Gamification: The Good, the Bad, and the Potential

Designing Successful Gamification Practices in Higher Education

by Bob Hand was originally published on Getting Smart.com on 12/28/16

Gamification has become an increasingly pervasive part of education over the last decade. Educators in K-12 schools have found creative ways to engage students by gamifying coursework. But why are these teaching strategies not more common in higher education?

Gamification, the process of introducing elements and mechanics from games into the classroom, can often be dismissed as just a buzzword in HigherEd. HigherEd educators and students have become apprehensive of the concept of mixing work with games. The aim of gamifying the curriculum is to improve student motivation and engagement—and when applied correctly, there is evidence that games can improve student performance.

However, gamification has had both positive and negative effects in education. Here are examples of both sides.

Promising Uses of Gamification

For educators, mastering gamification requires restructuring current teaching methods. It is only successful if it is holistically integrated into the curriculum. Affixing game mechanics to pre-existing lesson plans in a slapdash manner can confuse and frustrate students; it can unnecessarily complicate simple processes. Here are some examples of well-implemented gamification:

Modeling your classroom as a role-playing game.

A well-known example of successful gamification in education is that of the work of Dr. Lee Sheldon. In 2009, this professor began modeling his classroom on a massively multiplayer online game. Students created avatars, formed guilds with classmates and completed quests to gain experience points.

Furthermore, Sheldon made structural changes to the class to offer choices to his students. Students could tackle assignments in the order of their own choice. As long as they reached level twelve by the end of the semester, they would receive an A.

According to Sheldon’s book, The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game, the average grade of students rose from a C to a B under this new system. Attendance records also improved drastically. Other educators have taken notice, and many of the strategies described in Sheldon’s work pervade pedagogy today.

Gamification to motivate students during lectures.

Engaging over two hundred students at a college lecture might seem like a daunting task, but Professor Cliff Lampe has found that the solution is to gamify his lectures. At the University of Michigan, Lampe has been using elements of gamification such as offering students the freedom of choice, providing rapid feedback via a monitoring system, offering chances for students to work as a team, and using “game labels” (such as those used by Dr. Sheldon).

Despite scrutiny from his peers, Lampe’s strategies proved successful. The lecturer has reported that students have given extremely positive feedback to his approach. Students praise the professor’s focus on collaboration and choice. Furthermore, they claim to have a greater retention of class material.

Examples of Ineffective Gamification

There are also several examples of ineffective uses of games in HigherEd. While usually well-intentioned, these attempts do not contribute to better learning. These attempts to gamify either fail to engage students, misunderstand the purpose of gamification, or merely distract students with extrinsic motivators:

Games do not always motivate students.

Virtual badges and other rewards will help to motivate some students. However, a number of students will inevitably be turned off by gamification. Due to preconceptions they may carry, they will not respond favorably to such strategies. Other students may be turned off by the competitive nature of some aspects of gamification. Some elements, like leaderboards, should be optional for students to participate in.

Simply using extrinsic motivators, such as virtual trophies or achievement points, does not always guarantee students will actually care or be more engaged. Educators must be mindful of which gaming elements they want to try to implement into the college classroom. Most gamers will agree that achievement points and virtual trophies do not make a game good. On the other hand, choice, rapid feedback, and creative design do contribute to an engaging experience. These are the elements that professors should seek to incorporate into their teaching.

Trivializing important issues.

Introducing games into the classroom can be an effective strategy. However, using games that are based on sensitive issues can be a misstep. Author and technology advocate Refranz Davis brought up an excellent example of this mistake in an article about the game Mission US: Flight to Freedom—a game intended to give an intimate look at the history of slavery in the United States. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are some troubling implications in the game. The fate of the player is dependent on what choices he or she makes; when the player ends the game as a slave, it is due to the decisions they made. The implication that slavery was a choice is absurd, and likely offensive to many students.

Successful gamification involves introducing elements of games into lesson planning, and it can guide the structure of the classroom, but merely introducing games into the classroom is not necessarily an effective approach to gamification.

However, there are clear incentives for educators to adopt high-quality gamification. The impact it has had on HigherEd has been substantial. Promising results continue to pour in from universities across the nation. Even counselors are finding novel methods of using technology to engage students. While more data will be needed, gamification will continue to find a place in classrooms at universities.

