Gamification has become an established buzzword in elearning circles. Everyone seems to want to get on the bandwagon but I'm concerned by many of the interpretations of it that I've seen. To me they look like an old idea with a new name.
If gamification isn't behaviourism by another name (i.e. punishments and rewards, sticks and carrots) then how does it differ? How does gamification address the core issue of learner agency (self-regulation, competence, interpersonal relationships, free will, autonomy, and good old fashioned "bloody mindedness")?
Gamification has become an established buzzword in elearning circles. Everyone seems to want to get on the bandwagon but I'm concerned by many of the interpretations of it that I've seen. To me they look like an old idea with a new name.
Gamification is behaviorism, pure and simple. And it works. My learners love getting points and badges for whatever they do, and they like to see clear goals. And I still value self-autonomy and intrinsic learning, which happens through other aspects of the course design. By the way, different kinds of gamification works for different kinds of learners. I really recommend Adrian Greeve's (of Moodle HQ) slides on gamification which are available for download here on the Moodle Association of Japan site: http://moodlejapan.org/home/mod/resource/view.php?id=818
Recently, I also wrote a summary of gamification for ELT which I will copy here below:
Gamification of learning throughout the ELT curriculum
Gamification is an emergent theme of curriculum design that is spreading to all aspects of EFL education. Though gamification draws insights from interactive video gaming, it is different from gaming itself. Healey (2013) defines it as, "using game elements in non-game contexts to motivate and persuade”. Like flipped learning, it has a long history within face-to-face classrooms by teachers seeking to increase motivation, participation and flow in the classroom. It is one answer to the question of how ELT can remain compelling enough to hold the attention of a new generation of sophisticated learners.
The patterns of gamification can be applied to both face-to-face and online activities in a blended language learning environment. Healey (2013) applies these concepts to the ELT field based on the game mechanics outlined on gamification.org (2014). In the tables below, we divide these 24 categories into principles and elements of gamification.
Principles of Gamification
Breaking up information into bits so that each bit can be effectively learned; not getting all the information at once.
Working together to solve a problem or do a task, called "group work” or "cooperative learning” in ELT teaching.
Not getting a reward, but avoiding punishment. Grading is often how teachers implement this. Students learn what would result in failure of a course, and do sufficient work to avoid it.
The tendency of people who are doing something to keep doing it. Activities that remain enjoyable, even with repetition. Often classroom routines fall into this category.
Sometimes called "flow”. Well-designed gamification helps learners focus on engagement in tasks, getting lost in the enjoyment of the process.
Learners are rewarded for exploring new pages on a website. This principle encourages students to discover and be surprised.
Learners engage more if they believe they are part of community or project that they believe is valuable, worthwhile and may achieve a great or 'epic' goal.
Quests involve undertaking a journey where a learner must overcome obstacles. Novices may be challenged with easier deeds to build up expertise.
Virality is when there is more fun or more tasks accomplished as more members participate. In many communication games and roleplays, ten or more players make an ideal mix of roles and interchanges.
Learners feel driven to act immediately to accomplish a task and have likely chance of success.
When there is no end to the play or learning, the infinite nature of new or refreshed tasks encourages learners to continue with or without reward. Extensive reading programs often offer no limit to points earned with reading books beyond the class goal.
Success can be displayed in small increments with progress bars indicating a percentage of completion towards a goal.
Elements of Gamification
Elements of Gamification
Description in a Blended ELT Context
Achievement Lists (Leaderboards)
High achievers are ranked in lists and the "Best 10” or some other list of achievements is shown on a bulletin board or website.
Students can accumulate points for participation in various learning tasks or community tasks. Points are tallied by teachers or displayed on a class website.
Time limits are established for accomplishing a task with a countdown timer
A progression of increasingly difficult tasks that must be achieved in a required sequence.
Learners are asked to set goals for themselves in terms of participation tasks, quiz scores or exercises. Databases keep track and display progress.
Giving responsibility for a learner to manage a mini-project that is identified with that person creates loyalty and desire to protect the project. Authors of essays or speeches titles are publicly named.
