Gamify learning but don't forget about student creativity

April 24, 2017 by Topi Litmanen

School is not a game. Not even close. But learning could be.

For a young student growing up, school may be the only place, where failure in a test is truly a one-off event. If you fail, it's a true life game over. Whereas in almost any other area of life, there is always a chance to try again. In games you can retry or at least restart. Even in sports there is always another match in which you can improve previous performance. Maybe we should gamify school a bit.

Gamification is a method of using game like elements in places other than games. People have a natural desire to compete, achieve and socialize. The idea is to leverage this by assigning rewards when participants behave in a certain way. In learning, game elements can be used to stimulate and motivate learners to do more learning while collecting points.

#The promise of gamification

There are many who celebrate games and gamifying learning. A recent blog post by Matthew Lynch on things educators should know about gamification is one of them. But does gamification really work? A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification indicates that gamification can in some cases provide positive effects. However, the results depend on execution. Using gamifying doesn’t guarantee success.

Games are good at teaching a predefined set of skills especially in maths, science or other fields. Games can make school work fun. They can help teachers teach the necessary facts and details in a certain subject. Using badges and rewards can even boost adults to collect rewards and to work hard to be at the top a course leaderboard. Unfortunately many games and gamified systems depend on the creativity of the game creator leaving little margin for the gamer.

#Don’t make learning trivial

The thing with games is that it's easy to oversimplify things and lose the possibility for learners to bring in their own creativity and imagination. Learning process in itself can be rewarding. Learning is an open and creative process, even without games.

Modern learning analytics can make visible a lot of features affecting learning. When you can measure things like social interaction, areas of interests, you can list and give points on things that usually would be a black box in online learning. Leaderboards on who has asked or replied most questions, given comments that have been assessed as most helpful. Or which of the students have been focusing on which topics. Things like these can help to make visible and to gamify not just the quantified elements of who has done most. But also to reveal to students the differences in areas of interest and on quality of student input on collaboration.

Maybe you want to highlight students who have helped others. Maybe you would like to encourage them to give positive feedback. Or maybe they need to learn to ask questions and to clarify their argumentation. Learning analytics can help you make these things visible.

Topi Litmanen

Dr Topi Litmanen works as a Chief Educational Scientist in Claned Group. He is responsible for ensuring, that the pedagogical aspects of the Claned are based on latest learning research. Topi makes sure that Claned customers get the needed support for meeting their digital learning needs.

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