Adventures in Gamification: Week 2 – Strategic Use of Games

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Welcome Back to Week 2 – Strategic Use of Games

Thank you for joining me on my Adventures in Gamification.  I have just finished Week 2 of Games in Education: Gamification via OpenLearning and I am very excited to do so!  I first came across the concept in a course on designing Blended Learning courses and it stuck to me.  Like Crazy Glue. In true gaming fashion, sometimes an idea may threaten to drive me crazy…but then I have to figure it out and well, that’s half the fun!

No Significant Difference Can Be a Big Difference

I’m going to admit it, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around this one.  On a small scale, no significant difference really means nothing – 15% of a class of 20 is only 3 student benefitting.  When you look at MOOCs or using a strategy for multiple classes over multiple years, 15% of 2000 is 300…and that can be a big difference. It’s all about scaling…See?  It was hard and I had to figure it out…refer back to Week 1 for more details on this!

When preparing activities, there are many pieces to consider – supplies, knowledge and time.  You want to get the “biggest bang for your buck” and it is important to consider long term use of the activity.  Investing a few hours in researching and programming a simple game like a search-a-word that can be embedded on your class site and used over and over again for a specific module seems like a good investment.  Finding a site that just requires you to provide a wordlist and it create the puzzle for you in just a few minutes seems like an even better investment.

Make Your Own Word Search

The search-a-word above uses words from Module 2.  See how well you can do!


Reaching Adult Learners

Adults can be a hard group to train (trust me, I have spent years in training Adults – some days I thought kids would have paid much more attention!).  When attending training, they are often there because they are forced to be by the employer and they have very little interest in participating.  Worse yet, the material is dry and boring.  Sometimes overly technical. (Prensky, 2001)

How can Gamification help? Well first, it can catch the attention of a bored learner.  It can simplify complex materials by breaking it down into mini games.  It can help the learner develop “What if” strategies and analyze the results.  Of course, it can do much more…but you need to sign up for the course and watch the videos for more details!

 Gamification has the Magic Touch

If it’s boring, if it’s difficult, if it requires the analysis, evaluation, judgement or creation, then Gamification may be right for you!

Think about it…want to learn how to strategize for war?  Learn to play chess.  If you want to understand how city planners do their job, play Simcity or Minecraft (oversimplified, perhaps, but it still teaches valuable lessons in planning). Want to teach a complicated subject that can be broken into smaller, more manageable pieces, gaining the students interest and reward them along the way?  Use badges or a completion task bar.

Teaching map making in geography and primary and secondary resources in history?  Create an interactive group project that requires each team to create a map of their country to paste onto a “globe”.  Toss in “chance” cards along the way – your country has to share a border with Group B.  Or you are a landlocked country and need access to fish, develop a trade agreement with another country.  Or still – your country is large in land mass, but small in arable land, yet rich in precious metals, what do you do?  With whom? It’s not easy, it requires some research, analysis, evaluation and creativity….most importantly, it will grab their attention on what could otherwise be a boring topic. Trade agreements?? Maintaining security along a shared border? Not necessarily the most exciting topics when read from a textbook, but as a game?  Super fun!

 But note: for this to work well, students need to be hands on and teachers more hands off!

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Even fact retention can be made more fun with a game – think about Jeopardy.  There’s risk and strategy involved beyond the simple knowledge of facts.  Group that into team play and learners will be sharing their knowledge quite quickly!  This was one thing I used to do in Orientation sessions – especially in large groups.  It always drew out their knowledge and understanding, but by calling it trivia, we created a fun environment and developed a team.

Quests and Metagames

A quest is always a journey, made up of opportunities for the hero to learn new things and try new missions, all of which better prepare him (or her) to complete the quest.  Gamelets are mini games that help the student learn and try new things in preparation for the overall quest.

Metagames are more complex and have many games within a larger overall game.  Check out the example shared in the second video of Module 2.  I had an aha! moment there and you may too…so I won’t make this too easy on you!!

So that was week 2 in a nutshell!

In Summary

  • Make tasks into a game for more engagement
  • Maximize learner involvement, minimize instructor involvement
  • “No significant difference” can still be a big difference – on scale

There were a lot more takeaways, but I can’t share them all – so sign up and take the class along with me!  I’ll be back next week to continue the Adventures in Gamification: Week 3 to further discuss its application in education.   Don’t forget to share your comments in the forums and to upload your notes and work to your Accredible profile to keep building your e-portfolio as you go!
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