The world famous and world’s LARGEST arts festival hosted in Edinburgh each August produces some cracking comedic performances. In no particular order, here are some of our favorites from 2017.
“I broke up with my first girlfriend because she didn’t believe in me. Which was ridiculous, because she was the imaginary one.” Ben Fogg
“If I had a pound for every time someone accused me of having body dysmorphia I’d have enough to buy the new nose I need.” Lauren Pattison
“I went to a really rough inner-city school. The kind where chances of being bullied grew exponentially every time you use the word ‘exponentially’”. Aatif Nawaz
“I once took to the stage as Hamlet, which really annoyed the rest of the cast of Mamma Mia.” Thunderbards
“My parents have been married 40 years. I don’t know how they do it, they make it look so hard.” Carmen Lynch
“Whenever someone says ‘I don’t believe in coincidences’. I say ‘Oh my god! Me neither!’” Alasdair Beckett-King
“My uncle told me it doesn’t matter what you achieve in life, as long as you’re happy and you can afford your own bed. That’s the last thing he told me on his deathchair.” Glenn Moore
“It’s so weird that Americans say ‘eggplant’ when they’re called chickens.” Ian Smith
“I like to think the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’ but he hesitated.” Andy Field
“I was a lazy kid. When I was twelve my parents entered me in a national apathy contest. I came second. I wasn’t that bothered. The kid that beat me didn’t even turn up.” Ben Fogg
“The key to a happy marriage is in a bowl with a bunch of other keys.” Tom Houghton
“A lot of older people wonder if there will be life after death. There is, of course – it just won’t involve them.” Lee Nelson
And finally, this year’s favorite joke of all (according to the Dave’s Funniest Joke of the Fridge Award) from Ken Cheng: “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.”
Smartphones are incredibly useful for documentary filmmakers as they are excellent cameras for “cinema vérité”: an increasingly popular style characterised by its realistic capture of events, often as they are happening – a la improvisation. In fact, there is somewhat of a revolution happening in cinema with smartphones, as discussed in another one of our articles.
However, one major challenge faced by smartphone filmmakers is the limited hardware; how can you keep shooting with limited battery life and storage space? This may sound paradoxical, and it kind of is. If you need more battery life and storage then just use a ‘proper’ camera, right?That’s not always an option though, as those who choose smartphones often do so because of how cheap and lightweight they are – so they wouldn’t want a bigger camera anyway. Luckily, there are now plenty of accessories sold which resolve, as well as stuff to super-charge your smart-phone: rigs, apps, and lenses.
The Helium Core is one such rig; a chassis for customizing your iPhone camera rig, which when used alongside the Moondog Labs lenses, can produce a result that is visually appealing and costs only a fraction of a DSLR rig – especially if you follow our guide on how to get a cinematic look to your smartphone footage. Take a look at the results!
As far as fixing storage space and battery life, you can also follow these smartphone filmmaking tips to optimise your device:
- Use a Portable Charger
This is a necessary for everyone thinking of filming on a smartphone. You can quickly and easily pick up these, they usually charge via a USB port, and the high-end ones can actually store 5 or more of your phones full battery life.
- Clean out your Smartphone!
This is less obvious, but if you’re serious about filmmaking, then you’ll need to remove a lot of the baggage from your phone. Whether that be old iMessage conversations, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media platforms which suck up your storage with their caches, games of course (apart from maybe Sudoku for your coffee break), and so many other unnecessary apps you have.
It is also a good idea to export your camera roll before each day of filming – not only freeing up space, but allowing you to better organise your dailies, and avoid the catastrophe of ever losing footage.
Nb. Also make sure your phone is updated! Sometimes there is just half GB updates sitting in your storage, taking up space, waiting to be installed.
- Bring your Laptop and External Hard Drive
This helps with both previous points, you can charge your phone off your laptop if necessary (although only as a last minute thing), and export your footage to it or your external harddrive.
