QuizUp is one of these flash in the pan games that takes the mobile world in a storm. In less than two months it amassed over 5 million users. If you haven't tried it you should, but not just because it is addictive, but also because it points to some aspects that QuizUp does well, and that we can do better in education. In short I believe that some of the things QuizUp does right we can use in education.
The key is motivation, and QuizUp uses every game mechanic and social aspect to drive you to use the system out of your own volition. First QuizUp allows the user to select the areas they want to be a part of. While we can't always let students choose what they want (vs. need) we know there is great motivation in choice. Second comes the sense of developing an area of expertise. I am for example the "Best in Ancient Rome in Nebraska" a dubious title but it works! We can imagine a best in multiplication in Mrs. Hendriks class or best in Ancient Greece in Washington Elementary.
QuizUp adds to it achievements (win 500 games, get a perfect score). We could structure those in more meaningful categories, imagine an achievement for knowing all the characters in Othello or all the multiples of 9, or the features of the table of elements. Points also work to motivate users, you get points even if you lose (although less) making sure that your effort is always rewarded. In short QuizUp activates all the short reward cycles that make us persist at game based tasks.
Feedback in QuizUp is exceptional. Beside the obvious leader boards, levels and points there are a slew of ways to get feedback. After each game you can study the questions and your responses, you can also see a graph comparing your score and you opponent's. The dash board is the most brilliant piece of design in the game. As you can see on the right one of the main dashboards shows you the areas you have been participating in and the level in each. It allows in one glance to see where the user had put the most effort and how well the user have been doing overall.
QuizUp has some challenges as a learning idea as well. The format of multiple choice works well for this kind of work but it does limit the sophistication of questions as they relate to different levels of learning (think Bloom's taxonomy). In my own participation I figured out I actually think through my responses through the first 15-20 levels. After that my responses are increasingly automatic as I have seen most of the available questions and must activate my mnemonic devices and memorization based on repetition.
So how does it fit into 21st century learning? Well:
1. It is a great way to develop basic knowledge
2. It is a great way to develop fluency (word recognition, basic math facts, historical facts). This will allow the teacher to focus on more meaningful material in class
3. Taking away the time element can help in some cases.
4. Have enough questions in any bank to remove straight forward memorization except when it i the goal (say multiplication facts).
5. The complexity of the question is up to the author, even in a multiple choice format you can get sophisticated thinking
6. If students can actually create questions it becomes a much more sophisticated task (the feature is available)