Traditionally, a person’s intelligence was measured by a standardized IQ test which was heavy on questions addressing logical thinking, mathematical ability, pattern recognition, grammar competence, and deductive reasoning. This kind of testing is biased because it caters to a particular type of person while neglecting the skills and abilities of others.
In 1983, Dr. Howard Gardner introduced the idea of multiple intelligences in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The idea is that individuals possess a blend of various intelligences, and should not be restricted to just one modality of learning. The types of intelligences included in the theory sometimes vary, but generally consist of the following: Logical-Mathematical, Musical, Linguistic, Interpersonal, Spatial, Bodily-Kinesthetic, and Intrapersonal.
Traditional education caters to a narrow spectrum of intelligence, often punishing or ostracising students who are unable to adapt. A more effective form of education might dynamically adapt to a student’s strengths, taking advantage of the types of intelligence they excel in to help them learn material in a fun and positive way.
The Advantage of Gaming The gaming industry has already found ways to include activities that cater to multiple intelligences in many successful titles. MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars include events in which a group of players cooperate to achieve a common goal – to slay a dragon, for example. The group often consists of highly specialized characters with distinct roles and purposes, skill sets and abilities. Some characters known as “tanks” face the enemies head on, and are able to absorb a great deal of damage. Other characters act as healers, spell casters, trap finders or other various skill sets that are needed for the party to survive. These activities cater to the interpersonal type of intelligence.
Other games, especially ones that involve building (such as Minecraft) might cater to spatial intelligence, while game systems such as the Nintendo Wii involve the bodily-kinesthetic intelligence in many of their games. The multi-billion dollar gaming industry is expert at engaging the widest demographic of users in their products.
eLearning Revolution If you ask most people for their opinion on educational games, you may find that the overall response is not very positive. Often, educational games are perceived as boring compared to games created purely for entertainment. However, this doesn’t have to be! With creative design and clever execution, educational games can be just as much fun as other games. The educational aspect must be presented to the user in a tactful and interesting manner, not in a forceful and mandatory way. The user must be coaxed to want to learn. One powerful tool to bring this about is to widen the spectrum of intelligences targeted by activities within the game or eLearning module.
One popular game style requires the player to complete various missions, earning rewards for being successful. These rewards can then be used to develop their game character, such as increasing their statistics, getting better equipment, and so on. Players feel a sense of achievement from completing missions.
Instead of the ordinary “go there – fetch this – kill that” type of mission, an educational game could involve missions that involve various activities catering to the different intelligences. For example, if the subject is chemistry and the goal is to familiarize the player with the Periodic Table of Elements, the missions could involve traveling to various parts of the game world to fetch different elements. To get each element, the player may need to overcome obstacles that target a particular type of intelligence. Good eye-to-hand coordination may be needed for one quest. Cooperation with other players may be needed for another. Throughout the mission, the player may learn interesting facts about the element, and in that way, learn in a fun and unobtrusive manner.
Gaming vs. Attention Deficit It is remarkable that many students who suffer from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are able to focus and learn from games, even for long periods of time.
Some games such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering require players to memorize the effects of many cards, the effects of their combination with other cards, and develop complex winning strategies to beat opponents.
I have witnessed children who have problems with attention at school excel at these kind of games, although the games require a great deal of focus and attention. It is clear that there is something about the games that is successful at retaining attention and interest, which is lacking in formal education. If we can find a way to harness this ability, perhaps we can improve the quality of education that we provide to these students.
Putting it All Together To create a successful and engaging educational game, we must learn from the success of the gaming industry and be clever and creative in presenting useful educational material to our target audience in a truly fun way. One powerful tool available to us is to take advantage of a wider spectrum of intelligences to engage the audience. Dr. Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences can serve as a spring board for different types of activities which can be presented with the aid of modern technology to make learning enjoyable, fun, and perhaps even addictive!
If you would like to explore more about gamification and eLearning, take a peek at our company website: Pathways Training and eLearning, at http://www.pathwaystrainingandelearning.ca/ . We always look for fresh ways to engage the learner and to make the experience as fun as possible!