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Gamifying the Classroom: Pros and Cons
Becker, KatrinNicholson, Scott
The term “gamification” is relatively new, but its exact origins are not known. The first recorded use was in the digital media industry in 2008 and it has become popular in the last couple of years (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). A search performed in October 2012 on Google Scholar using the term “gamification” turned up over 1,000 publications, and the same search in May 2014 produced over 7,000 publications. 80,000 people were registered in the Coursera Gamification course in Sept/Oct 2012 (Werbach, 2012). The attention that gamification gets from industry, as well as from the public, makes it one of the newer concepts of the use of games in the real world to surface in recent years. This chapter analyzes the potential and limits of gamification for learning and classroom use. Gamification can be broadly defined as the application of game features and game mechanics in a non-game context, but does not typically include using actual games. In the most commonly promoted approach to gamification (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011), designers seeking to create a gamification system first identify behaviors that are to be encouraged, and then assign rewards to that behavior. These reward systems can take different forms—points, achievements, and badges are three typical tools for motivation and manipulation. The concept of using rewards to modify behavior is nothing new to teachers in a classroom setting. Teachers often use point systems for both learning and behavioral goals. If one takes into account the concept that the absence of a punishment is the same as a reward (Kohn, 1999), then teachers have used reward-based systems as the core of classroom management for centuries. The syllabus in the classroom is a gamification layer that is used to motivate students’ involvement in course content. If we consider the concept of levels in games, then certainly the grades (K-12) and years (freshman, junior, senior, sophomore) of formal education are the very embodiment of “levels.” There are known requirements for completing one level and just like in games, each new level opens up new content and additional options. The idea of earning badges within a game as a means of marking achievement is also not unique to games. Children in elementary school often get stickers for completed work; both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides (as well as a great many other organizations) use badges to symbolize various achievements, and of course, medals and badges have been a longstanding tradition in militaries throughout the world. The notion of leaderboards is also not unique to videogames, or games of any sort for that matter, as they can be found in many businesses as ways to highlight sales records for example, and in schools to commemorate a myriad of achievements academic and otherwise. Even the concept of a letter grade is remarkably similar to a badge, as it indicates achievement in a standardized way that has meaning outside of the learning environment. Some applications of gamification go beyond merely using rewards such as points, badges and levels to motivate. Meaningful Gamification is the concept of using elements from games to help participants find a personal and meaningful connection within a specific context. Many of the theories behind meaningful gamification are educational theories such as Universal Design for Learning and motivational theories, such as Self-Determination Theory. These theories provide ways to use concepts of play, reflection, and narrative (instead of rewards) to engage learners (Nicholson, 2012a). Teachers have used game-based elements for the real world application of teaching content for decades. While the term of gamification is new, the underlying concepts for both reward-based and meaningful gamification have been explored in the classroom for some time. In this chapter, we will review different models for gamification in the classroom, explore some of the benefits and hazards to using it, and present some case studies and best practices for instructors to use. The goal of this chapter is to explore gamification in the classroom from different perspectives and present guidance to instructors looking to use elements of games and play to improve learning motivation.
EducationInstructional designProfessional developmentGamification
Katrin Becker, Scott Nicholson (2016) Gamifying the Classroom: Pros and Cons, (Ch. 3) in Learning, Education and Games Vol. 2: Bringing Games into Educational Contexts, edited by Karen Schrier, ETC Press
Science and Technology