Setting a goal of group participation to get something free. If five members answer a survey, all members of the class receive a bonus.
The rank or level of a learner is given by a badge. Badges may also be awarded to accomplishments or progress. Badges tend be displayed on a website whereever a learner's name appears.
Three kinds of reward schedules can be designed: 1) fixed interval (reward delivered after a fixed amount of time), variable interval (reward delivered within a certain period of time), and ratio (rewards delivered after a specific number of actions).
A bonus is a reward for completing a task. There may be required bonuses and optional bonuses. Additional bonuses can be given when multiple or combined tasks are achieved.
A synchronous feature where learners must login or physically meet at a certain time, do a task together, and receive a reward.
Some rewards are given purely by chance, as in a 'lottery'. If overdone, losers will tend to give up.
Different types of gamification appeals to different types of learners and personality types.
Gamification may be criticized for its...
- return to behaviorism
- overemphasis on competition
While gamification is sort-of behaviourism, I think it is quite a post-modern approach to behaviourism. That is, it is not carrot and stick (mostly stick) approach as used in My Gradgrind's Victorian school-room; but a more playful use of extrinsic movtivators that is self-aware that they are rather lame psychological tricks that get people started. They are employed with the hope that students will move on to seeing the intrinsic benefits of the activities that have been encouraged, and so continue on their own.
There's a lot of truth in this. Technological developments often really just allow us to consolidate the power of techniques that are not, "in principle," new.
It's funny you should note the association of gamification with behaviorism. In my gamification post from yesterday, I mentioned my faculty colleague from psychology, who explicitly thinks of gamification as a pedagogical implementation of behaviorist theory. He wants to see how far Moodle can go in this respect.
So I am especially happy to see your post's conceptual content!
Does anyone have robust practical implementations in place using Moodle (e.g., along the lines I outlined in my above-linked post)? In the terms of the taxonomy you pasted here, aren't "Reward Schedules" that give students quicker feedback (e.g., by automated score-keeping, etc.) often both more useful for many kinds of learning, and also Moodle-implementable?
If so, are there present tools that might be cobbled together to do this? Or new ones on any horizon?
I'm not sure if I agree that gamification, narrowly defined, is significantly behaviourist-oriented in the first place. I was careful to comment on some common interpretations of the term rather than on gamification itself. As I see it, gamification has become a convenient label for the endeavour of attaching grades and ratings to anything and everything they can on LMS'.
Wikipedia.org's definition appears to encompass a range of concepts, some of which are cognitivist and social-constructivist oriented:
- Progress mechanics (points/badges/leaderboards, or PBL's)
- Player control
- Immediate feedback
- Opportunities for collaborative problem solving
- Scaffolded learning with increasing challenges
- Opportunities for mastery, and leveling up
- Social connection
I guess one question to ask would be how can we implement gamification so that it increases and supports interest in deepening and broadening understanding of the topics/subjects being studied, as opposed to being motivated to get a higher score or status by completing whatever tasks are set? Is it possible or would it be better to look for strategies and techniques elsewhere, e.g. communities of inquiry, reflective practice/inquiry, or making learning visible?
The first table you've presented here looks like it's influenced by social constructivism and self-determination theory as well as behaviourism. The second table seems to be very much aimed at operant conditioning (behaviourism).
Re: "And it works." -- I don't think "Does it work?" is a particularly helpful question to ask about learning interventions. Almost all widely implemented learning interventions "work" to some degree. What I think we should be asking is:
- how well they work, (What's the effect size?)
- for how long, (How long do these interventions maintain reasonable effect sizes over longer periods of time?, e.g. Do learners get bored with them? Are the effects only short term? Do the interventions only address a small area of knowledge/understanding/skills which means it's a "one time gain"?)
- who with, (Does it help the majority of learners? What about those it doesn't help? What age groups and socioeconomic backgrounds is it suitable for?)
- in what context(s), (What kinds of learning environments and climates is it suitable for? What kinds of relationships need to be established and cultivated between tutors and learners?)