If you use an android then luckily you will likely be able to use microSD cards to store everything in, although it is still advisable to bring something with TBs of memory – you don’t want to have lots of microSD cards everywhere, unorganised and easily lost.
- Record what you can ahead of time
If you are forced to record the interviews and B-roll all in one day, then you don’t always have to record the full interview. It will take up a lot of storage space on your phone.
Instead you can record just the audio of some of the interview (using the voice memo app most smartphones have) and edit your B-roll footage over it in post-production.
A good camera and a natural eye will get you somewhere, but if you really want to go far and achieve great things in filmmaking you’ll need to nurture a few keys skills.When you start filming, everyone needs to know how to do these key things: how to shoot, how to use different pieces of gear, how to edit, and (hopefully) how to write a compelling story. Beyond that (and only really gained through years of experience in the field, and years of mistakes, failures and learning from them), there are really valuable skills and mind-sets that will help you get noticed.
With the hope of passing on what he has learnt over the years, Darious Britt, who runs the YouTube channel D4Darious (which has almost 200,000 subscribers), has created a video listing the 9 skills he thinks are most essential.
Each of Darious’s points touch on a different aspect of being a filmmaker, a real filmmaker, with all the ups and downs and unglamorous failures that come with that. Here we have reviewed his list, summarising each point, into a list of Top Tips for student filmmakers.
(Also check out another of our articles “Turning Filmmaking Dreams Into Reality” where we detail a similar set of qualities which will really help you go far in the industry.)
This is really about being pragmatic. The chances of you making your debut film and it skyrocketing you into being the next Denis Villeneuve or Damien Chazelle are near-zero. You can’t rely on the luck a few others have, the meteroric success stories are like winning the lottery. You need to take the small jobs, the projects that you will need to sacrifice your precious “artistic integrity” for – whether that be commercials, training videos, adverts, wedding videos even. This point, above all, is that you can’t afford to be full of pride – as that won’t get you far.
- Business savvy
This is about economy. Don’t aim to write the biggest, most action-packed blockbuster to begin with, and certainly don’t waste your breathe trying to get a studio to pick it up. Instead write and make 5 smaller films for the price of that one. Think about what studios will actually pay for, and also what audiences will pay to see. Know your audience and again (the same as before) be pragmatic.
- Know how to learn
This just goes for life. It’s certainly not something that can be ‘taught’, as such, but instead something which you need to nurture within yourself, and that takes a good knowledge of oneself, and a lot of tenacity. It doesn’t come from filmschool, which is becoming increasingly less important (as discussed in another of our articles here). Make the most out of everything that happens to you. You succeed? Good, learn from it and move on. You fail? Too bad, but you have to be able to learn even more from it, and you have to learn to move on.
- Technical Expertise
Filmmaking is more of a technical subject that most give it credit for. There is a vast amount of not only technology you need to become acquainted with, but also huge amount of regular practices which you need to adopt – whether that be marketing, Photoshop, special effects, or even understanding the physics of a camera.
- Story Analysis
They say that some are just born with a naturally brilliant genius for voice, the written word and story – think Oscar Wilde or F. Scott Fitzgerald – and that others will never achieve the same knack for storytelling, even with all the training in the world. This is a lie (mostly). There is a science you can learn, and from that the art will come: story structure, fundamentals of drama, character development.
For this there are 3 books:
- Story by Robert Mckee
- Screenplay by Syd Field
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Also read more. This will help so much more than you will think; if anything this is actually more important to making movies than even watching movies.
- Film grammar
Like all languages, film has grammar, and hence rules in place, although the rules are slightly less strict than with written language. You can subvert various rules for a desired effect, but you still need to know the rules in the first place to be able to do this.
Filmmaking is the most social artform of them all. You can’t get away with being a recluse or ‘just-not-a-people-person’. You have to learn to communicate with everyone in your crew, and work well with them. This involves management, motivation, and empathy. A huge part of empathy will be knowing what each persons jobs actually entail, and their responsibility as part of the whole working machine that makes up your crew.
