Friday, March 14, 2014

Gamification Series Part 3: Why Gamify?

Gamification attempts to harness the motivational power of games and apply it to real-world problems.  Lee & Hammer 2011

I firmly believe that one of the most persistent and widespread problems in schools today is lack of student motivation & engagement.  I have witnessed it first-hand as a public school teacher in two different districts.  

What confuses me, however, is that some people (including very smart and esteemed educators) underestimate the role that motivation has in the learning process.  For instance, I have actually heard a teacher tell students something along the lines of “I know this is boring, but we have to cover it, so just pay attention and learn it quickly so we can get through it.”  This teacher probably thinks that students can still learn something effectively even though the way that it is taught bores them to tears.      

This brings us to a simple fact: it is more difficult to learn anything if you are not motivated and engaged in the process. 

This is where gamification comes into play. Why do people like to play games? 

In general, good games are engaging and fun.  They can motivate people to keep trying until they succeed.  They can engage participants in creative worlds with rich narratives.  They can foster collaboration among different communities in order to achieve a challenging goal.  

Why not channel this motivation and engagement in the classroom? 

It is true that games and gamification will not motivate ALL students, but that is not a reason to dismiss the entire concept.  Like any other teaching strategy, we must differentiate and personalize instruction based upon students interests, goals, and needs. Certain learning objectives and activities could always be “de-gamified” for particular individuals if necessary.

I will go into greater detail regarding the perceived benefits of gamification throughout the series, but for now here are a few that stand out.

1. Gamification empowers students in a learning environment that requires them to take on more responsibility for their own learning.  Students truly earn grades in this system. 

2.  Students fix mistakes and learn along the way before ultimately demonstrating mastery of particular skills.  No one simply fails and gets pushed along.   FAIL = First Attempt In Learning

3.  Challenge activities help students build the skills and confidence needed in an unpredictable and fast-paced world.

4. Gamification can help spark the motivation and engagement necessary to learn most effectively. 

Next Post: Our Quest into Gamification

Complete Gamification Series

Part 1: Introduction
Part 15: The Next Level