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July 23, 2021 Friday 10:39:07 AM IST

Be Game

Teacher Insights

Is playing games just a pastime for people who have nothing to do or a leisure activity to take away stress of work or learning?  In 2010, gamification expert Jane McGonigal in her TedTalk, Gaming Can Make a Better World, said that people spent 3 billion hours on gaming per week and the world needs to devote 21 billion hours of gaming per week to solve real world problems. The only recorded history of gaming solving a real problem is that of Lidia where people survived for 18 years of famine by spending alternate days fully involved with game of dice, knucklebones and ball so that they don't feel hunger and save the scarce food resources.

Despite games mostly solving virtual world problems, Jane McGonigal believes that the optimism, happiness, building social relationships, self motivation that gamers feel can create super empowered and hopeful individuals. She talked about the famous photo that captured the expression of optimism and surprise on the face of a gamer as he makes an ‘Epic Win.’

No wonder, innovators were quick to adapt gaming effectively in education to promote collaboration, problem-solving skills in learners and enhance the learning experience. This is called Gamification. All games have something in common- a clearly defined set of rules that players are to follow, a rapid feedback system and a well-established goal.

History of Gamification

The term 'gamification' was coined in 2002, but the concept dates back further. In 1984, Charles Coonradt published the seminal text on gamification, The Game of Work. Coonradt wrote about his experience helping Fortune 500 companies boost employee engagement and increase their bottom lines. He showed them how to lace the workplace with game mechanics, such as clearly defined goals, better scorekeeping and frequent feedback. The retail sector has long used rewards programs to strengthen customer loyalty. And for decades, factory workers were encouraged to compete to see which shift could produce the most.

Gamification caught a tailwind in the digital boom of the 2000s. An entire industry of consulting agencies and SaaS companies specializing in gamification sprung up, helping businesses add points, badges and leader-boards to their software. Early examples like Mozilla Badges and Foursquare’s competition for mayorship energized the industry. And Zynga, the company behind simple and addicting games like Farmville, went public in 2011, alerting organizations everywhere that video games resonated with the average person.

Why Gamification

Gamification is all about motivation, the desire and willingness to do something. This feeling of drive and ambition is fuelled by dopamine, the chemical signal that gets passed from one neuron in your brain to another. Essentially, your body releases dopamine when you experience something pleasurable or satisfying. While these can be all sorts of things, receiving a reward is one of the biggest. 

But even before you’ve been recompensed for doing something, your brain may give you a chemical hit. This is because dopamine neurons try to predict the rush you’ll receive from your actions. Over time, they’ll learn when something satisfying is on its way and release good vibes beforehand. But this also means that when you receive unexpected gratification, even more dopamine will be released.

Therefore, the more you do (such as competing a task or chore), the more you receive (lashings of dopamine), and the easier it is to stay motivated. Gamification attempts to replicate this model.

By providing rewards or injecting some fun into chores and routine tasks, the individual is more likely to get it done in a quick, efficient and successful way. This is a common tactic used by parents, as challenging your kids to clean their room within five minutes will probably have the desired effect. In recent years we’ve seen an explosion in the use of gamification and gamified elements in consumer and business software and apps.

The increase in adoption of gamification has led to a split in definition between gamification and gamified elements. While there are still many platforms that provide custom and complete gamification tools for marketers, sales people, and consumer brands, there are even more types of software that have adopted gamified elements into existing products. Gamified elements include:

• Badges

• Leaderboards

• Points or purchase-based rewards

• Social interactions and sharing

• Story and choose-your-own-adventure plots

At the heart of gamification is motivation and Scientific American believes there are three critical elements that sustain motivation.

• Autonomy - If you’re in charge of your own destiny, you are more motivated to succeed which makes one work harder and stick to objectives for a longer period. Experiments indicate that students given the opportunity and authority to select a course on their own persisted longer in problem solving activities.

• Value - Assigning value to the activity and having an active interest in the subject also increases motivation levels. Research has found a positive correlation between valuing a subject in school and a student’s willingness to investigate a question. If you care, you’ll keep going and work harder until the task is complete.

