I recently completed an excellent Coursera MOOC on gamification taught by Professor Kevin Werbach, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. Gamification is the art of applying gaming principles to business, education, fitness, basically any area that is not about simply playing a game.
Both gaming principles and education involve motivation. Motivation is something internal (drive, need, craving) or external (environment, stimuli, rewards) that pushes us to action. Motivation moves us from one psychological or physical state to another usually to enjoy a positive feeling.
Hunger motivates us to get something to eat. Loneliness motivates us to connect with people. Not knowing motivates us to learn. However, it’s not that simple. If you are hungry, but it seems too hard to cook a healthy meal, you might settle for a bag of chips. If you are lonely, but are too shy to make friends, you might not do anything to relieve your loneliness. If you don’t know how to work Smart TV, and there’s a complicated explanation in a pamphlet, you may just give up.
Gamification can boost motivation through digital delivery. If you have an app that keeps track of your food intake, sends you quick healthy recipes, and so forth, you will be more motivated to skip the chips and cook. If you can be social on-line, you will be motivated to reach out. If you can just push a button on your remote to give you instructions, you are more likely to learn.
With digital programs we have the opportunity to motivate more students to learn whether through personalized learning or systems that make it easier and more fulfilling to achieve. Digital formats have already made it more appealing to complete assessments by offering instant feedback on whether students have answered correctly.
There is a lot to learn from gaming without turning every lesson into a game. The first step is to think holistically. Amy Jo Kim, CEO, Shufflebrain, says that good game designers think about the player’s whole journey, both cognitive and emotional: “A player’s [student’s] journey is their experience/progression over time.”
Not only do students bring their cultural, economic, and cognitive experiences to the learning environment, they also bring their digital prowess. A student today starts school using digital products. Exciting digital elements that work well in elementary school may not resonate in later grades.
There is also the journey through the particular program, how the student will progress and connect to the content between the beginning and the end. Some programs are very formulaic such as video/reading content/activity/quiz. The same format that motivates students in Chapter 1 may not in Chapter 10.
Game designers take into account Richard Bartle’s four types of users: Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers, and Killers when creating games. Do these categories hold true for student users? Frankly, we don’t know, but we have resources in place that can help us find out. Much of EdTech’s focus has been to develop programs that produce data profiles of individual students to inform short-term formative strategies and summative outcomes. If we collaborate, we can aggregate individual student data to discern types of digital students. This type of analysis will help us chart successful education journeys.