- and for how many people. (How labour intensive is it for tutors and support staff? What are the most productive tutor to learner ratios?)
For example, if you try setting up learner-led, social constructivist learning activities in a hierarchical, teacher-led, grade oriented learning climate, it's unlikely to be successful, and likewise teacher-led, behaviourist oriented learning activities are likely to produce discipline and motivational issues in a social constructivist oriented learning climate. If the whole curriculum doesn't have its learning and teaching philosophies and approaches aligned, this can cause tensions and conflicts and ultimately result in a lack of purposeful engagement and poor learning outcomes; yes, they'll learn something but not as much as if the curriculum was well aligned.
So where do behaviourist learning interventions fit in this view?
The most common implementation of operant conditioning in education is grading (with stars, tokens, prizes, etc. being used commonly with kindergarten and elementary learners). The research on how grading is typically used isn't encouraging. Alfie Kohn has written extensively about what the research says:
The Case Against Grades: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tcag.htm
GRADING The Issue Is Not How but Why: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/grading.htm
Group Grade Grubbing versus Cooperative Learning: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/ggg.htm
From Degrading to De-Grading: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/fdtd-g.htm
I really like this question you raise. Yes, it is an old idea made new due to the popularity of gaming in youth culture.
"And it works" is the test I use to determine the value of an intervention. It is based on my experience in a pragmatic, non-conceptually-biased decision. Inductive, I suppose, not deductive. The five questions you ask are great research questions which ultimately will judge gamification as a long-lasting strategy. However, research lags practice so much, at least by five years, that it will not influence the adoption of these innovations. My point is the negative connotation that many educators have with behaviorism should not be a starting point. My starting point is that all metaphors of learning--instruction (behaviorist), acquisition (cognitivist), participation (socio-cultural) are useful, and none "superior".
I think it's more accurate to say that there's a significant gap between what we understand from research into learning and teaching theory and practice, and what teaching practitioners believe and practice.
I don't see gamification, as it appears to be widely understood, as anything new or innovative. To me, it looks more like whatever legitimate theoretical basis for gamification there is has been abandoned and the term co-opted to be used as a green light to anyone who wants to turn online learning environments into "Skinner boxes", designed manipulate learners into participating in learning activities without any clear, conscious purposefulness on the learners' part.
And a new site I am working on converting into a gamified platform based on the framework used by Gabe Zicchermann: truth-or-dare.org This week I finally managed to force the gradebook to represent five levels of achievement. It's still under construction but you are welcome to register and let me know what you think. There is a demo course on "Levelling up your Twitter Skills".
The Klevar group have kindly shared a recording of a presentation by Professor Paul Howard-Jones from the University of Bristol discussing research into the neuroscience of learning. There is a lot of information about how to create 'teachable moments' where learners are highly focused.
And then put these two puzzle pieces together ....
Empathy, Neurochemistry, and the Dramatic Arc
They are exploring similar concepts from different perspectives: that our reward systems respond to novelty and risk so creating tension or risk is the key to creating engagement. The University of Bristol offers MRI's and research as proof, and the evolution of prehistoric learning mechanisms as the reasons for this, whereas the storytellers have always understood the power of the Dramatic Arc to engage.
A recent definition by Brian Burke, an analyst from Gartner, attracted a lot of controversy because it associated gamification with digital engagement: "the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals”. In his view what is new about gamification is the scope and scale technology offers. http://blogs.gartner.com/brian_burke/2014/04/04/gartner-redefines-gamification/
The slide below is from his presentation at gsummit this week where he compares the face to face weight watchers program with similar digital apps.
As Moodlers, we all know that teachers can grade learners without technology. The whole point of an LMS is to automate the parts of this process that can be efficiently delegated to a computer. So why is gamification any different? Yes we have always used it. But can an LMS automate and improve efficiency , scale and scope of the process of gamification? I believe it can. A custom designed gamification app costs around $50,000 per contact hour to develop. Moodle offers teachers the ability to implement gamification without this expense. Yeah sure it's not going to be as flash as Grand Theft Auto - but if the content is good and a simple levelling up framework engages learners then the effort is well justified.