• Competence - If an individual develops a proficiency or skill for something, they’re more likely to continue doing it. Again, studies have proven this, showing a strong link between a student’s sense of prowess and his or her desire to pursue certain activities. What’s more, those who credit innate talents rather than hard work tend to give up more easily.

Applications in Education

Many games promote communication, imagination, creativity, cooperation, and even competition amongst players. Depending on how they are designed, games can both teach and test their players. Jane McGonical has said that gaming is suited for the digital natives. Gamification is enhanced with adding game elements such as storytelling, problem-solving, aesthetics, rules, collaboration, competition, reward systems, feedback, and learning through trial and error into non-game situations has already experienced widespread implementation.

Success stories of Classcraft, Class Dojo and Rezzly gives hope for further use of gamification in education.

Classroom Examples

1. Giving points for meeting academic objectives: Do students need to be citing details from the text and evidence for conclusions in class discussions? Answers without evidence are now worth 1 point, a correct answer with 1 piece of evidence is worth 2 points, a correct answer + 2 pieces of evidence = 3 points.

2. Giving points for meeting procedural/non-academic objectives :Need to solve a classroom issue such as shortening the time it takes to check homework? All students who have their homework out ready to be checked before being prompted by the teacher now receive 2 points.

3. Creating playful barriers: These sorts of barriers can be academic or behavioral, social or private, creative, or logistical. The point is, one of the primary tenets of gamification is the use of encouragement mechanics through the application of playful barriers–challenges, for example.

4. Creating competition within the classroom: Teacher vs. Class: Students must follow a rule that the teacher sets. Anytime a student follows the rule, the Class gets a point. Anytime a student does not follow a rule, the teacher gets a point. This is particularly great for introducing procedures and behavioural expectations. If the Class wins, use a sustainable reward, such as a 1-minute dance party, extended recess time, or fewer homework problems.

5. Using levels, checkpoints, and other methods of ‘progression’: Track points over multiple classes, when students reach an important milestone such as 100 points let them level up, as they progress further give out sustainable milestone rewards, such as eating lunch with the teacher or a free dress pass (if your school wears uniforms).Competitive students will race to have the highest level in their class and grade which can be leveraged by creating quests that require them to recruit lower-level students in quests that require both to practice target skills.

Popular Tools

1. Raptivity: Raptivity is a great tool to help you build rapid interactivity for effective learning. The tool features 180+ eLearning templates, including interactive comparison charts, diagrams, questionnaires, multiple selections, and more. Each template has unique interactions based on the various learning phases to help you quickly build an eye-catching course. All the Raptivity templates are fully customizable including the colors, backgrounds, fonts, and layouts.

2. Articulate: Articulate has a number of applications to help you create more engaging content. Articulate Storyline, Presenter, Quizmaker, and Engage are all valuable tools to “gamify” your online content. Create PowerPoint slides with drop buttons, sliders, markers, and hotspots to grab your students’ attention. The possibilities are endless.

3. iSpring: iSpring is a fully-integrated add-on with PowerPoint. It helps create courses, online presentations, quizzes and interactions right in the familiar PowerPoint interface. Easily enhance your PowerPoint presentation with embedded video lectures and interactive quizzes or surveys, while maintaining all of the PowerPoint features like animations and fonts. Easily export it into SCORM content for easily LMS uploading.

4. Adobe Captivate: Adobe Captivate reimagines the way interactive eLearning is created for a multi-device world. Develop any-screen mobile learning without programming using all-new responsive authoring. Now use an intuitive UI to transform PowerPoint presentations into engaging eLearning using actors, voices, interactions, and quizzes. Leverage best-in-class HTML5 publishing to deliver any content to mobile devices, the web, desktops, and leading LMS.

5. Elucidat: Elucidat is web-based ‘intelligent’ eLearning authoring platform that solves the challenges busy eLearning authoring teams face when using desktop-based authoring software made for individual authors. It is easy to use and creates highly engaging HTML5 content that works perfectly on any device. It is fully customized by developers meaning they have infinite control over ‘look and feel’, animations, and interactions.


Prof. Bruce Mathew

Head, Dept of Software Development, St. Albert’s College (Autonomous), Ernakulam

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