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Why The Game Show
Format Is Effective
Researchers and trainers agree: Game shows are a great way to reinforce
Playing games reinforces learning. This is a bold statement that some may
dismiss as frivolous, but countless researchers and corporate trainers
have the studies and experience to prove that games are one of the most powerful
and successful ways to reinforce learning in adults.
"The idea of embedding academic learning in an entertaining format is
centuries old, because it works," says Eric Jensen in his book The
Learning Brain (Turning Point Publishing, 1995). "Creative
presentations afford the opportunity for students to reach social, artistic and
emotional goals. But more important is the fact that in these contexts, learning
becomes more enjoyable. Learners exercise choice and creativity, and there
is minimum negative pressure."
Just like children, adults enjoy playing games. They like to laugh, and they
remember information that is tied to strong emotions. When a game is
introduced into a serious classroom environment, participants relax,
they get excited, they compete and, most importantly, they remember
the event and the information tied to it.
"I can recall every question and answer in the game we won," says
Canada Airlines flight attendant Marnie Wilkinson about a Game Show
training session she played recently in an annual review course.
"When the questions came up, I'd think 'Oh I remember that,' and BANG!, I'd
be hitting the button on the Game Show system to get the points." Her
instructor, Sam Elfassy, decided the game was a much better way to end the
course and reinforce the learning than a traditional written exam. "When
new information is transferred in an appealing way, it stays with
you," he says. "If your emotions are engaged, you learn more."
"The content of the course — Handling of Dangerous Goods — was pretty
boring," Wilkinson adds, "but putting it in a game format made it more
fun." She still chides colleagues in passing about beating them at
Entertained students learn more.
Why does the information we learn from games stay with us?
Because our emotions rule us. "Positive emotions allow the brain to
make better perceptual maps," says Jensen. "That means that when
we are feeling positive, we are able to sort out our experiences better and
recall them with more clarity."
"Gameshows engage students in just the right way," says Elfassy,
program developer of the Air Crew training department for Canadian Air
Lines in Toronto "It's visual and audio, and it's exciting and fun to
play. Whereas exams are devoid of any engaging elements and increase the stress
levels of the students."
Melody Davidson, training manager for McDonald's Corp. in Seattle agrees.
"It's far more effective to do experiential learning," she says.
Davidson uses gameshows in nine training seminars to reinforce 'nuts and bolts'
information like the temperature of the fry vats and garbage collection
schedules. "Tests may prove this kind of information transfer, but
gameshows are more fun. It's a 'do and learn' opportunity that lets students
reach conclusions on their own."
Davidson sets up the Jeopardy-style game in a multi-tiered format so that
winners compete against each other, and the best ones go to the national
convention, where they have playoffs for "Top of the Arch" employee
Stress relief reinforces learning.
When training is intensive, games are an immediate way to lower the
stress level of students — quite the opposite of looming exams. "Laughter
can lower stress and boost alertness," says Dr. Norman Cousins in the book Anatomy
of an Illness.
Carla Kaufman, applications knowledge specialist for Lawson Software in St. Paul
takes advantage of that. She uses gameshows in the classroom to liven up
students during a heavy two week applications training course. "By
the middle of the second week, everyone is tired and a little overwhelmed,"
she says. "They are stressing about exams and presentations that they
have to do. "When we start the game, everyone instantly relaxes and
has fun. It's like going to happy hour."
She uses the gameshow to review application knowledge in many of these
workshops. "Playing the game shows the students what they did and
didn't learn," she says. "It's a much better way to reinforce the
lessons of the past few days than to have me stand up and summarize the
"A gameshow is a stress-free and fun way to learn that doesn't diminish the
importance of the subject matter," adds Elfassy. "If they are
always under stress, the information never reaches their thinking brains."
By using gameshows instead of traditional quizzes, the stress is removed and
learning is maximized, he says.
Teamwork is reinforced.
In most cases, trainers group students in teams of two to three people
for each player position, and questions and answers are projected on a large
screen. It's very physical, which boosts learning, according to Dr. Max
Vercruyssen of the University of Southern California, who studies how the body's
posture affects knowledge-gathering. His research shows that, on average,
standing increases the heart rate by ten beats per minute. That sends more
blood to the brain, which activates the central nervous system to increase
neural firing. "Psychologically," he says, "standing up
also creates more attention arousal, and the brain learns more."
Dr. Jon Ebbert, chief medical resident of the Rochester, MN-based Mayo Clinic,
witnessed the result of that increased brain activity when his residents compete
in bi-monthly challenges, like "Name That Congenital Abnormality," a
Jeopardy-style game that reinforces medical knowledge. "It's is
a different way to learn," says Ebbert. "It's an informal
learning environment. The residents let their guards down, which makes them more
receptive to new ideas, and they are more willing to challenge themselves."
Residents gather on three teams, each with a single buzzer, and compete to
respond with "quick and dirty facts" that they need to know on the
job, he says. "It's a great way to train emergency medical
personnel because it tests for information they need to know on a reflex level.
"The fast paced question and answer format forces residents to respond
instantly with answers.
"It's a matter of pride to win the game when you are part of a team,"
says McDonald's Davidson. "Students don't want to look bad, and they
don't want to let their teammates down. It gives them an incentive to work
harder." "And," adds Kaufman, "it's amazing how
a little friendly competition gets even the quiet ones to speak right up."
Teachers see what's being missed.
Students aren't the only ones who benefit from games in the classroom.
Teachers use it to figure out what parts of their course content need adjusting
and what topics need to be reviewed.
"It helps me figure out what students are learning and what they are
missing," says Davidson. "I go back and tweak the course content
if there are certain questions that are regularly missed."
The combined evidence proves that gameshows increase learning retention and
improve the overall attitude about training among students who use the game in
class. Attendance goes up, and people talk about the training long
after it's over.
"I have people who come to class excited to play Jeopardy because they
heard about it from someone else who's taken the training," says Davidson.
You'll never get that kind of excitement about an end-of-class exam.
reproduced with permission from The
DJ Connection, Paul Beardmore