When discussing coding in education (and many of the STEM topics) together with game-based learning, the chocolate covered broccoli objection is often mentioned. Meaning that changing to a game or gameful structure for these topics will not work as you are ‘simply’ adding a thin layer of nice to something that is inherently disgusting but good for you. I have three issues with this:
1) You don’t get your content.
If you think that your content is ‘broccoli’ than you are the wrong person to create a learning environment for that content. If you start from the assumption that your content is a terrible thing to do to a human being, you are never going to be able to make any good learning environment for it. First things first; find out from the people that enjoy and work with what you are trying to teach WHY they enjoy it. Find out its merits, its intrinsic value and its possible applications.
2) You don’t get game-based learning.
The idea of ‘layering’ a thin coating of gameful over anything is not how game-based learning works at its best. This kind of thinking resembles the approach where doing the work is rewarded with something gamelike; which is not game-based learning, but a reward structure using the pleasantness of games as the reward. Instead of chocolate covered broccoli, what the idea should be is more of a double-baked broccoli chocolate swirl cake. The gamefulness has to grab on to the content WITHIN the process of learning and not as an afterthought. Preferably, what you want to get across can be translated into one of the game mechanics. If this seems implausible, the content has to be intertwined with the experience of the gameful environment. There are no pre-cut solutions here as it should grab onto the results of issue 1. Whatever it is that makes people interested in the knowledge and/or the application of your content should be core to the game or gamelike structure.
3) You don’t get broccoli.
I rather like broccoli – and I love chocolate. However, broccoli goes better with other things like parmesan cheese or toasted almonds. Broccoli should never be boiled into oblivion and served. Instead try it raw or ‘al dente’ slightly dusted with nutmeg. It could also be boiled and then used as one of the ingredients in a soup or a mash e.g. potato mash with broccoli and cheese piped into rosettes and baked in the oven… mmmgood. There is much to do with broccoli without involving chocolate.
When will broccoli taste like chocolate?
Questions on genetic traits answered by Stanford scientists.