Gamifying Education – who will it really work with?

I have just come across this infographic – making me think. In general I am not against gamification myself. I do actually try it out with my own students, using 3D GameLab to gamify my quests. In fact this year I really would like to write a bit about how my students, who will be teachers, feel on the issue of gamification in education. My question though is… let’s take the school setting, will gamification only work with those learners who have a predisposition to schools and learning, or could it be successful with those young people, for whom learning is perceived as a burden which they can definitely live without? Could we use gamification to really entice young people not to drop out of school? Could we really use gamification with both young and adult people who have severe literacy difficulties? Sincerely… I don’t really know.
Gamification Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

A 3D GameLab experience … proud to earn badges!

Last Summer I stumbled across 3D GameLab and I got hooked. Not so much about its gamification aspect as much as for the opportunities for learning that it offers. I did participate in some teacher camps, and more importantly I got awarded the 3D GameLab Teacher badge – which I am very proudly sporting over here! 3D GameLab offers the possibility for people to actually build up their portfolio using badges (and then showing them off in a Mozilla Open Badges backpack) which they would have collected by completing quests inside 3D GameLab. This concept of questing is not new at all, but 3D GameLab have effectively combined, various game mechanics (such as feedback, leader boards, scores and rewards, achievements, etc.) with the notion of learning what you need to learn when you need to learn it – a bit like just-in-time learning with incentives. I believe this type of approach really holds the key to unlock the future of lifelong and informal learning especially in the adult community – though linking this with the curriculum and letting the young learners experiment with their own learning is not a bad idea at all!

Teacher Badge from 3D GameLab

The Gamification of Education

Just came across this very concise and interesting infographic about the state of our Education and how Games for Education have progressed. It is also interesting to note that “educational games” with a boring connotation were the products of 1980’s. It would be quite pointless to attempt to recreate similar kind of games for today’s society – and our “digital natives”.

It is also interesting to note that in Games for Education (including serious games) we are now moving from a society based on consumerism, towards a productive community – one where its gamers want to contribute to the production of content for games rather than simply playing the game. One just needs to look at the popularity of games like Minecraft or Little Big Planet, to be able to understand that people, or rather learners, want to be able to show off their creativity and initiative in playing games.

Gamification of Education

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media


I have been reading the book Connected by Dr Christakis and Dr Fowler, and I have to admit that they have managed to give me a whole new perspective on the issue of connections constructed in social networks and beyond. I have also read the blog post by Audrey Watters on the sharing of educational resources in and on social networks, and especially her views on Google+ and Twitter and what these might imply.

To be honest before I started using Twitter myself, and using it for real I never understood the real power of its potential for harvesting huge amounts of data and presenting it as knowledge into context. Reading through the blog post, reminded me of something which I came across in the book. What Twitter essentially builds upon is the power of the networks as connections are established within a cleverly constructed structure. What happens initially is that networks are established amongst the people or connections who are somehow related or considered as “trustworthy”. Most often these people know each other previously and physically and the connections between these people are in fact seen as ‘strong’ ties. However, research has shown that keeping connections only limited to these strong ties, might inhibit certain creativity, innovation and the ability to find solutions which go beyond, the mentality or culture of the circles which predominantly feature amongst people having strong connections. What Twitter does, is ultimately providing the capabilities of establishing what are termed as ‘weak’ or loose ties, which occur as a result of intermediary people in the network which help connect groups to other groups with differing individual capabilities. This is what happens when the power of the whole, is so much more than the power of the individual – the information spread is much more effective and successful and the drive towards a common goal is thus enhanced.

This can also be seen in the various guilds which are established in MMORPGs – the most succesful case study of which is World of Warcraft, is an embodiment of this concept. Strong connections which are established naturally as guilds form, give the group a steady direction, and a common goal to aim for built upon elements of trust which would have been established prior to the formation of the guild. The weak ties which are established following the natural guild formation, ensures creative capabilities, a more competitive drive and an attainment of knowledge and skills which is made up of the ‘whole’ rather than the individual.

So to come back to social networks, Twitter and Google+ the power which they hold is that of providing the right structure to facilitate these connections. How this is done seems to work differently for both Twitter and Google+ although inherently they may be based on the same principles. As research has shown, the most important thing is that for a successful enterprise, whether this is education or not, is the way the connections are established and maintained over time. Twitter has shown that it can do it, but can Google+ live up to the challenge now?

