What are Games and Gamification?

The games culture has grown to include a substantial proportion of the world’s population, with the age of the average gamer increasing with each passing year. As tablets and smartphones have proliferated, desktop and laptop computers, television sets, and gaming consoles are no longer the only way to connect with other players online, making game-play a portable activity that can happen in a diverse array of settings. Gameplay has long since moved on from solely being recreational and has found considerable traction in the worlds of commerce, productivity, and education as a useful training and motivation tool. While a growing number of educational institutions and programs are experimenting with game-play, there has also been increased attention surrounding gamification — the integration of gaming elements, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game situations and scenarios. Businesses have embraced gamification as a way to design incentive programs that engage employees through rewards, leader boards, and badges, often with a mobile component. Although more nascent than in military or industry settings, the gamification of education is gaining support among educators who recognize that effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in productivity and creativity among learners.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Again, we as educators would be smart to join our young learners where they live and play. Adding gamification elements to curriculum has been shown to increase engagement. The important elements to add are simple: leader boards, badges, and progress bars. If the curriculum is designed well with an intriguing narrative and characters, the learner can also: increase critical thinking skills, build strategic capacity, collaborative skills with others and authenticate learning environments (in other words, context is 'owned' and deeply learned). - deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Jan 24, 2014
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 26, 2014 I know everyone's waiting with proverbial bated breath for my Top Ten list, so I'll end the suspense: #1. Games and Gamification, #2. Makerspaces, #3. Cloud Computing, #4. Mobile Apps, #5. Tablet Computing, #6. Open Content, #7. Digital Identity, #8. Crowdfunding, #9. 3D Printing, #10. Online Learning. Games and gamification are the biggest thing to hit education since the invention of the printing press, and although it can be a tough sell sometimes, once you manage to introduce it, educational technology integration in general suddenly makes sense to even the most hardheaded teachers and administrators. Kids have always loved it, of course, and rightly so. The 21st Century Fluency Project (http://fluency21.com/) lists the skills kids need to succeed: collaboration, creativity, etc. Games/gamification is the perfect (and fun!) way to perfect them all.
  • - shalini.sinha shalini.sinha Jan 30, 2014We need solid content packaged with a strong storyline and thrill of a game to anchor the attention of our children. The games can be a supplement but should not remain in a nice-to-have category. The learning objective through the game should be in line with the learning objective of the curriculum.
  • - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 1, 2014This is one of my top 10 too! Not only it has everything that is already mentioned, but reading Tony Wagner's book on educating innovators, he shows that we need to start with play, which then becomes a passion and finally a purpose. Kids discover their paths as they play. That's how we all learned the basic social skills, isn't it?
  • Introducing game-based learning and gamification elements into my practice has been an incredibly effective teaching strategy for my young learners. It is highly motivating and allows students to build upon their strengths and see learning from new perspectives. Additionally, students are able to use others' expertise to advance their own knowledge through collaborative work environments. I also like that this model truly personalizes learning, meeting each student at their own level, allowing each child to work at their own pace - possibly achieving more than what might have been "expected" from the traditional curriculum. - cbsteighner cbsteighner Feb 3, 2014
  • This was evident on several Horizon K12 reports before not showing up last year... I'm glad to see it back on the table for discussion. I know that when we launched BrainPOP GameUp, we saw more than a million hours of game play each year our first two years... and we've only been out for a few years. ;-) The adoption of games in the classroom exceeded our expectations, and as the games in the GameUp portal are tied directly to core content... it became clear very quickly that today's classrooms are ready for games now. - kstubbs kstubbs Feb 6, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • The description is thorough.- deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Jan 24, 2014
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 26, 2014 It's a great description. I personally would like a mention of 3D virtual worlds, although maybe this belongs in a category all its own. Check out the MOSES Project: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Open_Simulator_Enterprise_Strategy
    And a mention of the potential impact of wearable technology, such as the Oculus Rift.
  • I've argued this in the past... I struggle that for the purpose of our report we lump games and gamification into the same category. The are two different things. - kstubbs kstubbs Feb 6, 2014
  • I wonder what should be used as a definition of a game or gamification in the educational context. I should not be to narrow so that it embrace all kind of activities that involve challenges for the students, competitions, motivation etc.- claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Feb 5, 2014
  • While I agree with the potential gaming can have in an educational setting what worries me is the low uptake of gaming by our younger teachers. A questions I always ask my preservice teacher students is how many of them play games (using any device) and I am still astounded at the low numbers (1 in 20) which are generally male. So if our teachers are not involved in gaming how can they imagine learning environments that make use of them? - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 8, 2014
  • I think an increasingly important issue here is the name "gaming" or "gamification" and the need to find a new name which has absolutely no connection with playing games. Parents and policy-makers see computers as a good thing at school and a bad thing at home, because they worry about how much time children spend playing games on them. Parents (rightly, to my mind) see computer games as generally rather mindless and repetitive, and inimical to developing social and intellectual skills. Parents worry about computer games like they worry about their children watching too much television. I am quite sure that the principles of gaming can be used to excellent effect in learning materials, but if the word "game" is used, parents and others, will be extremely suspicious of its use in schools. I know, from my own teaching experience that computer games are often used as a way of managing disaffected students: letting students play games on the computer and calling it an ICT lesson makes life easier for stressed teachers and stressed managers. To my mind, nothing that could be used at home as a game should be used in school. It will create suspicion and hostility to the use of digital technology in education if computers are used for games. So gamification should be called something like "interactive analysis" or "simulations", and we should not fool ourselves into thinking that playing Minecraft in school is education, no matter how much well-intentioned teachers might try to attach worthwhile learning to it.- paul paul Feb 10, 2014

