Some (More) Thoughts on Gamification


If you don’t want to read this blog, you could always visit the thread of comments that ensued below the above tweet and get a sense of what gamifying education can achieve. Given that the replies there are from students who’ve been exposed to gamification firsthand in digital media units I designed in 2016, those comments might be more persuasive than any points I make here. After all, I’m biased: I research gamification; I teach (with) gamification; I even co-host a web series on gamification called Our Gamified World. I’ve also gamified elements of my everyday life with Habitica to motivate me to do things – like check into another gamified app called Hello Chinese to learn some new Mandarin. So where did all this come from?

Well, it started with a tweet…

That was a lie. It didn’t start with a tweet, but it did make you read it – and it does signify the key issue that led me down the path to a gamified teaching approach. The crisis of engagement I highlight above and share routinely and transparently with students in every subject I teach doesn’t just apply to the higher education system. When I’ve talked about the interconnected issues of demotivation, distraction, and (limited) success to practitioners from diverse industries at professional development workshops over the past few years, I’m universally greeted with a roomful of nodding heads. And the subseqent interest in gamification at such gatherings is marked, even while the frequent misconceptions about what gamification is remain many.

Danielle Teychenne speaking at ArkGroup Australia’s The Content Safari industry forum, 21 Sept 2016.

In short, gamification is the application of game design elements in non-gaming contexts. I won’t delve into further introductory details here, but if you’re keen for some background you could check out episode 1 of the web series. No single gamified model suits all situations, and gamifying engagement (broadly defined) will never be universally applicable or useful, but it does offer a lot of value in a wide range of contexts. Likewise, gamification can take on a lot of guises and can usefully be viewed as falling into structural and content-based categories (see this video by Karl Kapp for a terrific explanation of this).

My own use of a virtual currency, digital badges, unlockable content, side quests, tally boards, interactive checklists, and other game mechanics in my teaching began with an idea that sparked during the Summer of 2015-16. If you’re interested in the very early conceptualisation of what would come to be called the ‘Tiffit system’, check out this mock interview that Danielle Teychenne conducted for our third episode:

A long time has passed and I’m currently in the third iteration of the Tiffit system, which has grown and changed organically in response to how students have embraced it and the general need for constant renewal that applies to gamification as much as anything else. Underlining the importance – necessity – of learning by doing when it comes to engaging people in and through the contemporary digital media world, I’ve undoubtedly learnt as much as (if not more than) the students themselves. In a word, the impact of gamifying students’ online media-making activities has been transformative. I made a Periscope broadcast and blog about this in 2016, but if you want a snappier ‘evaluation’ of the Tiffit system that contrasts its effect with previous student engagement, check out the video below:

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to shoot me a comment or a question here or on Twitter, and be sure to visit the Our Gamified World site for lots more gamification-related content!

Thanks for reading! 🙂

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