The best article I have found linking gamification to educational theorists is this Microsoft research paper: http://g4li.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/6-History-of-Play.pdf.
I must be very honest, and I mean that...I find all this puzzling and I am nowhere near completing the picture of gamification and its purpose for education/technology in ed etc -yet.
I really like this discussion though-there are a lot of interesting points, different views and understanding...which I find fascinating. What I mean by that is, we all naturally refer to our experience of the topic...and then what we know...Here is my puzzle: I dont know if I have experience of working with gamification or not and I therefore cannot give an example to highlight my understanding...really...that is my puzzle.
You see I agree with Tim, lots of concepts and ideas over time...just get re-hashed...and what I see in the concept gamification is creativity, play, sponteneity and some links with behaviourism among other familiar stuff in education.
Natalie, oh my, I really like what you have included here among the other helpful stuff from others, but I would like to say, that paper isn't an academic paper linking theory with practice -it is a list of names and quotes from the early educational pioneers in relation to the topic of play; child dev and psych/philosophers....a bit disjointed and lacks synthesis to support any rationale for the links between those quotes and technology.
Which brings me nicely onto what I see as gamification:
This programme is available through an app..and combines the topics of music, natural sciences and technology....the play and the creativity is left to the kids....in other words it is they who decide to game-reward themselves/their own ideas (intrinsic motivation apparent in video for me) ....thus they are not too worried about prizes
This is turning out to be a fruitful discussion, and many thanks for the links and references
I'm very cautious when reading conjectures about the findings of neuroscience and their relationship to what most of us understand as "learning." Neuroscience is concerned with how the mechanics of the brain work and trying to map that to psychological activities using fMRI, TMS, and EEG. The tools/observations operate at lower orders of magnitude than traditional experimental psychology and, while there is some overlap, neuroscience and developmental psychology (the science of learning) are quite different animals. Maybe, in the not too distant future, neuroscience will develop into something more relevant to education but at the moment it appears to be mostly correlating with some things we've already discovered through experimental psychology but also throwing up a few surprises. It's a fascinating area but has little new to say about higher order learning: the domain of education and training.
The cognitive psychologist, Daniel Willingham puts it better than I can:
Yes, in short term studies, where shallow learning (e.g. memorisation and reproduction in discreet item tests) is the case, i.e. most of neuroscientific research (Remember that neuroscience is concerned with lower orders of magnitude?), it's possible to increase test scores significantly, but we've already known that for hundreds of years - Ask any mentalist or magician about memorisation tricks that they use (In fact, there's a couple of neuroscientists, Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, who are investigating how magic tricks work on our brains) and we've had "spaced repetition" memorisation techniques, another prominent element in popular interpretations of gamification, since the 1930s. In terms of the medium to long term effects of so called "brain based training" and "brain games" in education and training, the evidence to date isn't encouraging.
Here's one example of how gamified learning has failed to produce medium to longer term results: http://llt.msu.edu/issues/october2011/nielson.pdf
Please note that "gamified" language learning software has been around for longer than the term gamification.
To hedge this rather damning view, I'd say that gamification, in it's current, narrow definition, I think does include some elements that can be productive in the medium to longer term, especially the social and collaborative elements that appear to have come from massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). My concern is that, from what I've seen in implementations so far, the term gamification is being used to sell old rope, i.e. IDs doing what they've always done, adding a few bells and whistles (adding yet more tracking and score keeping), and calling it gamification.
Just stumbled across this article on the over/inappropriate application of gamification. I think his view that a significant number of people are scrambling to apply this idea to everything they do is reasonably accurate.
Do we really need to "gamify" everything? http://www.imore.com/im-getting-achievement-fatigue-do-we-really-need-gamify-everything
So even if we decide that we want to prioritise learning targets that are typically shallow, narrowly transferable, and encourage cramming for tests and discourage curiosity and deeper learning (learners who are genuinely interested in topics tend to score lower than so called "A" students who work out strategies for scoring as high as possible without necessarily understanding the topic), which is what I'm arguing that gamification does (Effective if you need kids to pass standardised discreet item tests), we're likely to provoke "achievement fatigue" with gamification over mid to longer periods of time.
thanks for the article.
wisdom prevails in your post there Matt, very wise words.