- Critical thinking
This ultimately comes down to being logical about what works and not being overly sentimental about ‘your baby’. Tone and pacing a hugely important and if you find out that a whole scene doesn’t fit in your film only after you’ve started editing, you still need to chop it.
- Talent and hustle
Everyone loves talent; it’s the one skill that gets all the praise when something great is achieved. However what is forgotten are all the skills which helped talent get there – and without which, talent would have gotten nowhere.
Hustle is actually much more necessary, and will actually get you further – as Darious said “Talent rarely beats hustle when talent don’t hustle”.
As teachers, it’s our job to guide our students in every way. Of course, the first thing that means is teaching facts and theories to budding minds. But it also means being something of a life coach, too, sometimes even being a shoulder to cry on.
So to help your students, here are three things that are going to kick start their careers in the film industry.
Have them really consider whether filmmaking is the future for them
This should always be the first of many tips for growing your filmmaking career. And it’s by far the most important, because let’s face it: not every single film student is going to go on to be a professional. There are some things that we can control, like how hard we study, schmooze and work; and there are some things we can’t, like how much we really want it.
Every student has to ask themselves: do I have the patience, time and fortitude to turn my dream into a reality? If yes, then that’s fantastic, although we should all be aware that passion alone won’t make anybody stand out from the crowd. But if the desire just isn’t there, it’s better to acknowledge that before wasting too much time.
Always keep a positive attitude
The first of our tips for growing your filmmaking career is to stay positive. It’s true that it’s difficult to get a career in filmmaking, and that the hours are long, and that the slog is hard. So it can be difficult to crack a smile at the end of all that! But it’s positivity that’s absolutely necessary to keep a young filmmaker going through those hard times.
Positivity is especially helpful during that first long job search. There are probably going to be dozens of emails and applications that never even get a reply, and a few promised phone calls that you’ll never receive. Tell your students that it’s natural to feel disappointed not to get the job they were after, but that the most important thing is to pick yourself up, and get back on the horse.
Tell them that sometimes, being pushy is a good thing
Let’s go back to that unanswered email for, say, an internship. Your student could just leave it at that; if the employer doesn’t respond, it’s probably pretty clear that your student isn’t in contention for the job, right?
…Well, yeah, probably. But even so- tell them it’s always worth being a little pushy and sending a follow up email, making a follow up call, or even trying to see somebody in person. Why? Reason number one is that you can get useful information on why you didn’t get the job, be it your outlook, your experience, or your grades.
But the second reason is that maybe your pushiness might land you that job after all: it shows how much you really wanted it in the first place, which can impress an employer. That pushiness is what careers in film industry are based on… Figuring out how FAR to push without going over the edge is the talent that usually only comes through experience and learning from mistakes.
First things first, let’s just say it: we think that digital learning and teaching are here to stay. The use of digital technology in education might only be a recent phenomenon, but it’s one that’s already having profound effects on how we teach, how we learn and how students succeed.
So, rather than yet another piece on whether we should digitise our classrooms at all, let’s take a look at whether the change is likely to stick.
Digital and mobile learning is a reflection of a huge societal shift
Digital and mobile learning are, rightly or wrongly, taking over the classroom. Growing numbers of school boards and individual teachers are moving with the times and using digital sources to teach, and digital environments to work in. But this isn’t simply a change within education; it’s anything but. It’s a reflection of the way that society is heading more generally.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs are a part of every home in a way that was unimaginable even just twenty years ago. They offer convenience and flexibility that was completely unheard of not just in education, but in nearly every aspect of life. As humans, we’re never ones to give up something convenient unless something more convenient comes along. We gave up fax in the 1990s, not because we didn’t want to communicate any more, but because email came along. So societal change isn’t going anywhere, its only likely to accelerate as it always has done.