Gamification ideals and going beyond

Just read @timbuckteeth‘s blog post entitled One Step Beyond and I find myself facing this conundrum. The post says – “Set the Kids’ free” – you know all this social media, networking, connecting beyond the classroom can in effect be made use of for learning. And that is fine. I totally agree. In an ideal world that is the way it should be. And the tools are there. The setting is there. The learner culture is there. Even the teacher culture is somehow there. I mean if I ask any one of the teachers in a local school whether they have facebook accounts and whether they are active users, I stand a good chance that about 90% of them will say they do. And that’s saying a lot – even in this era of social living – for this tiny island.

So well the question is… why not? Why is this not happening? If the settings are all there, why would teachers very possibly turn to me and say – “THAT is in the IDEAL world. This is not. This is the real world – where we go into a class and teaching is kept within these walls anyway”.

So this is the conundrum right? Maybe I am generalising, but I do have a lot of contact with teachers, my husband being one of them. When I listen to them speak, discuss, lament…about their daily mishaps I notice that  a) many have no awareness of their limits (of what they can or cannot do within the classroom and beyond) and b) many have no awareness. Fullstop.

Teachers or educators, most often feel very much obliged to follow what some administrators, dictate on paper. Maybe they think it’s all a matter of student assessment and grades. Many feel they are judged as competent, depending on the grades the students get. I think we are past that. Many students are past caring for grades. Employers are past looking at certificates… most can be acquired so easily these days. Politicians are past caring and that’s it. So in reality it’s up to the teachers to control the way they teach and they learn… gamification? why not? why not apply game design rules to the classroom? why not become more connected – more immersed in the social living – and bring a little bit of the classroom to the outside? Maybe people are scared – who knows? But then again who wouldn’t feel some kind of slight apprehension at change.

Who will tell the teachers that they can wake up from their time warp and can start breathing some life into the classroom? … diplomatically – of course.

Seriously gamifying our Education

This morning I was discussing with my colleagues from the gamED research group about our perspectives on games in Education. There are a number of issues here. There is the design issue, there is the scientific issue and there is the pedagogical issue.

There are people like Scott McLeod, who warn against creating educational games which “suck”. Seymour Papert [1], warned against creating what he termed as “Shavian Reversals” whereby in educational games, there is a tendency of eliminating all the ‘good’ game design processes, and retain the weak aspects which are drawn up in school curricula.

And to be honest maybe this is an aspect which we should really really explore. What do people term as fun? Jane McGonigal for example speaks of positive stress which many of the really popular games induce. You are stressed out, but in a positive way. You really want to be in for the challenge. You want to immerse yourself as you would be in any sport. In education one of the problems which we really, seem not to be able to come to terms with, is the element of “help” or “guidance” we give our students… at whatever level. I get higher level students asking me for a step by step guide into what I am expecting. We give them a really broken down way of how they should perform the research. We almost tell them what answers they need to come up with… hellooooo! Are we serious here? We preach one thing and we do the complete opposite…. and games, or rather the gamification of real life or real world representations, pushes forward the competition – increases the positive stress, makes people addicted to want more of that because they are continuously being assessed and being given feedback as they explore – they reach new levels with no singular recipe.

So once again if I were to post a twitter hashtag at this point I would say that the way we are doing educational games which learners refuse to use is big #FAIL and the way we are practicing education as higher education leaders, is alas another big #FAIL… we need to practice more what we preach is kudos.


[1] Papert, S. (1998). Does easy do it? Children, Games and Learning. Game Developer Magazine , 88.

Wii Fit: A type of distance education?

By definition, distance education can be considered as “any formal approach to learning in which a majority of the instruction occurs while educator and learner are at a distance from one another” (Verduin and Clark, 1991: p. 8). Therefore, as an example Wii Fit can be seen as a form of distance education.

Wii Fit is a formal approach to learning. It presents a “tailor-made” guide towards achieving fitness and it introduces users to a more holistic view of fitness and healthy living. Most (if not all) of the instruction occurs while the educator and the learner are at a distance from one another. In fact, users around the world rarely get to meet the fitness experts who provided their contribution to design the Wii Fit training programmes.

If Wii Fit is an example of distance education, then the efforts of Nintendo to overcome the disadvantages that are usually associated with distance education are commendable. People around the world are encouraged to challenge other users worldwide, thus reducing the feel-alone factor. Wii Fit has even hit some classroom environments, creating a healthy competition between peers and motivating some students to get fit. Some universities are giving credits to students who exercise using Wii Fit on a regular basis!

Related articles: Students get in shape and get credit for Wii class