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Gamificationating Education

I’ve been hearing people talk about gamification ever since I entered academia as a workplace. At first I thought of it as a joke. I mean, obviously a joke.

The problem is the minimal amount of success with it. People keep trying and failing. More to the point they talk about it but are unable to implement anything with confidence. I keep seeing conferences throwing forward the gamification buzz word, but nothing comes of it. Why aren’t people doing it? Why hasn’t it revolutionized education as some keep promising.

The options for gamifying education are:

  • Make a game with educational content
  • Give badges or achievements for whatever
  • Leaderboards
  • Experience / Levels
  • Unlocking content

The primary problem is people want to make entire games centered around their content. And that is a wonderful idea, except it requires people to build the initial content and add content. It would basically require someone who knows the content inside and out to design it properly. Same with unlocking content. Someone has to create that content. That will die out very fast unless you have a zealot very into it.

Slime Forest is a perfect example of this. I was made aware of this project very early on and I LOVED it. It took a game from my childhood and made it all about learning japanese. This would have made a wonderful open source project, but it has a zealot behind it who wanted to make some cash, so good for him.

Badges and achievements are fairly new for games, and only work on certain personalities, completionists. Leaderboards work for people who want to be the best at something, and want everyone else to know it. Experience / Levels is hard to qualify. What do you get experience for, what do you get when you level up…

I used to be really into experts-exchange. That was the site that used to pop up whenever you googled a tech question. A simple forum that let people answer the questions and they would be rewarded points for their answer. This had leaderboards based on the points you got from answering the questions. The best part was everything was managed by the users. (The worst part was they tried to fool people into paying for it.) Stack Overflow took over this market probably because EE got too greedy. SO does have badges and tracks reputation points, but they don’t have topics with a list of the top 100 experts in that field. So it sort of has experience points and badges but no leaderboard.

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