Digital learning in the classroom is backed up by some big names
Since the digitisation of classrooms reflects not just a niche change, but a whole societal restructuring, it’s no surprise that some big names in business are sitting up and taking note. Hundreds of businesses just like Quickclass are moving with the times, and making VLEs and apps that can both help push this digital revolution forward, and help you to benefit from it.
And, naturally, it’s not just us. Probably the biggest name to have stepped into the market is Google, who are famous for trying to get their finger into almost every pie going. Google have created Google Classroom; while we don’t think it’s the best VLE out there, it’s a sign that the big guys are very interested for their own variety of reasons.
Digital learning and teaching benefit everybody
Allowing your students greater flexibility to do their work is only of benefit. It allows them to study and work wherever they choose, alter the pace of their learning to suit their needs, and even completely change how they learn. This sort of student led learning isn’t a new idea, but digital learning and teaching allows it to blossom like never before.
And the use of a virtual learning environment doesn’t just benefit students, it benefits teachers too. VLEs allow teachers to better organise their work load, share marks more easily with both students and parents, and find and share a wide variety of learning and support tools all through one interface. As we’ve said elsewhere, we believe that teachers and the digital classroom are the perfect match, and that this change is here to stay.
Need some inspiration for your latest shoot? Or just looking for some reading material? Aren’t we all. One of the best ways of finding that inspiration is in the stories or expertise of others, but the problem is, that everyone and their mum has a blog these days. So how do you find the best of the bunch?
Look no further! Feel free to check out our list of twenty top filmmaking blogs, for hints and tips on cameras and camera angles, and to help kick start your career
Stephen Follows’ personal blog is one of the best websites for filmmakers looking for insight into the movie industry. We liked his recent post on 49 interesting facts about filmmaking in the UK. Apparently, the BFI awarded more than £1million to short films in 2012- where can we get some of that?!
Chris Jones’ blog, at the aptly named chrisjonesblog.com, is a great resource: he features articles on making a ‘killer’ pitch, as well as how to make low budget horror movies. And if you’re in the mood to kill some time, he regularly posts blogs on top film quotes and filmmaking tips. He puts out loads of general tips that are great for anyone looking for top filmmaking blogs.
Nofilmschool.com isn’t a personal blog- it’s much more than just a blog! They have forums on any number of filmmaking topics too. But their blog is a great way of keeping up to date with all the latest releases and latest conferences, as well as finding out facts about things from filming on a smartphone to the movie industry at large.
We love Indiewire- it’s one of the best websites for filmmakers. They’re constantly being updated with posts on both TV and film. We really liked their post not too long ago, which put together 30 (thirty!) moviemaking tips from ‘the best directors working today’. Richard Linklater thinks that the key to good filmmaking lies in storytelling. Who knew?
Filmmaker Magazine’s online blog can keep you up to date with all the latest news and releases. Their piece on George Romero’s death not long ago, not wanting to miss a trick, talked about what’s next for zombie movies in the Age of Trump. You just can’t get away from politics these days! But seriously, check them out, they’re one of the best filmmaking blogs on our list.
PREMIUMBEAT’s blog- known simply as The Beat- is great for checking out the latest tech. One of their latest posts takes a look at RED Cameras and HYDROGEN. Another post of theirs we really liked is on how to stop expensive gear from overheating- they really do cover every conceivable topic, eh?
Cinema 5D are another site that specifically covers the latest advancements in filmmaking tech: cameras, DSLRs and the like. But aside from that, they are host to a range of guest bloggers on topics like cinematic filmmaking tutorials. They also put out really in-depth reviews of the latest filmmaking equipment, too. Worth checking out if you’re a tech head.
Philip Bloom’s personal blog is another cracker. Bloom is a world renowned filmmaker, having been a part of the industry for almost thirty years. He really loves Canon DSLRs, so expect to see some love for Canon in his blog! Aside from that, he posts about all sorts. It’s great to get some insight from an older head in the industry.
