Gamification of Learning

I recently attended the Interacting with Immersive Worlds Conference and spent the time pondering the gamification of learning. More than integrating games into classroom learning, "the gamification of education is a relatively new approach to education that employs game play mechanics to creating a more engaging and playful learning experience. It works by using ideas from game design to encourage people to learn and complete tasks with more enthusiasm. Gamification can also provide the necessary external motivators for the important learning that must occur outside the classroom (Pearce, 2011).

Gamifying the education experience can help hammer home the idea that people control their future. It can help students develop a sense of agency where they feel they have control over their lives and more confidence in their ability to change their circumstances" (Pearce, 2011).

Kyle Pearce (2011) suggests that there are some key game elements that can be applied to learning.

A goal: Every game has a win condition: the combination of events and accomplishments that players need to achieve in order to end the game. In every good game, the goal is clear, and the rest of the game is constructed to create a system in which the tools necessary to reach the goal are available. Ultimately, what's most important about the goal is that players care enough to want to accomplish it.

Obstacles: Easy games aren't much fun to play. Though the tools necessary to reach the goal should be part of the game, difficulties and challenges should be part as well. Without those obstacles, winning wouldn't mean much.

Collaboration or competition: Games come in two basic flavours: those in which winning is determined by defeating another player, and those in which winning is determined by beating the game itself. The former can create competition among players. The second encourages a player to compete against him/herself until the player beats the game (Pearce, 2011).

If you are interested in how you can gamify learning in your classroom, Sarah Smith-Robbins has some suggestions.
  1. Make goals clear, and explain how the course content prepares learners to achieve those goals. Ensure that students align on the goals and want to achieve them.
  2. Spend as much time in class covering the importance of the learning goals as is spent explaining the grading system of the class.
  3. When writing assignment descriptions, include a "How you can use this in the future" section.
  4. Make progress transparent to each learner. Grades and assignment completion are not the only ways to measure progress toward achieving the goals.
  5. Give students a way to track their progress on each learning goal of the class. An online checklist that students fill out on their own can help them stay on track.
  6. Create commodities for desired behaviour. For example, hand out poker chips to students who contribute in class; a student who cashes in ten poker chips earns a "Top Contributor" badge.
  7. Add peer voting to class activities such as discussions and online forums. Allowing students to identify the contributions that they see as valuable will highlight good models for other students to follow, as well as provide positive feedback to the contributing student.
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