers asking challenging questions of project team members, constructively shaped projects for the better.

2. Find small wins even in setbacks. The new product development work of the teams we studied was very difficult, technically, and they suffered frequent setbacks. Create a climate of psychological safety, where people didn't fear being punished if they admitted mistakes or encountered failure in trying a new idea.

3. Mark progress in many ways, large and small. Most new-product-development teams had a weekly meeting specifically devoted to noting their progress against goals, analyzing and drawing lessons from setbacks encountered, and making any necessary course-corrections. Usually, the overall progress was small, but team leaders helped the scientists and technicians see how they were moving forward on their pathway.

Does your organization have a climate of attention to progress? Are there progress indicators and achievement markers? Do they work?

Thanks to Teresa Amabile (Professor of Business Administration) who researches what makes people creative, productive, happy, and motivated at work. With Steven Kramer she coauthored The Progress Principle

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gamify the World Zelda!

Forbes quoted me on gamification trends three years ago. Now it is hotter than ever.
“Gamification,” as the trend is called, is the use of game elements everywhere — from the classroom to the shopping mall. Gartner estimates that by 2014 more than 70% of major companies will have at least one gamified mobile application

Lee Sheldon at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute teaches his students: like they’re playing a massive multiplayer online role-playing game. He divides the class into small groups called “guilds,” which complete quests such as taking tests and making presentations to earn points and then advance to a new level. At the end of the course, he determines the grade by points and skill level. Ever since he turned education into a game, he says, “the average letter grade in the class went from a C to a B, and attendance is almost perfect.”

Sheldon uses the same techniques as companies such as Foursquare — turning the world into a game. Sheldon takes advantage of the way popular games reward completing small tasks, and high-scoring players move proudly to the top of the leader board.
Starbucks, for instance, has used game techniques to revolutionize its rewar
ds program. Instead of receiving punches on a card for buying coffee, customers earn stars. Once they get enough stars they “level up,” as game developers would call it, and become a “green” or “gold” level customer, with a host of new benefits such as free refills. “Gamification is really about understanding what motivates your users and designing for those incentives,” says Gabe Zichermann, author of the new book Gamification by Design.

In the best games, players understand what’s expected of them, experiment with ways to achieve their goals without significant penalty and immediately see rewards for their accomplishments. Slaying the dragon in “Legend of Zelda” earns players new weapons and brings them one step closer to facing the final boss and saving the princess, but if they fail they simply restart the level. The game has complex puzzles, some as complicated as the material in the average college course, yet it does a far better job breaking objectives down into
easily digestible parts.

Some educators think games debase the institution. But for members of the Millennial Generation, they are second nature. “We made the games to imitate life, but now life’s changing to mimic the games,” Zichermann says.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dr Kneebone's Simulation

Dr Roger Kneebone is more than connected to the thighbone -- he's an innovator. In recognition of his contribution to the field of medical education, he has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship.

Among the activities recognized by this award is Dr Kneebone’s work in simulation-based learning.
His work has included developing medical simulations which use both inanimate models and professional actors to create an authentic clinical scenario, as well as simulation set-ups which are low cost, realistic but highly portable, such as the inflatable operating theatre.

Click here for a hands-on demonstration of the simulated surgery on the Channel 4 programme Jamie’s Dream School.

In 2005 Dr Kneebone founded the UK’s only Masters in Education in Surgical Education. His work with young people has included involvement in the College’s Reach Out Lab.

The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme aims to inspire and celebrate teacher excellence, and is funded by the Higher Education Funding Councils for England and Wales and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland.

Monday, August 1, 2011

MTV Taught Us Well

MTV first aired on Aug. 1, 1981, thirty years ago. Music videos transformed music into a visual and auditory experience. Embedded within each short music video was a vivid story -- a narrative -- that made the song (and story) more memorable.

Today, we, as entertainment consumers, no longer just watch and listen -- we control and create. With increasingly powerful personal computers and the ubiquity of the Internet, a great deal of our time is spent interacting with multimedia -- music on iTunes or videos on YouTube. The answer to any question is available immediately through Google. On-demand movies, music and games are available 24/7. Many of these items can now be downloaded, remixed and shared with others. Neuroscientists tell us that the more senses we engage, the easier it is to retain and apply information. MTV can take some credit for this rewiring of our brains.

All of this helps explain why we in education need to change our tradit
ional lecture format. Under this antiquated approach, learners must forgo their control over pace, content and context of the topic. They are not allowed to control what, when or why they are learning. So despite numerous advances in technology and the science of learning, the majority of our teaching remains lecture-based, for no better reason than it is the easiest approach.

It is time for a change. We must adapt to our new roles as guides or facilitators rather than the end-all, be-all oracles spewing forth knowledge. If we fail to adapt, learners will revolt, leaving us obsolete.
Educational methods that embrace technological advances are needed to enhance the learning experience, and games-based learning is a powerful solution to these challenges.

With online games, users hear and see the virtual world around them but also directly control the narrative. They are able to see the outcome of their actions in real time.
If they make a mistake, they reflect on other approaches and try again. The reward center of the brain fires when they achieve the micro-goal, encouraging them to tackle the next challenge.

This cycle of trying, making mistakes, reflecting and trying again is central to learning. The best consumer games chain together micro-challenges into something that is neither so easy as to become boring nor so hard that the user gives up.

Gaming technology offers many other advantages over traditional methods, inc
luding the ability to compress time, augment reality, pace yourself, collaborate with others and obtain instant feedback. Because the environment is served from a computer, we can track every choice the individual makes, both correct and incorrect. Remediation is immediately avail
able. Students today crave creation, collaboration and feedback in small, immediately accessible doses. They also have the greatest visual acuity of any generation, and rely on technology to improve their efficiency. It is the teachers who must adapt.

These changes have been slow in coming, but are necessary for the new breed of learners.

Based on our students' emerging preferences and my own experience both as a facilitator and learner using interactive techniques, digital game-based learning will have a prominent place in the future of education, especially in health care.