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Gaming in Eduction: Gamification

My most popular posts for TheEdublogger (arguably THE most popular posts ;P ) have been centered on the use of games and gaming within the education system. Since I’ve covered a few of the big players in the video game industry, and how they have adapted to support educational methods, I thought I would have a look at ways you can integrate gaming into your classroom WITHOUT the aid of a video game. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce today’s special guest, Gamification.

What is Gamification

Gamification is, granted, a controversial topic. It focuses on using game thinking and game mechanics to turn an otherwise mundane task into something engaging and perhaps even competitive. It involves implementing methods used in the development of games, but applying them to a real world scenario, such as a classroom.

Obviously, the classroom is primarily about learning, but engaging and motivating students can be a challenge. And a bored student is far less likely to take in what the teacher is trying to teach. Perhaps gamifying the classroom might be a way to improve their engagement, productivity and enthusiasm for what the teacher has to say?

Methods of Gamification

The are a huge variety of gamification methods, ranging from the simple to the complex. Each will have varying levels of success, depending on the context and application for each individual. Creative teachers will be able to come up with their own gamification methods that work best with their class and subject matter, and if done carefully, the students will remain focused on the task at hand, rather than the rewards presented by the system.

Most gamification methods offer some kind of reward for specific tasks, or a collection of tasks when performed together or in a specific order. Below are a couple of methods that can be used to gamify the classroom:

1. Achievements

Gamification: Trophies
Photo Credit: Flori B. via Compfight

In Gaming: Achievements (also referred to by gamers as “chieves”) have always been a part of video and board games, ranging from completing a level and hearing the congratualtory music, to the more complex achievement systems that are implemented into modern games, such as badges awarded for collecting a certain number of items, or exploring a certain percentage of the game world. Game developers have often implemented achievements into their games to reward players for doing something that perhaps not everyone would do, or finding something that not everyone would find. This has led to a culture of “Chieve Hunting”, the act of playing a game with the sole purpose of finding the achievements the game makers have hidden within.

In Education: Actually achievements have been used in schools for a long time already. Some schools offer “Merits” for certain good behaviour, perhaps issuing a stamp or some kind of token for each merit, possibly even extending this system to offer an additional reward when the student receives a certain number of merits.

Taking this concept a little further, it would be possible to implement a “points” system into an individual class. For example, offering points based on the grade achieved for a certain assignment or test (which incidently is also an achievement in itself) could lead to an accumulation of points, that in turn could lead to a reward at the end of the term, perhaps a badge or some other form of visible recognition of their achievement. This leads me into my next method…

2. Badges

Gamification: Badges
Photo Credit: Aaron Booth via Compfight

In Gaming: Closely linked to achievements, badges are often used in games to “show-off” an achievement. Popular gaming platform Steam has used different types of badges to allow players to demonstrate their achievements on their profile pages, giving them a sense of pride. The majority of the games on their platform have been designed to work alongside their platform to award badges for achievements specific to each game, and the platform itself offers badges based on the actual number of games in your library, and other trackable milestones. It is not unheard of for people who already own a game to re-purchase a game on the Steam platform specifically to allow them to play it again and earn the achievement badges unique to that system. The visual nature of a badge offers additional incentive to reach the achievement, so that it can be proudly displayed on their profile.

In Education: Again, badges have been used as a reward system in schools for some time. In general they have been used to indicate a privilege, such as “Prefect”, “Hall Monitor” or “Head Boy/Girl”, and these are (usually) proudly displayed on the students jacket or uniform. However badges could also be used to celebrate the minutia in the classroom, and it doesn’t have to be an actual badge that can be pinned to clothing, but any visible reward that could be displayed, such as a sticker (again a system already used in some schools) or a printed, perhaps laminated, image of some description that could be pinned to a wall or desk, or even taken home to proudly show their parents. Some schools have used certificates for this purpose, however (in my opinion) a smaller badge could be carried around or displayed proudly, encouraging other students to want to achieve the same reward.

3. Levels/Ranks

Gamification: Levels/Ranks
Photo Credit: History Center via Compfight

In Gaming: Levels and ranks play a big part in games. They are used subtly in many different ways to give the player a sense of progression, be that through flat levels that need to be completed, or ranks awarded when you reach a certain goal, or perhaps even the use of a research tree or technology tree, or some other progression mechanic, that lead to further features of the game when unlocked. The basic idea behind levels and ranks are usually to gate off certain features or priviledges until you have progressed through the more menial or repetitive tasks of the lower levels. Likewise, the higher level or rank will usually bring with it additional, more challenging, tasks and goals, making the progression to the next level increasingly difficult.

In Education: This is where the idea of gamification can become a bit of a grey area, and, if used, the idea of levels and ranks would have to be carefully planned so as not to make any one student feel superior or inferior to their peers. With that said, when implemented carefully, it would be possible to use a leveling or ranking system in the class room to offer students the opportunity to “unlock” additional privileges, as well as additional responsibilities within the class. This could be integrated with the badge system mentioned above to give students an indication that they reached a certain rank or level. I suspect this system would work better with younger classes, since the risk of perceived superiority would be reduced, and the rewards you can offer younger children are easy to “create” and are more appreciated, but this does not exclude the possibility of implementing such a system with older students… after all, everyone likes a promotion, right?

