Game On! Gamification Gaining Interest in Education
My reasons for choosing gamification as an interest for one of my seminar weeks in OLTD 509 was due to the fact I really did not know much about it. I knew gaming was a huge industry and many of my students and my own children are engaged in online gaming. I knew of educational games as far back as the arrival of computer games such as SimCity and my children’s favourites, Math Blaster, and The Way Things Work by David Macaulay. But what exactly is “gamification”? Justin Marquis in his article, “The Trouble with Gamification, states “ At the most basic level, gamification is the integration of games into the curriculum.” Gamification sounds intriguing. Will gamification be the answer to engaging learners and increasing their 21st Century skills? As educators, are we doing all we can, as phrased by Marquis(2013), “to usher in a new era of interactive, engaging, and innovative education?”
My task for the Gamification seminar week was to immerse myself in learning through game play. I was fresh out of a tablet seminar and eager to explore another avenue of engagement using an iPad. My first gaming app I downloaded was called Quandary. In this game, players are starting a new colony on a distant planet and must deal with ethical issues and life challenges. Players develop the skills of decision making by being presented with a problem in the colony, like possible water contamination, and having to decipher what the facts, opinions and solutions are. Points are rewarded for identifying and understanding the difference among all three. The Colonial Council from Earth makes the final decision based on the players’ information given. Quandary has a science fiction theme with three episodes that take about 30 minutes each to play and has eight possible outcomes for every episode. It is geared for ages 8-14. The positives for the game are: works for individual, group or paired players, players make decisions that impact other’s lives, no right or wrong answers, opens up avenues for deeper discussion, encourages collaboration and critical thinking skills, creative aspect in that avatars can be designed by players . As I played the game, I realized the potential right away for group discussion and the power of working through ideas with others. I had to think through and listen to all viewpoints to make a decision on what solution might be best for the colony. This game could easily work as a model to obtain skills that will transfer over to real life issues.
Other games I explored that may be useful in my teaching of Planning and Health and Career are Spent and Mike and Vicky. Spent gives each player $1000.00 to live on for 30 days. Each day life problems arise and decisions have to be made on what to spend your limited budget on. This is an excellent example of using gamification to engage students by allowing them to experience life’s expenses coming at them and at the same time having to make some tough decisions while they watch the account dwindle away in front of their eyes. I managed to get through the month with $30.00 left over, but I have a great deal of life experience behind me to support my ability to make tough choices. I am eager to try this game out not only to see their end accounts, but to have discussions on their tough decisions they had to make. Mike and Vicky is an interactive storyline involving choices about alcohol, drugs and the consequences of those choices. Players choose an action and the game takes them through a scenario with more choices to be made as the evening continues on. Each choice has a separate series of events that occur, just as in real life, except in this game it allows you to go back and remake choices and in real life it does not work that way. While I was not attracted to the graphics of the game, I did like the interactive aspects and the range of choices available to players. The game also stops and makes a point to ask “what just happened here?” and “ How does it feel to be responsible?” Messages called Fast Facts outline for players exactly what being responsible looks and feels like. Both of these interactive games have the power to engage learners in new ways and can be a great start for educators to begin gamifying their courses.
David Hunter, a geography teacher in middle school, began gamifyng his course by introducing to his curriculum “Zombie-Based Learning: Geography Lessons Set in a Zombie Apocalypse”. Aidan Mullaney (2013) describes how David decided to integrate the entire concept of zombies into his own teaching. Hunter’s class is primarily project based functioning similar to the way a game works, including explicit tasks, consistent feedback, and a single theme: zombies. Not only is this an example of how to gamify a course, it also begins a trend to create innovative ways to engage students and change the way curriculum is being designed.
Justin Marquis in his blog, 5 Easy Steps to #Gamifying #HigherEd, expresses that adding gamificiation elements to your teaching can be fun. According to Sean Slade (Strauss,2010), “Fun implies that you are teaching the students to enjoy the subject you are teaching so that they will want to learn. Fun in this sense is not entertainment or silliness. It is enjoyment of the learning process.” I see gamificaion as a way to bring fun into teaching in new and innovative ways. We are just beginning to see the impact gamification is having on educational practises. Marquis(2013) encourages educators to take simple steps first. Get your “Game On” and just maybe as Marquis(2013) states, “You will find that your teaching gets a refreshing update that makes it more enjoyable for you and more effective for your students.”
Marquis, J. July, 2013. Five Easy Steps to #Gamifying#HigherEd . Retrieved from http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2013/07/5-easy-steps-to-gamifying-highereed/
Mullaney, A. June 2013. How to Teach and Engage Students with …Zombies. Retrieved from http://www.gamification.co/2013/06/28/how-to-teach-and-engage-students-with-zombies/
Strauss, V. June 2010 Why Fun is important in learning-Part 2. Retrieved from http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/why-fun-is-important-in-learni.html