The above TedTalk explains the impressive impact that gamification and its concepts can make when applied to learning at all levels. One reason that gamification is so effective as an instructional tool is that it employs several principles found in applied behavior analysis (ABA) such as using positive reinforcement, differential reinforcement, reinforcement schedules, behavioral momentum, shaping target behaviors, using mass trials and social reinforcement, just to scratch the surface.
Another reason gamification is so effective as a learning tool is because games can adjust the difficulty level, playing with just the right amount of challenge for the individual, not too difficult and not too easy. This factor avoids boredom from a pace that is too slow and unchallenging as well as from frustration due to a fast pace that causes confusion, misunderstanding and error.
Digressing a moment, we need to get to the matter at hand, we currently have a mental health crisis in our county with 1 out of 5 children in 50.7 million K-12 students in the US, with a diagnosable, but treatable, mental health condition. These conditions often affect learning, however, are left untreated both at home and at school. School systems do not have enough resources or lack training to adequately meet the needs of these students. Parents don't have enough knowledge to know what the problem is or how to get help for it Only approximately 1-5% of these students actually receive the support they need. This is due in part to the fact that the national average of school counselors to students is 477-1 and California is even further behind, ranking last in the nation with a ratio of 945-1. Our current method for identifying these students is to wait until the problem has become so severe that a teacher or parent refers them to the school counselor or psychologist. If they qualify to receive mental health support; they will likely only receive 2-4 thirty minute sessions a month, which can only scratch the surface. They are often the target of ineffective, archaic disciplinary strategies and are punished for their disability rather than given the tools and encouragement they to be successful.
Gamification designed specifically for the purpose of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) has shown a lot promise in recent research in reducing stress and treating anxiety and depression. Since it is such an effective teaching tool, motivates and often brings joy to the player it makes sense to at least consider it as a viable teaching method. What we are currently doing is surely not working. Considering that over 93% of children ages 3-17 having played a video game before and of the highest risk group, ages 15-22, 97% playing an hour or more daily of some type of game (i.e. CandyCrush, Minecraft, WoW, etc.) this seems like the perfect modality for this population.
The concept for EQK12 is to make social-emotional learning strategies more accessible to K-12 students through technology such as gamification and other digital media. This can be achieved by teaching concepts associated with Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and developing a Growth Mindset. The program also includes a classroom management, leveling system where students can earn points, similar to receiving XP in a video game. The points are tracked and monitored on a leader board to further reinforces their behavior and participation in the program. A parent and staff training module is also an important part of the program in order to educate and inform he adults in their lives how to engage with them in a meaningful and constructive manner. EQK12 is believed to show promise in removing barriers to learning and making the curriculum more fun and accessible to all students.
The program consists of a universal screener, a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum based on Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and grow mind set using gamification and other digital media, a classroom management system based on ABA principles, PBS, multi-tiered systems of support and what we have learned about motivation from gaming principles and a supplemental teacher/parent training program. Both interactive games and other engaging digital media are used to build a conceptual framework for social-emotional skills, a social-emotional vocabulary and provide opportunities to practice skills and receive feedback during off-line group and individually initiated mini-tasks. The student completes these “real-life” activities to continue to foster and improve social interaction skills. The student is reinforced for this through the classroom management point system.
Because the intervention includes a universal screener it will detect issues before the become problems. This could have a significant impact on many lives as well as all community systems including education, medical and judicial systems by creating resilience and preventing mental health problems in children. Students that participate in a Social Emotional Leaning (SEL) curriculum are less likely to drop out of school, use drugs, commit suicide, engage in risky behavior, access community services and live longer, healthier lives. This program also has a high cost savings potential as student achievement goes up, attendance goes up and discipline and special services and spending on other resources to support struggling students goes down.
Gamification in education is an emerging market with rapid growth potential. In 2013 it was a $421million industry that is expected to jump to 5.5 billion in 2018, which is a 67% increase! Companies are just beginning to emerge into gamification as an intervention for children with social-emotional needs. However, products are not yet in most schools, though they are desperately needed. There's a huge market out there, just waiting to be tapped.