I have loved technology all my life. I had my first computer when I was 5. It was a BBC B Micro (which shows how old I am now) and I always remember the first game I ever played on it. It was an game called Kingdom and the purpose of the game was to make sure that farmers of this little kingdom were able to produce enough grain to save the people and put some in storage in case of emergencies and stave off thieves. Every year you would get a report of what happened and you would lose some of your people and some crops. You won if you managed to keep your kingdom alive long enough.
What has this got to do with eLearning? It taught me all about maths. I learnt that if I saved x number of crops for y number of years then when the floods came around my little kingdom would be safe. I didn’t realise at the time I was learning anything, but this was a very early kind of eLearning. From there I got enthused about what a computer could do for me and i got the bug. I learnt to program and create games myself all from that one time where I was having fun keeping villagers alive.
Today I work in eLearning and it saddens me that there are a lot of teachers and trainers who still don’t see the value in eLearning. One of the biggest problems I face in my role is trying to get to teach people how to get the best out of technology. They don’t see it as a teaching application but as a replacement for pencil and paper – Instead of writing your work on a pad of A4, you can just type it up on a word processor.. This is not what eLearning is about. That is just a change of medium but without a change of teaching.
Getting back to my game, I used to get excited and really happy when my computer would congratulate me on keeping my little pixelated people alive through the floods. We can do this in modern day by using open badges. Instead of having a teacher pass out a question sheet and the students just sitting at a table with their HB filling in multichoice questions, lets create online tests for them which trumpet the fact that they have got high marks. We’ll give them a picture to display on their profile, let their class friends see it. I’m pretty sure that would motivate the students of today to do better. None of this is difficult – it can even make the job of the teacher easier in the long run as by using automated tests, it saves on marking for the teacher letting them concentrate on other tasks.
There is a reason why there are so many achievements on xbox or PS4 games in todays landscape; its to keep kids interested and motivated to get better at the game and brag to their friends. What is wrong with doing this with learning too?