Adventures in Gamification: Week 3 – Application to Education

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Welcome back to Adventures in Gamification!  Previously in this series, we reviewed the Introduction of Gamification, tried to define what a game happened to be and talked about a few quotes from Tom Sawyer.  We also reviewed the Strategic Use of Games, discussing how to use gamification to reach adult learners, the magic of gamification, and the importance of maximizing the students participation and involvement and minimizing that of the instructor.   The first two weeks were exciting – let’s go on a journey through Week Three.

Remember back in Week One when we said it has to be challenging to be fun?  Well Tom Benjamin has made this week a challenging and fun thinking week!  I found the videos to be very interesting…yet each of them left me thinking and trying to puzzle through the next step.  The chase is on to solve the mysteries!

We start off looking at using principles from popular games and applying them to the school syllabus.


I distinctly remember the daily use of Hangman in my Grade Two class – it was the first thing we would do after attendance.  We’d each get a turn to guess a letter or to solve the phrase.  The phrases always had something to do with our work in one subject or another (now that I look back at it, what a great way to teach kids words like chrysalis and photosynthesis!) and thus, tied into not just language arts but science, social studies or health class too.  The joy of solving the puzzle and the disappointment in failing still sticks with me.  I can’t recall too many lessons from Mrs. Higgins Grade Two class, but Hangman…still makes me smile!  Oh – and the game did help me to become a very good speller (at least until the invention of spellchecker which ruined my poor little brain!).

We also looked at how changing one rule can change the entire game.  Prof. Benjamin gave an example of Basketball and changing the height of the net or adding in the 3 point line.  Now, this means nothing to me because I don’t really understand basketball, but I could relate it to hockey.  Every year the NHL Board of Governors and the Executive Board of the NHLPA have meetings in which they discuss changing this rule or that…one current rule change is changing the size of the trapezoid in which the goalie can play.  By increasing it, the goalies will be better able to assist defensemen and that will change the game.  Something that seems so small on the surface (Increasing one line by 4 feet) will be huge in the game.

How does that relate to education?  Let’s return to the Hangman example from Grade Two.  When we played everyone had a chance to either guess a letter or the phrase, but not multiple turns (which was great because I remember this one boy who would have played every turn!!).  I have since played the game elsewhere and the player could guess letters until they made a mistake (thereby not allowing everyone to have a chance to guess).  Small rule change, big impact on the students who might not have otherwise had a turn.

Games as Tests?

Using games in testing has caused some debate.  Can you get reliable results?  Turns out that if a few more games are played, then yes, you can get reliable and even somewhat predictable results.  Professor Benjamin gives a much more detailed explanation…but there is a connection to the number of baseball games played in a year!

Chaos…or Perhaps Just Unpredictability


Unpredictability…its the Zig to the Zag of an otherwise boring game.  It is the uncontrollable variables that makes it F-U-N!  Think about rolling the dice when playing Snakes and Ladders, a Chance card in Monopoly or saying “Hit Me” when you play Blackjack.  Or perhaps it’s the competition when playing chess or heads up Texas Hold’em…times when you have to figure out what the other person is thinking and going to do next. It’s hard to be sure and it leaves you a little nervous and uncertain, your adrenaline starts pumping and suddenly, it’s a ton of fun!

There was a lot more covered, but you need to take the course to find out more!  Work along with me and share your opinions in the comments below!  See you in the course!

In Summary

  • Changing a rule, changes the game (for better or worse)
  • Unpredictability creates tension and F-U-N
  • Education needs CAN be met through a game

Come back to find out what we cover in Adventures in Gamification: Week Four – Scenarios as Levellers!  There are three weeks left to this session, but remember, you can join at any time!  New participants are joining all the time.


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