‘Gaming the system’ is a term which was originally used to talk about the manipulation of a system and its rules in order to achieve a desired outcome. Other variations of the expression include ‘playing the system’, ‘abusing the system’, ‘milking the system’ and ‘working the system’. Using the concept of games is common in business and takes on various forms, such as ‘employee of the month’, which encourages employees to work harder in competition with each other in order to win a short-term reward of increased status. Sales departments may reward top salespeople with bonuses or incentives for hitting or passing their targets.
We see gaming in learning too, especially in online and mobile applications which award users with badges for completing tasks in the programme. This approach can be especially useful for young people in school who may feel that learning English through studying poetry by W. H. Auden and plays by William Shakespeare is of little practical value. If they see it as a game, where the opponent is not their classmate but their teacher, then they may just try a bit harder, if they have a competitive nature. I’m not trying to undermine the role of the teacher here but as the teacher is often already seen as an adversary then we might be able to use this to the advantage of the student.
So, what are the objectives of the game? Simply put, the teacher’s objective is to find mistakes and deduct marks. The student’s objective is to prevent that from happening. In this scenario, the teacher is no longer an authority figure who punishes the student for not studying hard enough. Rather, she is an opponent in a game where the rules must be understood in order to achieve victory. Our task is to help the student to understand the rules of the game and to help them win.
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