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • I think gamification of courses and content is going to increase. Students are asking for it and we as educators, ought to listen. We have a unique opportunity to create a landscape where the edges of learning meet play. Can't wait to see research develop in this area to adequately measure levels of engagement, impact on learning (with authentic assessment measures), and capture other qualitiative measures such as learner satisfaction,and the quality of emerging learning communities.- deborah.cooke deborah.cooke Jan 24, 2014
  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 26, 2014 What's most exciting to me about games/gamification is that it ties together so many different trends and technologies, to the degree that in many cases it's hard to separate them: Collaborative Environments, Makerspaces, etc. One of the biggies I've found is that this is the best way to instill principles of Digital Citizenship. Also that games are a great way to get kids interested in STEM careers. And. last but not least, I foresee that educators will get tired of the products available and start making their own games. Ideal scenario: a common tool that everyone can get behind and collaborate with, the same way Scratch does for kids.- cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos Feb 1, 2014I totally agree with David! And I am very glad he mentioned Digital Citizenship, because we cannot educate our young students only on content, we have to think about the values as well! Games are great opportunities for that!
  • The biggest challenge will be changing very traditional models of schooling to incorporate these elements. Many traditional teachers (at least at the elementary level) already use games with students to help them learn new concepts and skills. If we start there, I think the potential to make bigger changes is very possible. I also agree with the above contributors that gamification can easily be woven into other avenues. - cbsteighner cbsteighner Feb 3, 2014 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 8, 2014
  • Games tied to core content provide a wonderful opportunity for teaching and learning, including: introducing new topics to kids, providing an opportunity to apply new understanding, let kids fail and succeed in a safe place, increase motivation, take learning to deep levels, and more. - kstubbs kstubbs Feb 6, 2014- deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 8, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - davidwdeeds davidwdeeds Jan 26, 2014 Our school maintains both Second Life and OpenSimulator cybercampuses. We've used MinecraftEdu with great success and I'm hoping to also introduce some spinoffs soon. We're using 3D games to teach biology, chemistry, etc. I don't want kids to just play games, though, as of next quarter I'll have them making games too! We've tried badges with limited success...what we need to do is make these part of our rubrics or otherwise make them correspond with grades.
  • - cristiana.mattos cristiana.mattos~Our school has been working with SimCity in the curriculum in an interdisciplinary subject for over 15 years. Last year we started a project using Minecraft. This was an extracurricular activity in History. For our 70 year anniversary, we wanted the kids to build a model of the building when it was founded in 1944. They did historical research, collected interviews from the older teachers and their own family (those who had studied there), designed the building and planned a narrative so that visitors could relive what it was like in Sao Paulo when our school was founded. We will be continuing this project with a new group of students, having them move a little farther now in the timeline. It's a great way to teach kids how to plan, to organize a game, to work in groups and work on some entrepreneurial skills.
  • I used a game-based system last year at my school to help teachers become familiar with Google Apps for Education. It was a highly motivating form of PD for many of the teachers. I've also used game-based elements in my math instruction with students. - cbsteighner cbsteighner Feb 3, 2014
  • BrainPOP GameUp and BrainPOP Jr. GameUp - kstubbs kstubbs Feb 6, 2014
  • Arizona State University’s James Gee (author of: "What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy") launched Center for Games and Impact (CGI) in 2011 with its director, Sasha Barab. Center for Games and Impact (CGI)’s mission is to investigate, innovate, and cultivate game-infused solutions to society’s biggest challenges with the goal of unleashing the unique potential of digital games to drive meaningful, sustainable learning, health and social impact. http://gamesandimpact.org - helen.padgett helen.padgett Feb 10, 2014

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