Quantum Literacy: Learning Quantum Computing through Games
ALEJANDRA M. J .LITTERIO | March 10, 2022
Blooming from theory into a burgeoning real-world of practical applications, many technological advances have been made in Quantum Computing. With a vast domain to cover, an educational challenge has arisen: How to get people of different backgrounds become “quantum literate”? In other words, how people can learn Quantum Computing without any previous theoretical or experience requirements? And, in the end, become “a quantum thinker”.
Learning through games to develop “quantum reasoning” is the first step to train our first generation of “quantum native sapiens” or “quantum literates”.
The idea of becoming “quantum literate” has its root in the need to upskill non-specialist workforce in the field of Quantum Computing and train developers and decision makers in the counter-intuitive ways of quantum reasoning. Involvement of the learners from early stages to understand the underlying building blocks and principles of Quantum Computing is the stepping-stone. Starting from scratch, without requiring the learner to possess a background in computer coding or even linear algebra, gamification or gaming enables non-specialists to grasp difficult concepts in an intuitive way to solve complex problems.
Academically speaking, this brings us to STEM education. Exposing students to game-based learning with an educational purpose becomes more engaging and challenging. Gamification, therefore, as an instructional method is very well suited to creating an environment to encourage exploration and making connections. Then, the traditional role of a teacher is shifted to that of a “guide” since the learner is in control of its own pace in the learning process. Quantum Computing related games has an ultimate goal: “to enable users to develop an intuitive but still rigorous understanding of the fundamentals of quantum computation, as well as the potential to discover increasingly complex and new quantum algorithms” (Nita et al, 2020).
Therefore, pedagogical games can be introduced as a substantial methodology to aid non-specialists in becoming knowledgeable when approaching to quantum terminology, a practical toolbox for use case implementation.
Games and visualization
Originally introduced in education to include students in cutting-edge quantum mechanics research as well as to support and motivation for learning, as mentioned before, today gamification has become a trend covering a broad spectrum of multidisciplinary fields such as healthcare, defence, finance, corporate training, and advertising. As Huang and Soman (2013) states: “Gamification can indirectly prompt the student to acquire more knowledge and skills due to the effect on engagement and motivation”.
According to different authors, games fulfil a particular role in the understanding and learning of abstract concepts (Bright 1983, Gee 2007, Salen 2008, Whitton 2010, 2012). More precisely, board games have been tested as effective learning devices (Gobet 2004, Shanklin 2007, Treher 2011, Berland 2011, Yoon 2014) since: (1) due to their immersive nature they facilitate attention, concentration and motivation, (2) they provide learners with meaningful everyday experiences, allow “learning by doing”, hands-on skill and knowledge development, (3) raise competitiveness, promote discussion and deep thinking among players and (4) foster inclusion for clarification and explanation following the natural course of the game (Montola 2005, Walther 2005, Juul 2008, Zimmerman 2012, Castells 2000, Prensky 2007).
Active scientific realism”: visualization and simulation
“Visual literacy” is one of the most critical competencies when talking about the integration of technology, more specifically when we describe learning from a “multimodal” perspective where visualization plays a key role. In the context of specific situations in an institutional setting, meaning-making communication through visualization and gamification can mitigate the abstract nature of Quantum Computing concepts, making a problematic phenomenon easier to solve.
There seems to be a consensus that concepts of Quantum Computing via traditional didactic teaching methods are not easy to comprehend due both to epistemological challenges and the lack of availability of specialized Quantum Computing systems and related equipment, which represents a slight hurdle in experimentation. Therefore, interactive simulations for quantum visualization seems to be a powerful tool which facilitates the learners’ engagement through scaffolding of the learning experience.
Interacting with the dynamic visualizations associated with complex scientific phenomena aided by clear guidance enables learners to generate valuable explanations and improve understanding.
Let´s play quantum
Designed for STEM, higher-education, and university levels, most of the games have the aim to engage learners interactively to acquire quantum conceptualizations, principles and develop critical thinking to problem solving. Most of them are board games, some visualizations and finally simulations.
The following are examples that illustrate games, models and education paradigms from research and academic resources.
“Odyssey” is an effective model in a visual mode, which allows learners to solve quantum computation problems even if they had never been exposed to quantum computation before. It is designed to both visually represent and allow interaction with everything that can be done on small quantum computing systems. (Nita et al., 2020).
“Entanglion” is a board game model for quantum computing which helps players build an understanding of quantum states and transitions between those states, rather than logic, data structures, or algorithms through its unique representation of quantum states its and collaborative learning process (Weiz et al., 2018).
“Quantum tic-tac-toe” was developed as a metaphor for the counterintuitive nature of superposition exhibited by quantum systems. It offers a way of introducing quantum physics without advanced mathematics, provides a conceptual foundation for understanding the meaning of quantum mechanics. It also illustrates a few quantum principles including states, superposition, collapse, nonlocality, entanglement, the correspondence principle, interference, and decoherence (Goff, 2006).
“Schrödinger cat and hounds” main objective is to teach concepts of quantum mechanics. It demonstrates the effects of superposition, destructive and constructive interference, measurements, and entanglement. More advanced concepts, like particle–wave duality and decoherence, can also be taught using the game as a model (Gordon and Gordon, 2012).
“Quantum Moves” (Ornes, 2018) was designed to pit human players against computer algorithms, combining their solutions into hybrid optimization to control a scalable quantum computer (Lieberoth et al., 2014).
“Quantum Race” was designed for the introduction of quantum mechanics principles. The main idea is to choose a core of few basic concepts to be explained, and to design the game mechanisms and rules completely around them. (Chiarello, 2016).
“QuaSim” is a virtual gamified education paradigm that teaches basic concepts of Quantum Computing and Cryptography. It allows the internalization of counterintuitive quantum concepts that sit at the intersection of physics, mathematics, computer science and cybersecurity. Second, it provides an immersive environment for hands-on learning in the absence of expensive quantum equipment and field-training opportunities. And third, QuaSim enhances student learning and proficiency in relevant concepts while maintaining engagement through a gamified interface (Parakh et al., 2020).
Great Quantum Expectations
Assimilation and internalization turn out to be critical for learners (developers, non-specialists, and students) to achieve proficiency in such a complex field, namely Quantum Computing. Integrating games in a collaborative (even competitive) environment is a promising way for “easy adoption” of proper concepts and the possibility of re-interpreting the world.
Becoming a “quantum sapiens” or “quantum literate” or “quantum citizens” means “thinking quantum critically” being “naturally” capable of not only comprehend but also devise quantum algorithms to solve real life problems in many different scenarios. It is time for Great Quantum Expectations. We are on the verge of laying the cornerstone in the Quantum Gamified Era.
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