Simple example: some cars (most hybrids, some others) provide a running estimate of fuel efficiency. The driver can use this to learn to drive more efficiently. I suppose some would argue that this isn't "gamification," since the car doesn't grant you a badge if you achieve a certain level of fuel efficiency, but then again, it's popular to post these "scores" on social media, and people get quite competitive about them. ;)
Second example: I've been trying to get myself to exercise more for years. Two years ago I got a FitBit, and I'm definitely getting more exercise now... in part because I get cute messages like "You have climbed to the height of Godzilla's head!" and in part because I'm part of a group on the FitBit website, and I can see how well I'm doing relative to my friends, and we send each other encouraging messages.
Notice a pattern here?
Check out the link to Salen and Zimmerman's article about learning and games (here's that link again: http://g4li.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/6-History-of-Play.pdf ). Games are social. We use them to practice for life. I argue that they constitute legitimate peripheral participation, i.e. they are a key element of socio-cultural learning.
The trappings of gamification can be used to support behaviorism, if they are imposed by instructors or institutions, or they can be constructed and adopted by learners themselves, in learning communities, in which case I think they can become very powerful supports for the learning process. It's up to us all to decide whether we want to use gamification to emulate extrinsic stickers and grades, or to help learners set goals for themselves and support one another in reaching those goals.
Also, anyone interested in where "gamification" comes from and how it got started might want to make a point of reading James Gee's What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy. If you don't have time to read the book (it's short and very accessible), at least watch or read this interview:
The idea is to bring the fun of games, the willingness to try things and keep trying, the celebration of each step of the journey, back into learning.
Elizabeth, there is no rating for EXCELLENT POST HERE!..Absolutely superb link, many thanks for that.
So nice to have it on a well-served plate like that.....brilliant.
A very concise summary, in relation with that clip:
'skill and drill' -Nope-outdated- A new sputnik needed=innovation and social constructionism. 'A paradigm shift'.
There endeth my agreement, chap knows it and has sold it to me-with his knowledge of detail including the nth degree.
The underlying principle of what James Paul Gee appears to be advocating is computerised instructional scaffolding. Computers are dreadfully bad at is making sense of what people say and write. Here's what a computer would understand of James Paul Gee's words:
"They're not just knowledge as something game says you failed, try again and also where you into worlds where thing that is problems but knowledge as facts, but in a group is separate with then later than the test. The time about it in some stuff and that's which is a test, and you pass the solution to solve it's a lot of assessment. The think about it in some stuff and related technologies, because it's one of the solution to this problem, and if you think about it in so the most painful, ludicrous part of schooling, but to be able to do it and then you don't say learning kids in school to learn some weird way a video games: Next will be school to learn not just a series of- if you into worlds where that you can work in a very different way. One thing that stresses the only so that's a lot of schooling, but knowledge as facts, but not the ability to solve a problems but not just to this problem, and also where we'll the thing games essentially are a part of schooling that you don't say learn something that stresses the most painful, ludicrous part of assessment. They don't really do is problems. They don't says you produce, and then lated technologies, because it's handled in video games and that stresses the test. They're a part of the reasons people are interested in video games don't solution to thing that is problems. All you try again, they're giving you feedback all the group, and assessment. They're a part of then you solve it and then you think about it in so the learn some stuff and then later we'll the tools you pass the test. They're going to go and then you solution to thing that stressessment. They're a part of the smarter that's handled in and that in modern worlds where you can work in a very different as you think about they're a form of assessment. They do is problems but knowledge as facts, but to go and that you're on some weird way. One the group where weird way a video game says you try to go and that's one of they put you can work in a group, and also where we're giving you failed, try again, they put you into worlds where you problem, and then you solve it, the most painful, ludicrous part of fun, right, because it's a lot of fun, right, because it's handled in a very different way. One this problem solving. It's handled in and then you feedback all then you have that."
