In gamification elements of computer gaming are applied to non-game context with the purpose to increase motivation and engagement of students. “Gamification tends to take the use of game outside of a defined space and apply the concepts to items like walking up steps, tracking the number of miles run, or making a sales call” (Kapp, 2012).
From Kapp’s point of view, gamification is not the same as games. We tend to associate it with badges and leaderboards, but it should be more about fun and play into the experiences we create. Zombies, Run for example is a game that motivates runners to train harder and do more miles. Experienced educators introduce games and play into their strategies, and digital gamification is an extension of this practice.
Gamification provides a context where students can apply their knowledge and skills which focus on a learning objective. In this context, games should have a clear goal for the players, as well as a learning outcome.
On the other hand, as an educator, you really have to take time and plan the lessons introducing gamification very throughly, because you don’t want your students to take it as an invitation to play video games, but to understand that they need to withdraw strategies from them and apply them in real life, trying to free themselves from conventional ideas and find that special feeling that any idea can be possible with the right twist. As an educator, you always have to have in mind both sides of a story and take in consideration also those who see the downside of a subject, like Selwyn (2014). Selwyn has a more critical view over gamification, mentioning that there is a risk of promoting short-term engagement in tasks, with an increased risk of longer-term disengagement.
With this in mind, this year I have built a website for my grade 5 students that was intended to maximize their physical activity throughout the two sessions a week we spent together. As an element that motivated their actions I have included Sworkit, a fitness app that influenced their behaviour in an active way. They encouraged each other based on their results, they built on the skills they were practicing during the unit and they acquired knowledge. All these outcomes were highlighted in the Slack chat they performed, showcasing the drive of innovation they have faced. These outcomes were closely linked to the central idea of the unit: “We can develop and maintain physical fitness by applying basic training principles”.
After this experience, I am thinking that we can use various insights and creative ideas to design our own, interactive learning experiences. Games and gamification are everywhere nowdays, and games are created much easier than before. Google Glasses or Nike+ are products that became common, therefore the need to build on adding gamification to our learning environments.
Looking back, children were learning through simple play, whereas, with the present mobile technology, they have the world at their fingertips.
Turning game based into knowledge is challenging, but not impossible. Gamification brings the consequences of not reaching the next level and puts the learners into an emotional state where they have to take action, to reach a certain number of points or a different level, and this drives in them a behavioural change. When thinking about the most effective learning moment in our lives we remember the frustration and hardness of the tasks and then the “Aha!” moment. In these cases, over time, gamification reinforces learning and changes behaviours.
Kapp (2012) evidences three core elements of gamification:
First, a visual notification of the progress is visible, and learners like to see progress. Students interact with each other, asking about a tough question or a task. There is an excitement of knowing something from the whole topic, and this is the second element. Third, students are learning at their own pace, so a personalisation of learning is allowed and amplified by the feedback that keeps motivation at high levels.
Before we develop gamification to better foster learning, I believe that is important to ask ourselves these questions:
What are the three reasons driving this game or gamification?
Is the emphasis placed too much on fun aspects of the game and not enough on the learning?
Does the game play include an opportunity for reflection of the learning?
Having these aspects in mind may enhance the quality of the learning experiences we create.
How do you enhance your students’ learning through gamification? Many of us are already integrating it in the experiences we design, but do we always keep the educational purpose beyond the positive effects that gamification offers?
I enjoyed watching this two videos that highlight Kapp’s vision over gamification:
Kapp, K. M. (2012) The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Case-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.
Selwyn, N. (2014) Chapter 5 of Distrusting educational technology : critical questions for changing times.