Gamification Part 1
Hello everyone, and welcome to this, the first in a bunch of blog posts that we'll be pushing out over coming weeks. I've been given a huge amount of free reign with what I want to talk about here, as long as we've got some ties to the IT side of things – which is both brilliant and slightly intimidating. As a result, we're going to start talking about topics that I find exceptionally interesting, and see where we get to from there.
This week, as you have probably already guessed from the title of this page, we'll be talking about Gamificiation. While the term first came about in the early 2000's, its only become really well understood in the last five years and is still far from commonplace. In the simplest terms, Gamification is the act of taking elements of gaming and blending them with real world situations in order to capitalise on the positive elements that make us want to game. By using techniques from various styles of game, it is possible to inspire people when doing tasks they would otherwise find mundane or repetitive. This is a really exciting idea and has already been implemented successfully in a number of cases.
Just to choose one area to explore what has been achieved, looking at fitness a number of different approaches have been made. While I would love to spend a long time talking about how exciting “Zombies, Run!” (a running app that encourages you to exercise more through the threat of an undead horde approaching from behind you), its model doesn't translate well into other mediums quite so easily. As a result of this, we're going to talk about a fitness program called “Fitocracy”. Fitocracy is a very simple model. Through its large database of workout activities, a person simply inputs their workout once complete and receives an amount of points based on the activities completed. After a set number of points, they gain a new level with a pleasant enough graphic and a sense of achievement that would perhaps be lacking in a less structured workout. Over time, the amount of work put in to level up becomes further and further away, training people to push that little bit harder for their reward.
Now, I am, personally, not a huge fan of this model in isolation. Something about the reward system here just doesn't work for me. When I personally got into Fitocracy, it was through the more social aspect of the system. While points and levels in isolation might well work for some people, the connectivity offered by the program adds a competitive element as you can easily see people you both know, and who may be at a similar stage of fitness as you. Interacting with these people and forming rivalries is a huge boost to motivation for many people.
So, why do I mention this version in particular? After all, primarily we're a blog about Edtech. Well, the success of Fitocracy (and with 2 million users this cannot be doubted) its proven this model works exceptionally well. So why can't it be applied in terms of education? Well frankly, it can! Now this discussion has actually cycled me back to a video I saw a number of years ago, which remains as relevant today as it ever was, by a group called Extra Credits. These guys are spectacular and if you're unfamiliar with their work you should go and check them out. A lot of my thoughts on gaming have been shaped by discussions these guys raised.
To summarise the key point from the video, there is an inherent concept in modern education that students begin with solid expectations of what they will get, grade or mark wise, from any given piece of work they do. From there, anything less that the expectation is a feeling of loss. If instead of this, we shifted to a points system, one that accumulates over time creating bigger scores with rewards along the way, we entirely flip this dynamic. Students gain with every piece of homework they do, with every test they take and with every class they attend. In fact, with sites like “ClassDojo” it can even be applied to specific behaviours rather than just grades. Now, I wont break down entirely what this can mean – go and watch the video, its their point and they do it much better than I can – but I will say that this type of thinking, even without the Edtech elements is a spectacular idea. With relatively little input, gamification can help engage students in new ways.
So, that's the idea of gamification approached pretty simply for those of you alien to it, and a brief explanation of why and how it can work. The examples above though, really, don't even need an Edtech element to them and are in fact able to run with classical game styles. Next week though, I'll be approaching the use of electronic games in the class room and the hows and whys of when it works, and when it will struggle.