In the future, new strategies will be available in higher education. Universities are adopting BYOD policies, which will provide easier technology implementation for students. Pioneers in edtech are even finding ways to use virtual reality in the classroom. This shift will give students the chance to explore subjects in exciting ways.

Adaptability is key to successful teaching, and prudent educators should be careful to only implement proven strategies. Furthermore, routines can grow ineffectual over time—if a pedagogical approach is identical in every lesson, students will cease to be motivated by that approach. There are hundreds of platforms for introducing game mechanics into the classroom. Educators should continue to explore these options, and pioneer new ways to motivate and engage students.

For more, see:

Bob Hand is a blogger and education enthusiast. You can follow him on Twitter: @bob_hand567.

Re-posted from Getting Smart original article of 12/28/16

 

 

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Let’s Watch a Mega Game on the American Revolution

A College Professor’s Perspective on Gaming in the Classroom

Reposted from Ed Tech

Ingrid Sturgis is an assistant professor of new media in Howard University’s Department of Journalism. She explores the use of games and social media to increase student engagement in the classroom.


As the technology that supports gamification becomes more accessible, many universities are infusing their courses with game mechanics and alternate reward structures to enhance learning among the generation of digital natives.

When I started teaching a copy-editing course in the journalism department at Howard University in 2011, my goal was to help students master editing as well as AP style, which is widely used in newsrooms and public relations firms, and I wanted to find interesting and engaging ways to do that. Gamification piqued my interest.

At the time, students’ use of social media was exploding, due in part to gamification. The social app Foursquare is one of the best examples of gaming as a driver of engagement. Users “check in” to locations and earn badges for the visits. The user with the most check-ins at a location becomes the mayor. If five different airports are visited, five JetSetter badges are earned. Customer loyalty programs have also taken advantage of this strategy to encourage frequent return visits to a business.

Andrew Miller, an educational consultant and online educator, says there are three types of game categories. First, there are serious games, which are primarily used in training and often incorporate simulation for problem solving. Next is gamification. This model applies game mechanics in areas such as education or credit-card use. Finally, there is game-based learning (GBL), which can include board games as well as video games in the classroom.

While developing a syllabus for my course and considering the use of games to enhance my teaching, I found instructors all over the country who are similarly engaged in the exploration of gamification. Most interesting to me is how communications professionals have adopted game mechanics for the classroom.

Amanda Hickman, an adjunct professor who teaches interactive data journalism at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, uses everything from board games to JavaScript to Google forms to teach fundamental concepts in programming and news storytelling.

Steve Johnson of Temple University’s Fox School of Business has developed Social Media Innovation Quest to teach a course on innovation in social media. On his course blog, All Social, Johnson says he developed Quest to “encourage self-paced learning” that takes students through assignments that get progressively difficult. He uses the WordPress Achievements plug-in for the game platform and Google Forms to help him keep track of completed assignments. His highly developed and detailed game is laid out in the syllabus, and students can receive points and badges as they complete assignments and activities that figure into their grade for the course.

Then there is Kim Pearson, chair of the African-American Studies department and an associate professor in the English department at the College of New Jersey, who has been collaborating with Dr. Lillian Cassel with Villanova University on an interdisciplinary Distributed Expertise in Computing project funded by the National Science Foundation. Their project combines communications and computer science to build computational fluency among students who are not specifically studying computer science. In the game-based project, students collaborate, but in different locations, and work according to their competencies to build games that tell stories. In a previous course, professor Pearson used the Scratch programming language to develop a game that demonstrates what it is like for a family to use food stamps.

At Arizona State University, one of the nation’s most innovative campuses, Retha Hill, executive director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab and a 2010 Knight News Challenge winner, developed a news-game workshop that combines game mechanics, news and data. She also plays a role at the Center for Games and Impact in the university’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The center’s goal is to “cultivate game-infused solutions to society’s biggest challenges.”

While not everyone may agree about the effectiveness of games for improving learning, retention and career success, most educators will agree that the exploration will be fun and the potential is great.

