The Gamification of Education: Is It a Good Thing?
written by: Mary Beth Adomaitis
• edited by: Michele McDonough
• updated: 12/22/2013
If you gave students a choice between doing schoolwork or homework and playing various types of games, they obviously would choose the latter. Educators are looking to do the same as well.
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Through incorporating learning into gaming, students can learn much of the same content as they would through traditional teaching methods except game-like elements and thinking are implemented into the lessons.
Students today are tech-savvy. More students today have access to tablets, smartphones and other portable electronic devices than they did just a few years ago. They are exposed to them even before they enter kindergarten, and the devices are commonplace in high school and college classrooms across the nation.
Educators are jumping on the newfound gaming mentality these students have and are incorporating many same strategies into classroom teaching and learning. Is this type of teaching really the future of education? Will students learn as much as they would through traditional teaching methods?
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Gamification uses game-like tools and mechanics in non-game situations to make them more interesting and engaging. It has the potential of delivering significant experiences to students and offering them challenges and goals to work toward. Students are then rewarded for their hard work and effort as though they would while playing a computer or video game.
Game-based learning gives students a series of tasks tailored to their own predetermined learning goals. Once completed, they are rewarded with the chance to “level-up" and play another game. This type of learning also gives students incentives for their efforts, such as achievement badges, instead of letter grades.1
Experts hope that gamification will promote a love and desire of learning. The games the students play will help focus their energy on something they are good at and enjoy; therefore encouraging them to play and learn more about a given concept. Digital learning tools, such as tablets and laptops, give students control of their learning experience.
Gamification first made its way into a learning environment in the 1980s when games such as “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" were introduced that taught students about geography and history.
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Difference Between Gamification and Games
The most important difference between gamifying education and games in general is that latter does not always provide a learning experience, and everything game-like is not a game. While they do overlap in some areas, they are not the same.
Collection of tasks that when completed earns user a reward such as points
Not necessarily a “winner" or “loser" because the game is played to motivate the student
Game-like features are added to context without changing its meaning
Have definite objectives and rules
Clearly a “winner" and “loser"
Content changes to meet the storyline and scenes of a game2
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Disadvantages of Gamifying Education
Applying game mechanics to a classroom environment is a great way to engage students and offer incentives for learning. However, while it is easily marketable, there are some negative ramifications to consider.
Classroom rewards can foster a healthy and positive environment, but overall, it’s the teacher’s responsibility to motivate each student with or without games. “Learning for the sake of learning is a lot more sustainable and important that learning for the sake of a sticker."3
Finally, gamifying education may devalue certain subjects if they cannot be taught with a game. Students may start avoiding these subjects because they won’t be as engaging or fun as other subjects. What student would want to write a term paper on William Shakespeare when they could be playing a game in another class?