John Klar: The dangers of gamification in education technologies

There are numerous potential threats to children posed by modern technologies that are not fully understood. In addition to the potential harm to eyesight or health from a bombardment of electronic energy, or the alienation and anxiety disorders more prevalent in children due to the computer world, there is the potential for Education Technology (Ed Tech) to literally cause children to become addicted to the media developed to teach them. This is called “gamification.”

John Klar

Parents must investigate what is being implemented as “education technologies” in their schools. The industrial tech giants who benefit from enslaving children to their technologies are no more scrupulous than cigarette manufacturers who employed doctors and star athletes to extoll the health benefits of tobacco smoke.

These companies that peddle their ed-tech wares to our starry-eyed school administrators for experimentation on our children, similarly praise these technologies as uniformly “healthy” and beneficial.

Ed Tech is most prevalently used in “social and educational learning” (SEL), which is primarily directed (per SEL educators) toward “…taking action to address systemic inequality”:

If children are taught to regulate their feelings, but not understand the inequities that affect their social and emotional health, then they will not be empowered to bring about necessary social change. Even worse, when SEL is divorced from the sociopolitical context, young people may inadvertently blame themselves for the trauma and emotional harm they experience. … In school, children are taught to feel pride in our nation’s values of freedom and equality. When preparing future social studies teachers, I challenge students to learn about those times in our nation’s past when our leaders didn’t live up to those ideals, even if it is difficult.

Political recalibration of children is the stuff of “A Clockwork Orange.” But what about the various possible ill effects of this new radical reeducation plan? In addition to irradiation from screen time, anxiety disorders, and a potential loss of love of learning, these technologies increasingly incorporate the same addictive consumer mechanisms that sell products, to track and sell student data (often without protections for privacy), and inculcate long-term dependence. Few if any studies have been done to determine whether, in particular, SEL Ed Tech gaming causes “inadvertent … trauma and emotional harm” by radically re-writing American history through the single-issue lens of white supremacy. Neither have there been adequate studies of the potential for addiction to these games — already a globally-recognized problem for recreational video games.


Describes the incorporation of game-style incentives into everyday or non-game activities. Any time game-like features or aspects of game design are introduced to non-game contexts, gamification is taking place. In other words, real-world activities are made game-like in order to motivate people to achieve their goals. … Educational platforms can encourage learning through gamification, unlocking various levels and badges based on successful completion of learning outcomes.

SEL Ed Tech creates novel risks for children:

Games can also sometimes become notoriously addictive, as has been seen with immersive video gaming and compulsive gambling. This raises possible risks when using gamification for commercial purposes. From the point of view of a commercial entity that benefits from employees or customers developing an addictive compulsion to work or consume (and pay for) a product, this is a positive feature. But for workers and consumers it can easily be seen as manipulative or exploitative and raise potential ethical issues.

Many school administrations are already implementing these products. Like the ed-tech sellers and their complicit allies in academia, they expound the virtues of this wondrous new technology without consideration or disclosure of possible risks.

Consider this futuristic glorification:

Elementary education in the 19th century was just about teaching children some basic learning, usually the ability to read. When the 20th century came, the education system changed and was centered on three foundations: support child-centered education, scientific-realist education, and social reconstruction…. The progress in the education system is impressive, but there is one problem that has been impacting the education system: engagement crisis. Educational apps use the concept of gamification in education to fight the learner engagement crisis.

The “impressive progress” about which educators gush includes “social reconstruction” — weaponizing young children toward behavior changes that will create a new “equitable” society. Yet it is unknown whether these education technologies can effectively teach old-school math, let alone the social experimentation for which they are being rapidly deployed:

Gamification in education has given educators creative ways to motivate their students to participate and increase achievement in the classroom. Programmers and developers apply these techniques to make user-friendly, engaging, and addictive educational games. Games, or concepts alike, bring “good feelings” to the students, which means an increased [sic] levels of brain chemicals, including norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine. But not only do they make the students happy, but they can also make them be more receptive to learning. Gamified educational apps allow players to pick their choice. That means they get more freedom. Video games are designed to encourage players to explore without fear of causing unchangeable damage by giving them multiple lives or by allowing them to restart the level or game. Incorporating this inside the classroom is an effective way of increasing the students’ engagement.

