11 comments
  1. I agree that this 'gamification' thing has problems, points and badges being a big one for me. But there are lots of ways to conceptualize what it means to play a game.

    I just went to a super-cool workshop last weekend on learning Latin, that's (to me) really about how we learn. Their conception of game is much more child-like. It's not about points or winning, but just playing. I'm going to post about it soon. If you email me, I'll show you what I've written up so far.

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    1. Just to clarify: I am all about playing. I'm all about games. What bothers me is the gamification models I've seen where it becomes extrinsic rather than intrinsic motivation.

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    2. Gamification has been co-opted as badges and points -- you're absolutely right, John, about it being extrinsic motivation.

      Game-based Learning needs to be separated from the cheap mechanics and looked at much more thoroughly. Amazing things happen when the entire curriculum is framed as a play-performance with collaborative role-playing at the heart. With careful mapping of learning objectives on to play objectives, you can achieve transparent continuous formative embedded assessment, negating any need for explicit summative assessment. That's what games do best -- not the points and levels.

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    3. Kevin, I can see a real benefit of taking the best from game design. I'm still thinking through this concept, wondering what exactly it would look like.

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    4. If you would like, feel free to explore this overview of a two year Latin curriculum designed entirely as a game-based learning environment: https://dl.dropbox.com/u/29806/Operation%20LAPIS%20gameful.pdf

      This overview is part of an upcoming workshop at the Games+Learning+Society Conference Educator's Symposium next week in Madison, WI.

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  2. I agree with your post, though the big problem is here:
    "... Take the best aspects of video game design and apply them to teaching."

    While that IS the stated goal of most gamification proponents, they are simply dead wrong on "best aspects of game design." They have taken the *surface* elements (including "mechanics") of games, while completely skipping the BEST aspects of game design. Your previous comment described the diffence: intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivators. Actual game design -- when successful -- is ENTIRELY driven by creating an intrinsically rewarding experience. In contrast, virtually all gamification today is based on operant conditioning / extrinsic rewards (which need not be tangible to be external... Leader boards and virtual badges are still external rewards).

    There is a powerful place for game design and play design elements in learning. There is a subset of educational goals that can even benefit from the shallow mechanics of gamification (especially in areas where rote memorization or other drudge tasks are required). And some things labeled gamification are simply good learning and/or coaching tools, like feedback, and don't need (or benefit from) the extra trappings of game mechanics.

    But the scary part of gamifying education is that there is far too much research to ignore on the damaging role of extrinsic motivators when -- and if -- there is the possibility for a behavior to be intrinsically rewarding. Much of education may never be, so no harm from gamification in that sense. But for the kinds of behaviors we hope will one day ignite for a student -- or for things they already DO find rewarding for their own sake -- we risk squashing that intrinsic motivation and replacing it with a super-engaged, superficial, non-sustainable engagement around a reward structure. Skinner box vs. Flow.

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    1. I love what you say, "There is a powerful place for game design and play design elements in learning." I agree. Too often, though, it becomes a behaviorist model and there is nothing deeply meaningful in the process.

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  3. Something that I've found useful in thinking about gamification is the distinction between finite and infinite games, as described by James Carse in the book of the same title. (This book has a disproportionate influence on my thinking, considering the small amount of it I've read.) The distinction feels similar to the one you're making here.

    I think it's important to share with kids the notion that there are times in life that we choose (or someone chooses for us) to put ourselves in a limited and artificial situation for some purpose; that this is in fact a choice, and so is opting out; and that it matters how we act both inside of these boxes and in life as a whole.

    If I can convey that--and I don't know if I can--then I'm all for gamifying aspects of my classroom in order to make it home to better learning experiences. But while school can be played as a (finite) game, I don't want that for my students. Ultimately I want them to see school as a part of the infinite games that are their lives.

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    1. I like the distinction you make. And I would argue that there is even a place for the Angry Birds elements - simplicity, repetition and incremental challenges all have a place in learning.

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  4. Doesn't it all really come back to either a) quick, rewarding opportunities (think Space Invaders or Angry Birds) or b) crazy good storytelling (think Zelda or Elder Scrolls)? Either we attempt to get them to learn something in short pieces or we create a narrative that we weave throughout a longer period of time. The more I teach, the more value I see in storytelling.

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    1. Exactly! What we're drawn to inherently is story. We want a better story.

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