Moviemaker’s blog, like many others here, is the host of a dozen or more guest bloggers who each contribute on various topics. If you didn’t know, Moviemaker Magazine is a leading movie making magazine (yes, really) over in the U.S. You might not see it on every shelf over here, but you can still subscribe- although if you don’t want to fork out £6 a month for the privilege, check out their insightful blog instead.
FilmmakerIQ is one of the most interesting sites on this list. Every single one of their posts has a cutesy header image, made especially, featuring two little cartoon puppets… It’s difficult to describe but still do their site justice! Anyway, check out their blog, because they cover all sorts- why filmmaking is becoming more important in schools and ‘the treachery of expectations’.
Filmmaking Stuff is a great site for anyone interested in resourceful filmmaking and self publishing. You can use their blog to find hints on how to set and meet your own filmmaking targets, using your smartphone to film, and whether you’re likely to be replaced by a robot any time soon. The blogs are normally courtesy of Jason Brubaker.
Noam Kroll’s top filmmaking blogs are for anyone wanting to improve their shooting skills. Noam is a filmmaker out in L.A., and his blog is for all his thoughts on the industry and shooting on a micro-budget. We just wish he’d update more often, because his tips make his blog one of the best filmmaking blogs we found.
Learningvideo.com is Dave Dugdale’s site all about turning from an amateur filmmaker to a pro. Dave actually calls himself an advanced amateur, which is probably not quite fair to him! He’s great at what he does, and you can see how he tries to recreate professional shots with his own equipment.
Newsshooter.com is a website mainly geared towards film journalists, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth checking out no matter your background. They regularly feature new hardware and software that you might find useful, too. They recently reviewed their experience at Cine Gear Expo, and are one of the best filmmaking blogs for filmmaking tech.
Vashi Visuals is a website dedicated to low budget filmmaking, and we mean dedicated! It’s the personal website of Vashi Nedomansky- a defector from Cold War Czechoslovakia, turned ice hockey pro, turned video editor of fifteen years. Quite the life story, huh? It’s worth checking out just to learn about Vashi!
The Filmmaker’s Process is a really useful resource for the filmmaking amateur. Robert Hardy writes on a range of topics, from guides on how to make a profit from freelance filmmaking to advice on how to conquer the fear that goes along with it. He also writes in depth about his own personal filmmaking journey, which is quite compelling.
Indie Tips has it all! It’s a blog which covers everything you would want from websites for filmmakers, including cinematography, writing, editing, video and directing – practically anything you could think of! You can find tutorials for the latest filmmaking software, film reviews, tips on creating good characters and much, much more.
Agnes Films is a site dedicated to supporting women and feminist filmmakers. The website is named after Agnès Varda, a French filmmaker. As pointed out on the website, filmmaking has historically been a male-dominated profession – this blog aims to change that! Amongst other things, they post interviews with female writers and directors, reviews of films directed or written by women, and general filmmaking advice.
Nathalie Sejean of Mentorless has a unique perspective – she believes that we can learn about filmmaking and storytelling from everyone and everything in the world. As long as you have a curious mind and a “DIY spirit”, you can become a filmmaker. Nathalie publishes one of the best filmmaking blogs out there, featuring interviews, anecdotes, guides and tips on the filmmaking process.
Jon Reiss is an award winning filmmaker who has directed and produced a number of feature films, short films and music videos for well-known artists. It’s a privilege to be able to get a glimpse into his mind via his personal blog. As well as stories of his own life and personal experiences, he posts film reviews and advice on making an impact in the world of filmmaking.
So what can we take from this list of the mighty?
There really is a blog out there for everyone, isn’t there? We’re blessed with our internet access- no generation before us has had as much insight at their fingertips! If you can’t find some technical tips and career-boosting ideas in these twenty blogs, then perhaps there are other subjects which you’d prefer out there?
Cinema has countless scenes which have inspired future generations of filmmakers – ie your students. This compilation will distract us all from North Korea for long enough to remember what a rich and amazing archive of filmmaking is out there to continue that inspiration!