(Generated using Gee's words using a Markov chain algorithm)
Computers can calculate linguistic structure and literal meaning (syntax and lexis) but what the person means to say (pragmatic meaning) is completely lost on them. It's doubtful whether we will ever be able to develop computers that "understand" human languages to a sufficient degree that they could guide a teach us.
That leaves computer generated instructional scaffolding as simply a list of responses that are triggered by environmental events and/or learners' actions and responses. To give you an idea of how complex this can get without understanding pragmatic meaning, imagine that a learner makes a series of binary A or B decisions that provoke responses from a computer. Decision #1 = 2 possible responses, Decision #2 = 4 possible responses (#1 x #2), decision #3 = 8 possible responses (#1 x #2 x #3). Imagine interacting with a computer for 20 minutes and think how many possible responses that could generate, and then multiply that by the number of options each decision should have to be more reflective of the real world. You'd quickly run into terrabytes of data and even then, the responses will only be as effective as their design and the appropriateness of the triggers. And, if you think AI is the answer, that we can use self-organising systems to learn how to give appropriate responses, we're back to the problem of pragmatic meaning again. How do you teach a machine pragmatics?
Actually, that's a pretty good demonstration of why radical behaviourism (See B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behaviour, 1957) as a means to describe how we acquire and develop language and literacy skills was false. If you'd like to read Chomsky's critique, it's available here: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/1967----.htm
I think the strongest part of Gee's talk is on the social engagement and collaboration that takes place between participants (not between players and computers) in some online gaming communities, i.e. via computer mediated communication during game play. It's more probable that the social interaction and sense-making between participants collaborating on tasks, projects, missions, etc. account for the majority of learning rather than the game play itself and very little learning comes from computer generated linguistic feedback, i.e. automated responses.
a bit of a gap-filler on its way
it is a human being who chooses to engage with another human being that actually takes place...the technology is just a tool to communicate that decision. Or are you saying the technology is the lead chief for motivation and engagement?
I would disagree. If the tech/tools have a high contributory factor-in order to stimulate communciation- this is down to the human's decision making skills and steer that.
Just a reminder that gamification and gaming are very different. I feel like we are getting the discussions mixed up. Gamification is social/community incentives for participation, while gaming/game-play is simulations in separate learning worlds.
Here is an inspiring example of gamification from a group I am following on Twitter @clusternz Manaiakalani Cluster:
"David F PES my floating or sinking animations: David float or sink from Team 4 Pes on Vimeo. bit.ly/1kP4z79"
Although they are not calling their process gamification, they are implementing gamification features:
- David, and his team PES 4 created and shared globally something they made - think Minecraft. (Development & Accomplishment, Empowerment of Creativity , ownership, collaboration)
- I imagine other teams would have been working on similar projects and be comparing results (competition)
- David worked within his team and this one post is part of his portfolio, and his portfolio is part of the cluster of schools (Epic meaning)
- The 906 page views - look at the bottom of the page (feedback)
- The number of comments and who is commenting are also feedback - family, teachers and peers (comments/likes are scores/points )
- Using social media - twitter to promote his work is building a community, you can become a 'follower' of David(connection relatedness)
- The live traffic feeds and world map ( a badge?) shows the far reaching views. By publishing his work online rather than submitting it on paper to one person to be graded he achieves status in his community - the ultimate in motivation. (status, virality, Social Influence & Relatedness)
From looking at the example you've cited, I'd say it's more accurate to describe it as strongly influenced by social constructivist approaches. The nearest thing I can think of is the Reggio Emilia approach, AKA Visible Learners. Reggio-based approaches, and many other social constructivist oriented approaches, deliberately and specifically play down competition in favour of observation, reflection, and collaboration, and play down the end products in favour of focusing on learning processes. In fact, from this view competition is usually viewed as counter-productive to learning and collaboration.
Hello to you all, as my first post on this site I'd like to share this link to Dr Kevin Werbach's excellent course. Very engaging, adult learning. Cheers Shane