If this sounds potentially damaging or dystopian, it should. It is evident through COVID that efforts to replace teachers with remote learning were grossly deficient — technology cannot replace that human relationship. (However, Artificial Intelligence is well on the way to replacing most teachers entirely). Addictive, inhuman, “SEL Ed Tech teachers” raise profound ethical concerns beyond data-peddling — what of the very goal of social justice, which is to “impact behavior” and activate anti-racist” “work”? The potential for ideological abuse is clear::

One last element worthy of review is the idea of nudging, or framed less positively, manipulation. If we anticipate increased abilities of AIEd systems to predict, measure, and respond to emotional data, we raise questions about the form those responses will take.

Addicting children knowingly to gaming educational technologies that condition their behaviors to hate America and become active social warriors — what sensibe (far-left) parent could possibly object? As one school that prioritizes “social justice education” boasts, their teaching “blends key features of social justice education and social-emotional learning in order to best prepare students for life, work and citizenship in an increasingly diverse and global society.”

This school quotes their utopian (feminist) vision that “learning is a place where paradise can be created. We have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, and openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”

Comrades, thank goodness technology can deliver us from American Constitutional bondage, into true utopian visionary freedom, as public schools “decenter whiteness” and employ overt racial discrimination, including a new segregation.

Despite a nearly total lack of research, this concept is “ubiquitous”:

It is not unusual for large school districts to have whole departments devoted to helping students form positive relationships, manage difficult emotions and make sound decisions. It’s also big business, drawing $21 billion to $47 billion annually on programs and teacher training, according to a 2017 report.

One over-confident teacher boasted of using experimental programming:

Callaham believes in VR’s potential to create more in-depth SEL exercises for his students, even if the current efforts are nascent and untested. He also believes that students don’t often take in-person role-play scenarios seriously because the other participants are their friends and therefore also know that the scenario is fake.

The irony is that advocates for these new “tools” promote them as “protective resources in fostering emotional and behavioral adjustment in adolescents,” while blindly disregarding (avoiding) potential pitfalls. These technologies are less researched and ethically guided than glyphosate application, yet Vermont schools are jumping on the SEL Ed Tech bandwagon as quickly as they can muster federal COVID funds to buy in.

The warning signs of gamification of “addiction, undesired competition, and off-task behavior” are ignored in favor of the same New World New Age Timothy Leary nonsense spewed from commercial “stakeholders”: “games are a powerful way of developing social and emotional learning in young people…. The natural affiliation between children, play, and the desire to have fun with others makes games an ideal vehicle for teaching SEL.”

Another extols this grand experiment with creepy techno-mysticism: Gamification modifies the brain’s reward and pleasure center and ameliorates learning. It is well established that games, whereby a person wins or receives positive feedback, can activate the brain’s pleasure circuits by inducing the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Educational games are suggested to have the same influence given their elements of winning challenges or successfully achieving a goal. This pleasure during gamified education results thus in a long-lasting affinity for the academic subject or for solving otherwise complex problems…. We are at a time where both children and adults spend hours at a time on games. There is evidence that this may have led to changes in the brain functions. Adopting gamification in education to a certain extent may be a healthy initiative to modernize education to go hand in hand with the new digital era.

Or maybe not.

Gamification, employed with virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and pernicious algorithms, is being implemented to apply the Critical Race Theory parents are told is not taught. And then there are gender identity, sexual orientation, abortion, and a host of other “social and emotional issues” for which this process will be deemed benevolent and emotionally necessary to redress a littany of societal imbalances.

Parents in districts employing these pernicious technologies are well-advised to withdraw their children from public schools. And many are.

John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2021. All rights reserved.

Image courtesy of Public domain

One thought on “John Klar: The dangers of gamification in education technologies

  1. Good for him, I guess. While I don’t think half of these things would be so bad if we controlled them ourselves, they’ve definitely become huge weapons.

    When I worked at the Middle School I was stunned at how heavily teachers have come to lean on the doodads and whatsits as a crutch.

    I honestly think the rise of electronica accounts for more than anything the rise of Autism. If you think of it, the autistic brain is shaped by the white noise, yes, but can also handle and retain the massive amounts of often useless trivium thrown at it in a way the neurotypical brain cannot or does not.

    It’s also worth noting that with the general decline of social education, etiquette and whatnot, that non-autistes have begun taking on deleterious spectral traits with none of the benefits.

    But there’s no money in admitting any of this. It’s much easier to chase red herrings like vaccine trails, head wounds and whatever the hell else they blame it on. But for the record, I think it’s the inescapable white noise.

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