4. Leaderboards

Gamification: Leaderboards
Photo Credit: hellabella via Compfight

In Gaming: Right from the days of PacMan in the arcade, leaderboards have been a great incentive for players to play a game over and over again to hone their skills, just so they can see their name on the highscore table, even if it does get wiped at the end of the day when they switch off the machine! The competitive nature of a leaderboard gives players something to play for, and staves off the boredom of playing the same thing repeatedly, as there is a perceived reward at the end of it. Whether it’s video games or team sports, leaderboards and league tables have always been a feature to show one player or team’s progression, and their position or skill relative to the others.

In Education: Again, implemetation of a leaderboard in the classroom would have to be carefully planned, but there is likely less risk of students developing superiority over their peers if the leaderboard is frequently updated, and if everyone has an equal opportunity to progress toward the top of the table. Leaderboards will usually work on a points system, so students will need a way to earn points if they are to progress, and those at the bottom of the table will need sufficient incentive so as not to lose heart and give up trying to climb the table. With that said, a leaderboard could have students paying maticulous detail to their assignments in order to achieve those few extra points that will put them one place higher in the table, or even working together to earn their team more points.

Gamification and Edublogs

Though I don’t necessarily speak for Edublogs as a whole, the Edublogs platform is well suited to gamification.

When it comes to blogging, teachers could use our system to award “points” based on the number of posts, comments or other interactions posted on a student blog (being careful to account for possible cheats!). If setting a homework assignment, or some other kind of task that the students will reply to via their blog, points could also be awarded based on the quality of their submitted response. These points could then be tallied and badge like graphics could be issued to the students for them to display on their own blogs, like a trophy or rank insignia. The Image widget is ideally suited for adding such graphics to the blog sidebar.

As an aside, I’ve been looking into gamification plugins that we might be able to add to Edublogs (or modify to suit Edublogs) to allow this kind of gamification to be easily implemented and tracked with a little more automation. Though I haven’t settled on a recommendation yet, and I can’t guarantee that any recommendation will actually be implemented, I am certainly an advocate for Edublogs gamification, and I intend to push to add something along these lines… even if I have to make it myself! :) I’m interested to hear peoples’ comments on how gamification could be implemented into Edublogs, and if there are any specific features people would like to see added if we were to add this kind of functionality in the future.

Please feel free to comment below and I’ll see what I can do!

Further Reading

It seems that gamification has been a hot topic over the last few days, so I thoguht it only fair to give some props to some of the other bloggers that have been discussing the subject, as well as to provide links to a few of my information sources:

Big Dreams On Gamification -A Edublogger’s article that just happened to be published the day I started writing this article.
The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning – by Steven Isaacs
Gamification from Wikipedia – because it’s Wikipedia
What is Gamification? – Some info and stats about gamification

29 Comments

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  1. Gamified education is actually our future. It’s most simple way to engage students, also – develop their practical skills. Strongly suggest to try out http://virtonomics.com.

    • I had a look at virtonomics. Very deep little game.. I’d love to find (make?) a version of this that provides a simpler (and better translated) interface, without sacrificing the technical depth of the game and the market structure.

  2. I’ve used string games as a part of my instruction for more than twenty years, and am now developing curriculum to use students’ tracking of their own personal repertoire of string figures as a basis for self-directed, personalized learning. Games provide lots of opportunity for low-risk failure with high value rewards along the way–the opposite of what usually happens in school, where students are made to feel that their failures are all high risk, and there are no rewards that mean much to the kids (who really cares about a popsicle party weeks or months in the future?). See my Original Digital Project: http://originaldigital.storyworkers.org/

    • That’s an interesting perspective. I have to agree that, historically, schooling has been presented as a high-risk, low reward system, and gamification would turn that on its head. Who says that school has to be stressful, boring and hard work… why not make it enjoyable and rewarding!

    • I agree with what you said about stress and reward ratios: education and gaming are usually at odds with each other in this respect. I think it is a generally good perspective to teach kids, that failure is not the end of the world and that there is merit to trying again and working hard. I would like to add that music education has been using games in instruction for decades, providing a fun and engaging way for students to develop skills like pitch recognition and steady beat. At the same time, music games are also hugely popular for the mobile platform, and educational music games are also getting a lot of attention. I have yet to see them implemented in the classroom, but I think they would be a great success!

  3. I’ve been offering a free online course on gamification in education at
    https://www.openlearning.com/courses/gamify

    The course reviews the literature and related psychological concepts that ought to be taken into account when using games in educational settings. There are companion courses on multimedia applications with more courses under development for this coming year.

  4. learning using electronics is very helpful in many ways

  5. This whole issue of gamification has been on my mind for some time now. I saw a TED talk in which a gamer helped heal herself from a concussion. Jane McGonigal’s points about gaming and how it can improve the world, gave me pause. I recently tried my hand at this by structuring a mutually dependent panel/pod discussion. The panel facilitated the pod’s discussion. The pod provided the actual energy for classroom discourse. A person from each pod recorded each time a member thoughtfully participated. I used gold stars. The kids were pretty intrigued, but the actual discussion did not delve as deeply as I thought it might. Any insights would be appreciated. I am trying to decide if kids just needed more time to think about the story, or if my classroom discussion format was too new.

