Game On! Wait, what’s gamification??

It’s my first week of grad school and I am acknowledging how overwhelming yet exciting it can be.  There is that added element of “going” to school online that makes it a bit surreal for me.  Meeting my professor/advisor and coursemates online has been a valuable learning experience for me as I agonize over how to “come across” in my interactions and make lists of tasks and reminders for course assignments!  I’m very aware of how I am learning in this new environment that just earlier this year I was encouraging youth in my career exploration program to embrace!  I love technology but I’ve been intentionally slow in integrating it into every aspect of my personal life.  I think my friends would be surprised that I’m just now getting a Twitter account (follow me @rockislandgirl8) considering just four months ago, I worked in San Francisco a mere 2 blocks from the Twitter headquarters and my youth development program received a generous donation of laptops from their community engagement program for my computer lab!

This blog has been started to share my reflections and learnings as part of my enrollment in the Gamification & Open Education course (EDET 693) at the University of Alaska Southeast.  This week has been a good introduction into the concept of gamification and getting a basic understanding of how it has been applied in a variety of teaching and training environments.  Kapp (2012, p. 10) sums up gamification as “using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.”

I’ve always been invested in removing barriers to learning and curious to discover where the fear of failure in most students comes from; I want to understand what paralyzes them before they even begin.  Why is making mistakes such a bad thing?  Learning by doing is certainly how I learn best; to begin exploring the idea of gamification this week has been inspirational to say the least!  I’m so excited to explore an idea that I have always taken for granted, that “Games are the ideal learning environment with their built-in permission to fail, encouragement of out-of-box thinking, and sense of control” (Kapp, 2012, p.xxii ).  Cool!  What could be intimidating about that?  Apparently a lot!

I grew up playing all types of games with my siblings and friends and have always enjoyed that exhilaration of competing and (ideally) winning.  At some point, I learned that not everyone enjoyed competing and most of the time, my peers were too afraid to lose to even try new things and usually stick to what they know.  That lesson has always stuck with me and after spending much of my life playing team sports, I realize I had a habit of competing with myself and leaving it (my competitive nature) on the court after the whistle has blown.  I loved playing games but not when players are missing the point or objective of the game, that’s when I would lose interest.

So fast forward to now, in my mere 14 years of working in youth development, it’s no surprise at how youth react to games: initially they are excited or even curious, but very quickly they ask “What’s the point?” “What’s in it for me?” “Do I have to play?” “Can I just watch first?”  How can we as educators not take this personally?  I mean, I did all this for them right?  Not exactly; in my experience, more than ever youth need to be involved in the process of determining what and how they learn.  They need to be invested, otherwise it’s just a game.  It’s not the gamification of a learning experience, it’s just a game, which on its own has no value.  I can’t help but think that gamification is based on the assumption that the user or player is somehow motivated to even participate or play the game.  For me, that is my role as an educator, not only to introduce content and help students build their skills but to provide a learning environment that is conducive to learning, inviting to all types of learners and supportive of their learning goals and objectives.  I believe being an effective educator means that you are a good leader, as Kapp (2012, p. 5) explains, “It’s not about being able to force people to do what you want them to do; It’s about getting people to try what you want and seeing how things work, and staying open to new ideas.”  That’s why I believe mastering gamification in teaching and training can be so effective, the possibilities are endless!  You can continue to engage your learners and expand the experience as they gain knowledge and confidence in their learning.  I’m very excited to learn more about how gamification is already being used in out-of-school-time programs and non-profit organizations and to hopefully play a part in making that happen!

I spent some time this week just exploring existing programs that utilize gamification, here are some cool links I checked:

Math teacher uses gamification to help at-risk students succeed

For some inspiration and some good advice about challenges to expect with implementing gamification, read about this teacher’s experience!

GAMIFICATION:  How Gamification is Becoming the New Normal

(ALERT: Infograph inside!)  I’m obsessed with Infographics, I think it’s the visual learner in me that loves looking at a colorful illustration of an idea!

Gamestar Mechanic

A tool for students to begin learning to design online games.  It’s free to create an account and gives you access to a Quest – where you can create your own game as well as access to other games and other game designers.  I played some of the games!  You can also check out their Gamestar Mechanic Learning Guide and get a good overview of how teachers are using the site.  There are lessons for Game Design and Core Curriculum subjects that you can check out to use!  And if you need another endorsement, read this article,Gamestar Mechanic: Gamification Made Easy

4 Ways To Bring Gamification of Education To Your Classroom

Want to dip your toes into the Gamification pool? Take some baby steps and try one of these suggestions!



Kapp, K. M. (2012). The Gamification of Learning and Instruction : Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.



4 thoughts on “Game On! Wait, what’s gamification??

  1. I liked listening to your thoughts and ideas on gamification. I agree students need to be involved with the process and help set up. If they’re not, they don’t know why they are doing it or why it’s necessary. It outlines why teachers explain the objectives for every lesson and then reiterate the objective throughout the lesson and at the end. If students don’t understand the reason, then they will not be engaged. I too liked the 4 Ways to Bring Gamification of Education To Your Classroom. Here’s another link for more ways, I really like the point system instead of grades and the immediate feedback, group work idea.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! I agree with both you and Amanda, students have to be invested in what they are learning. They should know the ‘why’ behind it. We already know that when students can choose their own topics of interest they generally show a higher quality of work in the outcome. Building motivation is huge. I came across this article (actually for a different class but it fits!) and wanted to share some of the great points it makes about motivation. Definitely helps me think about how to address the ‘why should I’ question…

    Gamification Engages Students with Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators
    Peterson notes in the column that “On a planet where people spend 3 billion hours a week playing video and computer games, it’s a good chance that using the tools that keep people engaged in games might work in a learning environment, too.” The article goes on to discuss an interview with Mark Relf, a program coordinator for a college far away from ours…”Gamification makes education more engaging both in and outside the classroom, he said, highlighting current and popular methods like finding motivators, tweaking the grading system, noting achievements and awarding badges. Using intrinsic motivators like challenge, control, fantasy and curiosity, plus extrinsic motivators like cooperation, competition, recognition, teachers can nudge students toward being inspired to learn, rather than deterred, he said. ”


  3. Yes, it is nice to have permission to fail. Maybe I should have learned to play video games a long time ago. Because I am a newbie to the gaming culture, am very guilty of asking the same questions you mentioned “What’s the point?” “What’s in it for me?” “Do I have to play?” “Can I just watch first?” Still am not sure I get the point of Minecraftedu or the objective of the game, but think I am slowly, very slowly, catching on. I do agree, youth need to have ownership in determining what they learn and how they learn.


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