#Gamification, #ExperienceDesign and #Disruptions

My first post in 2016! Developed further interest in the science of games and gameplay in 2015, which has also led to a deeper interest in Experience Design (XD). And being part of the Disruptive Media Learning Lab has also given me space to think about what do I think ‘disruptions’ are, when it comes to gamification and education.

“Disrupting the new norm – moving from random engagement with seemingly innovative practices and technologies to a more devised, designed and manipulated experience (designed and planned serendipity)” Sylvester Arnab 2016

New technologies and approaches are “disrupting” the status quo of teaching and learning practices. There is however a danger that learners’ focus is further fragmented in a world that is already saturated with information and myriads of technologies. How can we disrupt this new norm and allow a more contextualised, seamless and sustainable learning experience to be designed?

To me ‘disruptions’ should be a catalyst and tool to scaffold an upward journey towards mastery. In a gamified sense, ‘disruptions’ can foster a dynamic, ever-evolving and agile environment within which progressions can be encouraged from the on-boarding stage towards mastery. Progressions and mastery in this sense is evolving within a non-linear narrative, leading to the notion of personalised learning, mimicking Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey. Some sort of disruption (change and agility) is required at each stage to trigger certain actions and reactions and nurture desired attitudes and behaviours as a learner levels up in his/her learning journey. A non-linear progression approach will give learners choices in how they proceed through the learning process.

Therefore, we are moving from a focus that is purely on learning outcomes to emphasis on learning experience. Learning experience is what puts new innovations, disruptions and changes (technological and/or non) in context. They should not be random and disconnected as per learning outcome. There should be narratives, mechanics and dynamics that collectively make sense of engagement with a learning process and the associated learning objects. Pedagogically, we can be inspired by situated, experiential and contextualised learning. It’s about disrupting with context and not to be solely driven by technologies. Sustainable disruptions can be cross-context iterations and increments of existing tools and practices. For e.g. the practice of digital gaming has led to the science of gamification (motivation by design) in non-games contexts, the introduction of a social context to an otherwise isolated online experience, etc.

Hence, experience design is key to contextualising engagement and interactions with existing and future technologies and practices in a seamless and connected way. Disruption in this case is to challenge the new norm, where there is a growing obsession on digitisation and virtualisation of experience. Experience is turning more digital and virtual, which has seen disparities between virtual and real capabilities (Warburton 2009[1], Arnab et al. 2011[2]), confidence and self-awareness.

Therefore, there is a need to harness the potential of a hybrid space in teaching and learning. Digital and physical experiences are merging, and it is essential that the experience empowers minds and practices. Disruption in this case is applied and inspired innovation; meaning exploiting existing trends and integrating them towards a more optimised experience. Within this space, we are going to explore pervasive, context-aware and gamified techniques under the H2020 Beaconing project[3], and focus on experience design for learners towards a more cross-subjects approach. With the advancement of Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technologies, mobile and mixed reality, a more hybrid experience can be designed and developed. Designing experience should also include architecting learning “space”.

Experience, when designed should also include a sense of surprises; positive coincidences. ‘Designed experience’ and ‘serendipity’ might seem an oxymoron depending on what your role is in the learning ecosystem. As a designer, the ‘Easter eggs[4]’ of learning will allow serendipity to be embedded in the process. As a learner, he/she will discover additional knowledge, experience and insights as part of learning. What would also be empowering and disruptive is for learners to also be co-designers of their experience and the experience of others; referring back to the context of a non-linear ‘Hero’s journey’. We are beginning to explore this possibility with the Game Changers programme[5] [6], emphasising on game design thinking as key to creative problem solving opening up opportunities for learners to design their own learning experience. Design thinking has crossed over to learning, where it is a “way of finding human needs and creating new solutions using the tools and mindsets of design practitioners” (Kelley & Kelley, 2013, pp. 24-25[7]). Experience design has also been key to the Playing 4 Real project.

There is a potential for gamified learning to be so pervasive that we will not even realise that we are already in the system (a designed experience); a system that connects mind space, digital presence and physical existence. Should we only be a player benefiting from the designed experience or also as the co-designer of the experience? It is time to exploit ‘Games Science’, turning learning into a game; a journey without borders – a journey where anything is “achievable”; a journey that is non-linear with various possible outcomes. Be a super learner without borders (digital, physical, mindset), a designer of our own learning experience, a journey towards mastery; mastery that evolves with personal needs and aspirations.

Experience design is a powerful disruptive tool – design an experience towards achieving the desired learning outcomes and nurturing attitudes and behaviours. Use it wisely will create a positive environment, a non-linear progression towards mastery. Falling into the wrong hands will lead to negative manipulation and gamified “dictatorship” (see Sesame Credit video[8]). Therefore, it is essential for such a tool to be used carefully and in the context of teaching and learning, learners should be included in the design of the intended experience.

Some of my thoughts will also be reflected in my 15-18 minute TEDx presentation on 23rd January in Coventry.

[1] Warburton, S.: Second life in higher education: Assessing the potential for and the barriers to deploying virtual words in learning and teaching. Br. J. Educ. Technol. 40(3), 414–426 (2009)

[2] Arnab,S., Petridis,P., Dunwell,I., de Freitas,S.: Enhancing learning in distributed virtual worlds through touch: a browser-based architecture for haptic interaction in Ma,M., Oikonomou,A., Jain,L.,C. (ed.) Serious Games and Edutainment Applications. Springer Verlag. (2011) ISBN: 978-1-4471-2160-2

[3] http://dmll.org.uk/projects/beaconing/

[4] Easter eggs in gaming is the inclusion of surprises, hidden messages or objects, not directly connected to the intended gameplay

[5] http://dmll.org.uk/projects/game-changers/

[6] https://sylvesterarnab.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/game-changers-game-design-thinking-for-creative-problem-solving/

[7] Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence (New York: Random House, 2013), pp. 21-25

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHcTKWiZ8sI


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