Panic, dread, fear and anguish. 4 emotions that cinema chain owners, studios and everyone along the distribution process in Hollywood are all currently feeling.
Remember last year, when an idea was running around of a home movie service that would allow people to watch new cinema releases from the comfort of their coach? Screening Room it was called – as if Netflix hadn’t done enough damage already.
In March of this year, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings even made headlines for making the claim that the movie chains hadn’t innovated in 30 years, stating the only advantage of them is “well, the popcorn tastes better, but that’s about it.”
While most people think Netflix is some huge company disrupting the whole distribution industry – this is only half-true. If we take a step back then we see it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Netflix seems to have merely affected the way that films and, more generally, content, reaches its audience audiences.
That is fantastic for big TV and film producers, but doesn’t mean much for independent filmmakers, yet. In fact, most indie films sold to these new digital distribution channels went to Amazon rather than Netflix; for example, Kenneth Lonergan’s harrowing Manchester by the Sea and Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight. You can really see the touch of veteran indie film producer, Ted Hope, who is now helming Amazon Studios.
If we consider this within a different context, music for example, most of us now take for granted that we’re going to listen to music on Spotify or Apple Music. If we really want to buy music, we’ll go on iTunes and buy digital files as opposed to physical CDs or vinyl. This is a drastic shift, and one which has caused a surge in independent music. A small band that you love can now record its music in their garage and upload it for the world to listen, all done from their laptop. It’s easy to forget how radical that notion was even 20 years ago: really revolutionising an entire established industry and opening it up to smaller players.
The film industry is also going through profound changes, and cinemas will have to adapt to survive. Netflix is just a traditional company, nothing incredible, but they sure know how to make the most of the new wave of digital technologies. It’s just like the 2008 financial crisis: you can look at it as a phenomenon in and of itself, or you can look at it as a ripple in a bigger, wider undercurrent. But how will this wave affect us, the independent filmmakers? Will we eventually have the same channels indie music has, and just upload our movies (and actually make money from them)?
Netflix and Amazon haven’t figured this out yet. They haven’t worked out how to make production as simple as it could be, or as DIY as independent filmmakers are used to. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom, because that’s actually where the power of independent filmmakers lie: you can shoot how you like, improve your work, put it out on social media and, if you have enough following, you can reach enough people to get noticed – the only missing piece is making it a real business model.
Hollywood, digital distribution channels, and independent filmmakers: how these 3 puzzle pieces will eventually fit together is yet to be seen. However we predict that Hollywood will adapt to appease the likes of Netflix and Amazon, whilst indie filmmakers will (hopefully) hop on great new channels to distribute themselves.
There weren’t relatively nearly as many documentaries before 1980, but over the last 4 decades the “genre” has rapidly risen to become one of the most popular forms of filmmaking. The criteria for a good documentary film is subject, just as it is for any other art form, however that doesn’t mean you should just charge head-first into it, following these key documentary filmmaking techniques will greatly benefit your film and yourself – regardless of your unique vision for the film.
6 universal tips for great documentary filmmaking:
- Choose an interesting subject:
This should be the first and most important thing you do, as you don’t want a 2 month filming process to conclude with the realisation that the finished documentary will be boring (even to you!). This is difficult; as of course everyone will find different things interesting. So the best way of approaching will be to strip all façade from the subject matter and consider whether there is a genuine and compelling human story to be told. If so then regardless of the eventual subject matter your documentary will most crucially tell a compelling story.
- Get the right crew:
Documentary filming schedules can be unstructured, so get a crew that is flexible, open to work in a moments notice, and passionate – you don’t want someone complaining and asking when lunch will be.
- Go to documentary film festivals!
This can be before filming, during, or in post-production. You can meet some of the best, most well respected documentary filmmakers currently working. In doing so, you can learn about their filmmaking process and get first-hand tips from them. Admission is normally fairly affordable (students can usually get discounts), and it is certainly worthwhile to be inspired if you’re interested in documentary filmmaking.
