The onset of the digital age provides innovative new methods of almost every aspect of our lives. One facet of this is how mobile apps and websites have enabled different modes of learning to a large audience. Learning through play is no new concept, but the digital age supplies new vehicles for the gamification of learning.
John Huizinga coined the term Homo ludens in his 1938 book “Homo Ludens.” In this book, Huizinga proposes this term to refocus humankind from simply “being” (sapien) to that of a “player” (ludens). This work is situated in a time where the social sciences were all trying to redefine what a human was, calling us Homo faber (Man the Maker) and Homo laboras (Man the worker) just to name a few. What Huizinga suggests is that we are human and made human by the process of play. Play is a very important learning tool for many animal species, not excluding humanity. We play “house” as children and learn about family life. We play games which impart cultural and moral mandates, such as cops and robbers.
All the examples that Huizinga gives and I have given thus far are all situated in the physical world. The digital has opened up an entirely new playground for games and play as learning tools. One of the more popular examples of this is Duolingo. It launched in 2011 and promised free language education for the world, forever. While it does not provide the same level of immersion that speaking with classmates and others that a brick and mortar classroom may be able to provide, it is really rather good.
Part of its success is due, in no small part, to its use of play in the learning process. Each lesson is set up more like a level with a varying number of sections that you must get through. You are awarded experience point which contribute to your overall Duolingo level. By leveling up, finishing a course, or continuing a streak, the user is award lingots. Lingots are a sort of virtual currency that is only useable in the Duolingo universe. These can purchase streak freezes, additional bonus lessons, timed practices and tests to challenge the user and display their language prowess.
All of these aspects of gaming combined encourage the user to continue coming back and completing these lessons or practicing the ones they already know. This boosts its education value by making learning more fun and intertwined with play. In fact, this study suggests that about 34 hours on duolingo is comparable to a semester of college intermediate level study.
While Duolingo is not the only educational product that uses play and games to increase user and knowledge retention, it is one of the most popular. Some others are codeacademy and dough. All of these services have seen a rather impressive degree of success which makes me wonder: Should Bitcoin and other altcoins be looking to do make a comprehensive game about concepts ranging from adoption and use to the blockchain and code?
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