 

Board in the Library: Exploring the Intersection of Games & Libraries

Featured Blog:  https://boardinthelibrary.com/

This is a  blog that focuses on reviews, session reports of board gaming events, lists, and assorted ephemera from a variety of gaming librarians.”  As stated by blog owner John Papas, “The Board in the Library blog was spawned after I was invited to write a series of posts on board gaming and libraries for Webjunction. That series served as an introduction to modern board games and how they can have a productive presence in the library space.  Feel free to catch up on the fun and read Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | and Part Six.”

John continues: “Ideally this blog will serve to be enlightening, strange, diverse and exciting for anyone interested in this particular area of geekiness.”

 

The World According to Edu-LARPs

The World According to Edu-LARPs: The analog learning games
Sande Chen
Re-Posted from: Games & Learning

Excerpt from this article:

LARPing It Up
Any adult who has been through a mock interview can tell you about the benefits of role-play and simulation. Universities have been using role-play and simulators for years in the fields of healthcare, business, science, and social policy. Former teacher Peter Shea, now director of Professional Development at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts, recalls one incident in which a student doctor was weeping after she had killed off her virtual patient.

Adults, in general, understand the value of role-play for professional development, but may not see how the imaginative play of LARPs helps education. Call it a historical re-enactment and it sounds educational, but that wouldn’t fully describe larping since players affect the story of the game. They are not just hearing about or re-enacting a story, but are a part of the story.

Like improvisational theatre combined with the game mechanics of tabletop RPGs, LARPs have systems for character progression through the narrated story. In Archer’s edu-larp on the Industrial Revolution, there are experience points (XP) given for various activities and yet, winning may not be about gaining the most XP. Winning might be in co-authoring an extremely satisfying story regardless of whether or not the player’s character dies or amasses the most wealth in the game.

Archer’s company, Iocari Games, recently branched into developing curriculum-compatible edu-larps for schools in addition to its after-school programs and summer camps. The after-school program relies heavily on tabletop RPGs with familiar gaming systems like Dungeons & Dragons but with original content. The summer camp combines engineering, physical activity, tabletop RPGs, and larping by allowing the kids to play out their created characters. For example, in one summer session, he did a Star Wars themed week where the kids got to manufacture foam light sabers using parts from Home Depot.

Archer anticipates the need for professional development and maybe a digital/analog solution. Teachers would use the digital portion for analytics and to track student progress. All his edu-larps comply with Common Core standards and he understands the need to mesh with curriculum. In some cases, the subject matter, particularly math and science, may lend itself easily to both edu-larping and more traditional learning methods. For example, a chemistry-oriented edu-larp could naturally flow into lab sessions. He can envision situations whereby a school would want Iocari Games to come in and run the edu-larps or alternatively, the school might want to train teachers to run the games themselves. The development costs for this digital/analog hybrid might end up similar to the ones for digital games in “The Real State of Learning Game Funding.” [LINK to Article 2] but in general, development costs for edu-larps tend to be lower.
For full article link HERE

 

Game Changers: exploring games for expression and learning

From the gamify site:
The GameChangers programme focuses on the design and implementation of playful learning experiences, promoting the emergence of a more playful, exploratory, creative culture in everyday academic contexts. We are a team of game designers, researchers, academics, and media producers. We work together to produce and facilitate playful experiences in Higher Education. We aim to demystify the game development process using design-led techniques to give people the skills and confidence to create their own games.  We’re constantly developing games and playful experiences for Higher Education. Current projects include computer games, paper-based games, board games, card games, interactive fiction, escape rooms and alternative reality games.

Alliance Mega Game with 60+ Participants

The game is a combination of board games, live action social games, John Hunter’s World Peace Game, UK Megagame Maker’s Watch the skies, and includes some board game mechanics from Settlers of Catan, Archipelago, Risk, D & D, and a unique battle mechanics system.

Why Are Learning Games Not in the Cards?

By Christoper B. Allen

Re-posted from Games & Learning

It may be a digital download world for many, but more and more 21st-century gamers are breaking out decks of cards to play hybrid digital card games.

With roughly 30 million registered users in its first year of release, Blizzard Entertainment’s Collectible Card Game (CCG) Hearthstone has attracted more than twice as many players its aesthetic forbearer and longstanding revenue juggernaut World of Warcraft, which at its 2010 peak boasted about 12 million users.

