Kellye Whitney, Senior Editor
Think for a moment about all the drama and effort the average CLO puts forth in learning program development to keep learners’ attention. There’s the endless race to keep up with the latest and greatest learning technology, most of which was purposefully created to speed up learning for the average ADD (always doing disorder), multitasking employee. There are risqué icebreaker tactics, which can be risky in our potentially litigious, ultra-sensitive-beware-of-harassment society, and then there are the game shows.
“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” “Family Feud” and “Jeopardy,” but theses game shows are for learning. Granted, the rewards are more nebulous — there’s rarely cash for a correct answer, nor are learners usually awarded prizes as in objects they can pick up and use, but the learning results are no less substantial because they revolve around bottom-line benefits such as increased productivity, faster product or service launch and generally happier, more engaged and more capable workers.
“Using game shows for learning has always been a tool, and it makes learning more fun and energizes the classroom, but we found that it was also increasing test scores and comprehension in ways that we never thought,” said Dan Yaman, LearningWare founder and CEO and co-author of “I’ll Take Learning for 500: Using Games to Engage, Motivate and Train.” “Game shows help really engage the entire audience or classroom. Think about it: You can’t ask questions without the brain going into a search mode to find the answer.
“For instance, if I said, ‘Who was the first man to land on the moon?’ what happens to your brain? You start thinking about Armstrong. That’s the power of the game show.”
Essentially, game shows as training vehicles are nothing more than questions that require the audience to be engaged to try and give the answer. Yaman said given this simplicity in design, part of what makes them so effective is the games’ ability to bring out the learner’s curiosity and engage the competitive spirit.
“If you just follow game shows that are presented on TV, they’re not that great of a training vehicle,” Yaman explained. “But if you bend them to your rules and use them how you need to, they become very effective classroom instruction tools.
“Suppose you’re playing a ‘Jeopardy’-style game. You have the question, and the answer come up. After you give the answer is a great time to add instruction, additional elaboration or information on the subject. Let’s say you’re playing in a group situation, and you have two teams up on the stage. Both teams get it wrong. That’s a trainers opportunity to go out into the class and see who knows what the right answer is and start talking about it.”
Yaman said level of engagement creates a very emotional stake in the classroom, and emotions are tied to memory. Therefore, people might remember more of the lesson when the information is presented in the game show format.
“We’ve had teachers divide their students into two groups, one that did a game show and one that didn’t, and we know that the game show reviews increased test scores by 50 percent,” he said.
The teachers Yaman refers to include K-12, higher-education and corporate educators. Game show training programs can be easily customized and are appropriate for a full range of learners. Further, with an eye and an ear on cost-effective content creation, banks of questions can be repurposed and edited based on the training event.
“It works for the whole gamut,” he said. “We’re literally using the game shows to train rocket scientists at NASA, and for some reason, the Bureau of Prisons loves game shows per se. Not only are they training their guards with them, but they’re doing game show nights in prisons. We’re in K-12 and higher education, as well.
“Comcast University does a thing where every region across the country, at every office, they play a game show. Then they turn it into a countrywide competition where you play against regions. They go up in rankings, and then they have a final round, where all the top people come together. This is a very effective way of engaging the rank and file in learning, all the way up to the top. Audiences love it. Students love it. They get so engaged and into it because it breaks the mode of what a typical training class is like.”
Some of the most popular games include “Jeopardy,” where a lot of content can be presented through short questions and answers, and “Family Feud,” which is an effective way to handle one question with multiple answers.
“For instance, ‘What are the top four competitive advantages of our product? What are the top three benefits of this feature?’” Yaman said. “‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ you can set up to do two teams. Nowadays, people need to be entertained and engaged. It’s always been a part of really good education. If you look at the very best teachers you ever had, they were the ones who knew how to engage you at a very emotional level. Game shows allow any instructor to do that, and that’s a really powerful thing.”
I’ve been an advocate of gaming for learning for quite some time – not only the rather simplistic (but still effective) classroom game shows, but also more immersive on-line gaming. I think it’s a vastly underutilized method of reinforcing learning and creating engagement.