Monday, April 21, 2014

Gamification - don't fake it

A couple of months ago, I challenged my students to complete two gamified units of study. Although I loved creating them, and the students actively participated and were engaged, they did respond with mixed feelings.

"This looks like a game, but it is not really", stated one of my reluctant 8th grade learners. When I asked him to explain, he told me that there was no real reason to continue the game (other than for a grade).

"Mrs. Garcia, I know we are moving from challenge to challenge, and I need to complete one to open the next one, but if I just do not complete it, nothing happens.  If I do complete it, my name gets on the leader board, so what." 
- "Well, you get to participate in the team project." 
" But I don't want to do a team project."
The 7th graders were more excited about the team project, but again lacked motivation to complete the intermediate steps. Rarely did I see re-submissions of incomplete or erroneous work, and almost no one took the mini-quests I had painstakingly created. Where did the experiment go wrong?

In retrospect, I had created two fake gamified experiences. I was awarding points and badges that were no different than assigning grades. There was no real value in "perfecting the game". My unit test scores were better, but not by much. My reluctant learners started the units with more passion, but soon discovered that,  other than a few cute graphics, there was no real change,  and although they appreciated the effort, I had failed in creating a different experience.

As I move forward, I will need to re-think my choices. My students need other incentives to master the tasks. How can this be accomplished?

Further reading:

  • Shane, Kevin. "The Problems with Gamification - Gamification Co." Gamification Co. N.p., 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <>.
  • Davis, Vicki. "Gamification in Education." Edutopia. Edutopia, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2014. <>