Turns out people really love colorful cards with goblins, demons and gnomes and spells, and smashing them into each other on a beautifully animated, interactive digital game board online for free.

Click HERE for remainder of article at Games & Learning

 

Civic Mirror: Simulated Nation Building for Middle Schoolers

kaio-simulated-national-building-civicmirrorOriginally posted on edutopia by  Aaronkaio

When I was in middle school, I had a U.S. history class that I can remember almost nothing about. The only thing I recall was that during a really exciting jeopardy game, the teacher asked me about a French word somehow connected to fur trappers during the colonization of North America, and I didn’t recall ever seeing it in the book. Honestly, that is the only thing I remember. Oh wait, I also remember that we took a lot of true and false quizzes.

When I became a teacher, I knew that I wanted my classes to be different.

Enter the political/economic country simulation called Civic Mirror. I first heard about Civic Mirror six years ago when a colleague tried it out. He said the kids were wildly excited about it and were learning like they had never learned before. I didn’t get a chance to use it until two years later, and I had similar results. This year I was able to introduce it in my sixth/seventh grade U.S. history class. I wonder why everyone doesn’t do it.

This is My Country

In the Civic Mirror, students become citizens of a new country that they set up and create for themselves. The simulated country runs through a website managed by Reagan Ross, the project’s creator. Once in the country (represented by a 36-hexagon map), students are able buy property, run businesses, participate in a government, develop resources and industries, and really anything else they can imagine.

The way I introduced students to the Civic Mirror this year was to put them through the normal colonization and revolution units that most U.S. history classes have, while letting them know that, in the same ways that the U.S. became a country, they would become a country within the class, and deal with many of the same problems that a real country would face.

To prepare for the simulation, students studied the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence, some of the foundational documents of our country. This continued with a look at the United States’ legal rulebook, the Constitution, which would be our rulebook as well. Then we chose a name, a national flower, different cultures and a national slogan. Although some of these are kind of weird in my opinion (Volcanoville, vampires, zombies, “Never back down from a fight”), to the kids they are relevant — they own these ideas.

Continue full original article at edutopia

Using the Game “Diplomacy” in the Classroom

This is an “article” about a teacher’s use of the boardgame “Diplomacy” in his 12th grade humanities classroom (who had just read Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War and Machiavelli’s “The Prince”).  I ran across this “article” awhile back when I was searching for examples of the use of existing games that have been used to teach topics in a real classroom.  I put quotes around the word “article” here because the work is not a published article but appeared in the form of a very long post on the “Boardgame Geek” forum.  As such there is no indication of the real name of this person or where his school is located.  In the opening paragraphs of his post he identifies himself as a teacher and states the following:

“This is written by a teacher, about a teacher’s experience using the game in the classroom, for an audience who is either interested in general in the world’s best game, or for teachers who are looking toward using gaming to enrich their instruction.”

diplomacyteacherThe poster (Calavera Despierta) includes great detail and photographs of his efforts to teach his students the game and apply it to the lesson he his hoping to teach them. He also goes to great lengths to analyze and give a detail debrief of his success.  I find the narrative fascinating and all the more so when one reads that this brave teacher actually did this simultaneously in four of his classes.

Calavara address many concerns that I have seen in other published accounts about using games in the classroom such as:

  • The time it takes to teach the game and the use of class time to do so as well as play the game.
  • Dealing with students who don’t “get into it” or just are non-participatory
  • Running simultaneous games
  • Gender issues with girls maybe not being as involved as boys (especially in war themed games)
  • The pitfalls of competition and (especially in this game) the pitfalls of Machiavellian behavior in the game that may carry out of the game.
  • How to actually make the game meaningful and apply it to the topic being taught.

Calavara does a good job explaining in detail how he deployed the game and how he attempted to address these issues.  I wish he had (or will) think about publishing his reflections on his experience.  In the meantime I highly recommend reading his post here:

Diplomacy in the Classroom: A  Massive Report

And then read his follow-up post about some of the written reflections of his students after experiencing the game in his classroom here:

Diplomacy in the Classroom: Part 2: Kids in their own words