- Get the right support around you and have patience:
Documentary is a long-form process; meaning you will end up reels and reels (or hard drives and hard drives) of footage, which you will need to whittle down in the editing stage. This can be very hard at points, ending a day and realising none of the footage from that day is useful – you need perseverance and the right support around you to keep filming usually on a hectic, ever-changing schedule.
- Consider your equipment:
Not everyone will have access to huge, professional cameras that probably cost more than most people’s car, but that doesn’t matter, if your subject matter requires a fast moving crew and lots of travel, you don’t want to be carrying round heavy equipment with you, in fact that’ll make your footage worse as you can’t capture quick authentic moments. You can even shoot on a smart-phone now, most have a great camera set up and with the right app you tailor it to you (companies like Olloclip and iOgrapher even produce equipment just for this). If something between the two extremes sounds better, then a quality DSLR, a few lenses, a tripod and an audio set up will also need to be very adaptable to the variety of footage you’ll end up shooting.
- Watch the right kinds of documentaries:
Depending on the style of documentary you want to emulate, you will want to educate and inspire yourself with those films; whether that be crime re-enactment documentaries like The Thin Blue Line, long-form character pieces like Hoop Dreams, or more grounded investigative pieces like many of Louis Theroux’s documentaries. Watch the best films there are to watch, get ideas from them, and hope some of the greatness rubs off on you!
Documentary filmmaking is a tough passion to pursue; however it is also very rewarding. We hope these tips for documentary filmmaking help minimise the toughness and maximise the rewards – now get out there and shoot!
Gamification in learning is yet another educational movement based on what students respond to best. The benefits of gamification in learning are that it motivates children to engage on a different level with the topic they’re studying, and increases their retention after study too. But crucially, there’s a big difference between gamification done right and gamification done wrong.
So, let’s take a look at examples of good and bad gamification, and learn some pointers to best employ it with your students!
Duolingo- gamified language learning
Duolingo, if you’ve never heard of it, provides free online courses for anybody wanting to learn a language. They have the most obvious and well known languages- English, Spanish, French- as well as more obscure options like Game of Thrones’ High Valyrian language, Hungarian and Vietnamese. There’s something for everybody to learn. So where does the gamification come in?
Well, Duolingo is a great example of gamification in learning, in action. Every aspect of the learning process is gamified: the user is constantly rewarded with trophies and achievements, and even gain in-game currency (called lingots) for things like levelling up and being challenged to use the app daily for a week. The currency can be used to customise your profile, and subtly indicating your language prowess at the same time!
Duolingo has enjoyed great success in recent years, as user numbers have grown. Its success is also mirrored in the fact that it’s widely used in public schools in developing countries like Costa Rica and Guatemala to help students learn English. In fact, Durolingo released a VLE-of-sorts for teachers, which allows them to track their students’ progress with the site.
Google News- gamification, but for what purpose?
Never one to be caught behind the curve, Google has tried to catch onto the gamification trend too. But we felt that their attempt was more for its own sake than for any real purpose. And in fact, it seemed to do the opposite of what it actually set out to do!
Google News is like a great big RSS feed complied by Google, from reliable sources worldwide. But not enough people (according to Google, at least) knew about the service, and fewer stayed around to use it repeatedly. So Google decided to gamify the experience, and began to offer badges as a reward for the number of articles, and the kind of articles, you read.
The hope was that this could give you bragging rights over your friends on Google Plus, because you can display the badges on your profile. But it didn’t catch on, and here’s the reason why: they didn’t represent any kind of achievement. Reading a news article is more of a way of passing the time and, obviously, keeping up with the news than a hobby or a challenge.
Duolingo’s example of gamification worked because learning a language is a genuine challenge. Increasing your vocabulary, learning the grammatical rules of a new language, and being able to pronounce sounds unused in your own language is difficult, where reading a news article just isn’t. Gamification in education has to be the same, or it falls at the first hurdle.