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Game Theory in Edutainment

Teachers have been trying to engage students for as long as anyone can remember, but doing so isn’t always easy. With the advent of communication technology and its increasing relevance to students, teachers have been given more and more options to help their students engage with material. According to Marcia Powell, in her article on Edweek titled “Let the Games Begin: How to Design Successful ‘Edutainment,” one of the best ways to design a classroom game (proven to help students learn and interact with each other) and gauge student interest is to keep some fundamental game theory ideas in mind.

Among factors to consider, she noted that Nash equilibriums are often key. You never want to create a game or a situation in which a group of students is split so that one group has a best response of doing no work while the other group has to make up for the work that the slacking group is neglecting. One possible solution is the give students more incentive to have some control over the actions of others and practice their leadership skills while at it. This would also be reflected in the way groups were graded. Powell decided that giving individual members of a group individual grades was the best incentive to get them all to work, making their best response to help out and contribute.

We covered the idea of Nash equilibriums a few weeks ago, and learned to calculate the pure and mixed strategies for games. All of this still remains relevant in the social setting, where there may not be any explicit games, but instead group dynamics, as in Powell’s article. In these cases, a matrix could still be set up to calculate people’s incentives for certain actions. In fact, we could probably start using some of these ideas in our lives today!




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