Gamification (Type 4 of 4) - Designing Student Engagement (Part 1/2)

An in-depth look at the fourth and final category of game-based learning: Gamification, or a game-design perspective of student engagement. This first segment covering Gamification will include a review of previous definitions, a conceptual framework for Gamification, a definition, and a dissection of elements from which it is made.

Last Time

Games of Skill (Type 3 of 4) - Simulations for Abilities

Last week we learned about Games of Skills and their role in education. Due to their realistic and problem-centric design, these resources serve as an outlet for the immersive application of ideas in learning. Though they tend to be used in settings of professional skill-building and comprehensive assessment, they may also find cost-effective uses in the development of general skills and cognitive abilities in the classroom. Moreover, the strength of simulations is their ability to help accelerate the rate at which students progress from systems of lower-order thinking to systems of higher-ordering thinking within a given subject area.

Gamification - "Human-Centered Design"

When I sought out to write about the four (4) different types of educational games, one of my primary purposes was to define gamification in a way that helped educators differentiate it from the stereotypical notion of "video games that teach children."

So, in review, let's briefly go over each of the previous three (3) types of educational games and use them to build upon each other and arrive at our final category:

Games of Data: Activities which use game mechanics to reinforce student acquisition of relevant data, often through repetition and shaping of student's recognition and recall of information.

Games of Concept:

Activities which use game mechanics to help students master concepts through variable application; that is, using a series of slightly-altered environments to refine the student's understanding of the abstract idea.

Games of Skill:

Activities which use game mechanics to help students learn, practice, and refine their skills through immersive application; that is, using a simulated environment to create meaningful learning at the most applicable level.

Generally speaking, it could be argued that the purpose of education in any given field is to achieve the following sequence:

  • Data - present information and ensure that students remember and understand it.

  • Concept - equip students with a framework apply that knowledge and analyze future situations for solutions.

  • Skill - coach students on refining their application so they can evaluate their work and create better frameworks to solving those problems.

If you recognized the color-coded words in that description, then you understand why I prefer to use Bloom's Taxonomy to organize an understanding of the role that games can have in education. Once again, here is the infographic that highlights the strengths of each category and how they function:

Games of Data and Games of Concept are great within specific orders of thinking, while Games of Skill act as an accelerator that helps push students from lower-to-higher levels of thinking.

We'll make one last addition to this graphic to reflect the role of Gamification. Before we do, we will define it and give some examples to make it stick.

Defining Our Terms

Gamification is a bit more difficult to define because it is a newer term that can sometimes carry industry-specific meaning. I will call upon acclaimed expert Yu-Kai Chou to provide the most generic and universally-applicable definition:

Gamification is the craft of deriving fun and engaging elements found typically in games and thoughtfully applying them to real-world or productive activities. (Chou, 8)

Chou uses this definition throughout his work, but makes sure to explain that his preferred term for the discipline is "Human-Focused Design." In comparison to the traditional notion of function-focused design, Chou writes that

Human-Focused Design optimizes for human motivation in a system as opposed to optimizing for pure functional efficiency within the system...the reason we call the discipline 'Gamification' is because the gaming industry was the first to master Human-Focused Design. (Chou, 9)

This distinction is critically important for instructors to understand because it emphasizes the following three arguments:

  1. Full-fledged games are not required to achieve game-based learning in education

  2. Principles in game design overlap with behavioral psychology and other fields to reveal secrets in student engagement

  3. Game design as a discipline aligns so closely with modern-day education that it may serve as one of the greatest untapped resources in instructional innovation

My goal with this post is to help prove these three arguments. To begin, let's look at the environment in which education takes place.

Breaking Down Instructional Elements

Those who are well-versed in the field of education or curricular development will understand the elements that go into a successful learning experience. They might argue that it is the responsibility of the instructor to clearly communicate to students each of the following elements in learning:

  • Rules

  • Skills

  • Allies

  • Rewards

  • Win/Lose Condition

  • Difficulty Level

While instructors might debate the terminology or implementation of each of these elements, they would likely agree that each is necessary in helping facilitate the development of a student so they can achieve the ultimate learning objective.

However, as you may have guessed, none of these terms come from the world of instructional design. The terms you might have been expecting likely sit on the right side of this chart:

That's right - the terms on the left come from the Critical Glossary of Game Design. Game designers have become extremely adept at creating environments in which the actions and learning patterns of their participants feel meaningful and satisfying because their economic livelihood depends on it. When a player does not feel like they are having fun playing a game, they can simply put it down; therefore, game designers have mastered the craft of "Human-Focused Design" and have consistently created products which create a sense of meaning and intrinsic motivation in their players.

"Game designers have become extremely adept at creating environments in which the actions and learning patterns of their participants feel meaningful and satisfying."

Does that sound like something that instructors may want to learn more about?

I would argue that they do. So next week we will look at some examples of how teachers and companies are already doing this.

Next Time

We will look at several examples of Gamification and demonstrate the role it plays in helping students achieve empowered engagement in learning. We will then demonstrate key ways that educators are using this philosophy, as well as areas of potential for the field in the future.

Next Post:

"Gamification (Type 4 of 4) - Designing Student Engagement (Part 2/2)"

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Work Cited

Chou, Yu-Kai. Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Octalysis Group, 2013.

#learningactivities #assessmentactivities #bloomstaxonomy #educationalgames #games #concept

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