Sunday, June 13, 2010

Game-based, social networking in learning?

Spiced up Twitter

The big news in social networking is games-based, GPS tagging. Foursquare and Gowalla allow you to check-in, tag your location and record what you did/are doing at those locations, through badges, points, whatever. It’s like a spiced-up Twitter, with points for prizes.

It’s part of a wider ‘awards for behaviour‘ movement with smaller sites such as, where you get points for doing household chores. It makes it fun for the kids by adding competition and prizes. Another is, a ‘gold stars for adults’ site, where you’re awarded points by others for good acts.

Foursquare & Gowalla

With Foursquare you download the app to your phone (most options covered; iphone, Android, Blackberry, Palm etc) then link to social networking, tell your mates where you are automatically on GPS position. If the place ain’t listed, add it. It’s all about recommendations. The game is to unlock badges and points. You can even become a Mayor for a location. Then there’s special offers for Foursquare users.

Gowalla’s much the same think; check-in, GPS, then tag and share places and events you visit,with stamps, items and trips.

Learning as a game

Life’s a game was an old Nintendo strapline and that’s what these apps really try to achieve. What makes them fly is the clever introduction of a ‘game’ ethos to social networking. It’s like Twitter with Nectar points, game on for GPS tagging, with the clever addition of points, badges and titles.

Now for a little though experiment. Suppose we see learning as a game? Rather than games in learning, see learning as a game, all of your learning as a game. Every time you do a course, acquire a skill, read a book, share some knowledge, attend a conference, discover something new; you report it by tagging the link and the more you do, the more rewards you get, say ‘Smart Points’.

At the next level down you could apply the idea to all of your learning within an organisation, tagging courses, reading, research, skills and projects where you picked up new knowledge and skills.

Even within a specific course, say induction, you could check-in, and collect badges for visiting specific areas in the organisation’s website, meeting the key people relevant to you and your job, doing the basic compliance stuff, learning how to use the IT, finding the toilets.

And how about schools? Teachers and students could award or collect badges for pieces of coursework, homework, class attendance, understanding a topic. It could provide some badly needed motivation in key subjects.

The trick is to have a piece of software that allows you to:


Know what badges apply to what tasks

Have a mobile capability to communicate and deliver

This last point is important. What makes this stuff work is it’s ease of use through mobiles.


Tedd Josiah said...

'scoring smart points for learning' wasn't this meant to be achieved by the ePortfolia apps of a few years back, that seem to have never quite hit the mark and mostly dissappeared without trace?

re foursqare - they are my tip for the next biggy - or a least they are going at it full pelt - teamed up with CNN for the world cup. I've put all my eMarketing clients on there already - just in case!

Donald Clark said...

Trouble with ePortfolio apps was that they were designed, and originated, within the educational system. This usually means almost certain extinction. Most successful web apps emerge, through popular use, outside of the system. The educational apps that are shaping the learning landscape are Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, Blogger etc. They understand that it is the 'user experience' that counts, not government specifications.

Tedd Josiah said...

mmm so in that case then there's a gap for a public twitfb-like version of an ePortfolio where people can store all their learning records from different sources. naming this would be fun

Rose said...

I would die of embarrassment and patronisation if I went on a professional course or started a new job, and they gave me effing badges and points for finding the toilets and completing assignments.

And then what? I put on my CV that I have a Gold Badge for Lavatory Location and 600 points for Turning Up At Places?

Screw that. I'm a teacher, not a 6-year-old.

Donald Clark said...

Lighten up - it's a little fun - better than the corporate dump that is the usual induction course,or worse, no induction at all.

Paul Angileri said...

I think I'd have to agree with Rose, in less overt terms. As much as people hate corporate required learning, many will be turned off by the, yes, patronizing way that important professional skills development would be framed. Now, I think this method can work for onboarding people, but take the badge aspect out (though this may depend on the setting). You don't want to kill a new employee's view of your organization the second they step through the door by making the operation seem overly rewarding of little things, and turning every development opportunity into what the kids call an "achievement". I don't think you are necessarily prescribing that but I say this to cover my bases.

I think the model has some merit for application to a professional development strategy for people, but again the gamey-ness of it would have to be toned down.

But when it comes to K-12 audiences, it's hard to deny this format's effectiveness.

Donald Clark said...

It's not patronising to introduce an element of competition into learning. What's patronising are stand-up trainers who roll out the same old PPT followed by breakout groups and flipcharts pages on wall. There may be some confusion over the badges thing - these are not real badges - more icons indicating completion - a lot better than those corny certificates.

Paul Angileri said...

Your suggestion relies upon assumptions. We don't do flipcharts or breakout groups (except in rare cases where it makes sense). It depends not just on how you look at the question, but also on the organization. The organization I know right now would not fit your suggestions well. It's a very big, heavily degreed and (industry) cert'd global technology company. For starters the employees already face a huge amount of internal competition (in terms of competing projects and teams, let alone market pressures) and performance review-based pressure to upgrade skills on a yearly basis. People here actually do value substantive certificates, but then we don't hand them out for little internal items. At one time years ago that took place, but it's been ages since I've seen such a training design here. The competition component has largely always been there though.

Further, the speed of the environment may have an effect on how information needs to be transferred. My people want their information and they want it in a familiar format. In their case they in fact do not find someone presenting a PPT patronizing, because they consume information like that daily. Information here is organic and fluid, and lacks some of the static nature that might make the badge concept more viable. I don't think the existing mode is ideal myself but the point it works for the employees (and is in part driven by the daily business climate). And, are we going to ask them to re-earn a badge they already earned when the software changes significantly in 5 weeks time? Badge maintenance would be a massive design problem, ergo it wouldn't work (in my context).

But taking just the badges item, I know you don't mean physical objects. But I don't see too much difference between certificates (which in many cases patronize by putting undue importance on little things) and badges (which can patronize in the opposite direction). Either applied incorrectly, it's 6 of one, half dozen of the other. The crux of the issue is knowing when to and when not to apply, not whether we do one or the other as a panacea.

I don't think anyone is saying the badge concept and competition is a poor idea. Obviously it works and there is evdience of it. But I think it entails a lot more consideration for training adults than children. I can think of one recreational case recently where I earned "achievements" for accomplishing certain items, but many of them are so simple and occur as a matter of event sequencing that they become pretty meaningless. The badge or cert has to have a significant, novel goal attached to it. That's my perspective.

Joanna said...

Interesting banter about this topic. I agree the application of this idea depends on the organization and its culture. I also agree that adding a little fun and adventure to mundane training requirements could really spice things up. I can definitely see ways to apply this kind of competition for groups like interns (where it might be "age appropriate") and for the sales force (who are naturally competitive anyway.)