    • Susanne Miller
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  6. What an inspiring post, and right on time. I’m working on an RPG for educators to use with their students and this article tells me I’m headed in the right direction. Thanks!

    • Darvin Martin
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  7. Is there a website, blog, or group that focuses solely on the gamification of education that I could check out?

    • Darvin Martin
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  8. Great post! I always said that the combination of gaming and learning is the future for youth education nowadays! I can say about myself that I am 100% gamer! I love leveling up ,getting achievements ,rivalry in games and that desire to become better & better player!. If someone in the past brought to my education something like Gamification, came to me and said “If you will pass math test tomorrow you will get a beautiful math master badge” I’m sure that I’d have better results at school. Gamification in schools may be a success!

  9. Well written post with impressive information.But where can i find more information in detail about gamification.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      The “Further Reading” links at the end of the post are a good place to start for more information about Gamification. The wikipedia article has some good general detail and links to some statistics etc, so that might be a good place to start.

  10. Interestingly I stumbled upon this article while looking up some family members, and just happened to follow some links – but it is correlated nicely with a project that we have just started to try to really get off the ground, making initially one, but then hopefully more games specifically for the classroom. I would dearly love to see what other teachers think of our game and would welcome ideas and feedback to make it better. The goal is to make something that everyone can use and enjoy. Please let us know if this is something that you think you might be able to use in your classroom environments, and anything we might have missed. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cannonballs-Sails-or-Swords/811023688983392?ref=profile . It is something I have been using for about 14 years now and it works for me – but I appreciate everyone else’s perspective too.

    • Glad you found and liked the post. It’s been very interesting to see some of the suggestions and ideas people have had for Gamification. I will certainly take a look at the suggestion you made too.

  11. Gamification is an amazing idea. Students will finally have a fun time actually learning instead of daydreaming while the teacher babbles on. As a high school student myself, I wish that more schools would adopt this method of teaching since it would make many stressful assignments fun. Not only that, but the schools would save both time and money because they could re-use the game and they wouldn’t have to spend time printing pages upon pages of work that will only end up in the garbage. Gamification should be incorporated in many more schools because it makes learning fun and it is beneficial to everyone.

    • Hey Ilyas,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you agree that Gamification has its place in schools. Maybe we will see it creep into more and more classrooms over the next few years?

  12. Great post, i like the article very much. this is an informative article & people will learn more from this.

  13. I think gamification is a teaching technique that if implemented correctly, can have many positive outcomes. It will keep students engaged in classrooms and hopefully result in better performance from students. This is an interesting concept which can have a positive result.

  14. Gamification sounds like an extraordinary development that will assist in the learning of students around the world. I am a university student doing research on gamification and I saw a ted talk which had elements of gamification help solve a problem that professionals were challenged with. What interests me is to what extent gamification is being applied to research and development? And how effective is it?

    • Ritesh Doolabh
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  15. Great article. it has been really beneficial to a research project. I was just wanting to know if you feel that gamification as it is implemented in education could be implemented in the work place? or are there different aspects to consider given the age gap between groups?

  16. I think this blog is greatly enlightening to new comers whom have known about gamification prior to reading this. It covers all the necessary information on gamification and hits you with hard facts that convince whoever is brave enough to question gamification efficiency.

  17. Hi Elliott,

    This is a very interesting idea. I agree that the classroom teacher must be very careful in the way they approach several of these ideas. I did see that you found some articles on the idea. Were you able to find any research based articles? Do you think this could be used on the K-12 level or do you have specific grades in mind?
    :)

  18. This is a very interesting topic that I feel might be effective in my classes especially in the areas of math and spelling. Thank you for the idea.

  19. Our Names are Jack,Adam,Evan,and George we are 8th graders at Bethel Middle School in Connecticut. We are doing a project on whether games are educational. We saw your article and thought it could be of great use for our project. We were hoping you could answer a few questions for us. Do you think certain programs and games can benefit students more than paper and textbooks? Second, how much do people benefit from a video game based curriculum vs a regular curriculum? Third, how often do you think students should use these programs in schools? Fourth, do you think a video game based curriculum will help people who struggle in the regular curriculum? If you have any more information you can provide please feel free to add. Thank you for helping us out with our project we hope to hear from you soon.
    Sincerely,
    George, Jack, Evan, and Adam

    • George Viebrock
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  20. I think its important that we make a distinction between gamification and game-based learning. One is movement with academic support and scholarly research, the other is just an add that attempts to make old methods relevant.

    The ‘gamification’ however is a great way to loop in emerging and struggling learners, sped kids, and any one else who might need those tangible reminders of what they should be done and the progress they’ve made.

    Like any educational tool, it is just that; a tool. How effective it is just depends on how you use it in your classroom.

    http://asoundmind.edublogs.org/

    • Frank Cademartori
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