Insert Coin: Part 2- Why Gamification?

Inset Coin: Part 2- Why Gamification?

Before we dive into what gamification is and how best to approach it, we should examine the rationale for bringing game design into the classroom. In order to understand why a teacher would spend time and energy transforming their pedagogy with gaming principles, we need to first ask this question:

What is a game?  One of the leading authorities in the field of gamification currently is Jane McGonigal. In her book, Reality is Brokenshe states that “When you strip away the genre differences and the technological complexities, all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” -Page 21

Think of any game and try to find those four traits. I will apply this model to basketball.

Goal- Get the ball in the hoop. That’s it.
Rules- You must dribble in order to walk. You must stay in bounds. You have 24 seconds to take a shot once you cross the centerline. There are 66 pages more of this in the rulebook.
Feedback- The scoreboard tells you who is winning, how much time is left, how many fouls you have. You get feedback from watching the ball in the air and hopefully go through the net. You also get feedback from your teammates, your coach, the other team, and the crowd.
Voluntary Participation- You do not have to play basketball. Even Jordan went and played baseball.

Scoreboard_UConn_Georgetown_Regional_semifinal_2011Games are engaging because you know exactly what you are supposed to do, exactly what you can and cannot do to achieve that goal, exactly how well you are doing, and, if you don’t win, you can always choose play again (or not).

Something very interesting reveals itself when you apply the same model to “school”

Goal- What is the goal of school? …graduate? …learn? …make money? …make friends? I guess it depends on the student, and the family, and the school, and the community.
Rules- What are the rules of school? …the school handbook? …classroom rules? …social norms? …parent expectations? There seem to be a lot of rules, many of them unstated and in constant flux.
Feedback- How do you know how well you are doing? …grades? …dirty looks? …the lunch table you are allowed to sit at? …suspensions? …academic honors? …getting grounded? Students are bombarded with multiple streams of feedback, often in driect opposition to each other.
Voluntary Participation- Nope.

Games are engaging in the exact way that school is not. Games, even the more complex ones, are straightforward and responsive. School, even at its best, is often confusing and sluggish. It’s no wonder that sometimes students feel disengaged.

School is a really lousy game.

Gamification is an attempt, within the larger context of school, to construct a straightforward and responsive environment for our learners. It also is an attempt to bring more fun into the learning environment. There are many types of fun and school has the potential to engage all of them. For a research-based suggestions on how to bring some more fun into a school environment, please read my previous post 4 Ways to Make School Fun. In my next post, I will introduce some fundamentals of game design and begin to discuss how teachers can apply them to their classrooms.

Up Next:  Insert Coin: Part 3- The Essentials of Game Design

Related Articles:  4 Ways to Make School Fun  

Catch up on the Insert Coin Series! Part 1- Introduction / Part 2-Why Gamification? / Part 3- Essentials of Game Design / Part 4- Identity Elements / Part 5- Challenge Elements / Part 6- Feedback Elements / Part 7: Some Assembly Required / Part 8- Your Epic Fail / Part 9- Game On!


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