Part 1: Background
Educational games have been around forever. You have probably all played, shown a child, or at least heard of Typing Tutor or TypeBlaster, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, and the Oregon Trail. These are all educational games that have filled a nitch for years and years and have been modified, enhanced or replaced by similar updated versions to meet the graphical expectations and newer tools that kids have available to them today.
In real life (outside the university) we see gaming elements being used in a variety of ways in a variety of situations. For example, American Idol and similar copycat programs asks us to participate in picking a winner in their competitive singing program by voting; McDonald’s year after year tries to entice us to play Monopoly, McDonald’s style and win a million dollars; and even Fitbit, Weight-Watchers, and similar health websites invites us to create online communities and challenge our friends to walking more or losing weight while we cheer each other on.
It seems like higher education has made no real effort to join the gaming or gamification movement until recently. But, that’s not really true! Good instructors have been using gaming strategies for years in their classes. We often provide scenario-based instruction, or have students work in groups, each assuming the role of different stakeholders. Some instructors have provided sample exams with multiple opportunities to get the answers correct similar to the ‘many lives’ found in arcade and video games. Flashcards, puzzles, scavenger hunts have also been used by faculty to increase interest and retention of concepts in the classroom. And, these are just a few of the many game strategies that educators use. These strategies make learning not only more fun, but also more memorable.
You might be interested in a presentation A Theory of Fun (click image above) and the author of Raph Koster’s Blog. As a well-respected gaming designer has written essays and given presentations on gaming and the connections between fun and thinking.
Closer to home, Alex St. John gave a keynote at the UAA’s Serious Fun educational game gathering in April of 2014. His presentation gave a very interesting look at why we play. You can see his slides by clicking on the image, and you can watch the entire presentation, posted to Google Plus. Either/both are quite interesting.
We’re going to take a few posts to look more closely at what this new trend called “Gamification” is all about. But before you leave this post, we encourage you click on the infographic below Gamification in Education, Pulling it apart to put it back together.
What do you know about gamification? What are your thoughts, ideas as we start out? Please answer the 3 questions below and feel free to add comments below.