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How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?

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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?

I have been enjoying discussing Gamification in Education with people who are Gamification professionals. The audience here are mainly professionals in Educational Technology so I am interested in your perspective (ie you don't have to be well read on gamification to jump in to this conversation!) To be clear on my definition  - I am referring to gamification as 'the process of making activities more game-like.'

Steve Wheeler has a concise summary of how 30 theories  have been used in education (see below) My question is where does gamification fit into all of this?

Is gamification  tied to the next  progression of educational technology  ie slate> paper > book > computer > mobiles > apps .... Although gamification does not require  the use of technology, the greatest impact we are seeing is when technology changes the scale of implementation and the amount of data collected, analysed and used in algorithms to alter the interaction (see the comments debating this here:  As educators, we can  see the potential for increased personalised learning and  personalised instruction through the availability of better tools. The cost (in both skill and time) for  educational developers to come up with a decent hour of interactivity is rapidly reducing. I wonder what we could do given the same budget as the Grand Theft Auto team?

An alternate view would be to see gamification as a game layer of narrative, incentives or other game elements that sit over the top of an existing product. Regardless of whether your approach is based on behaviourism,  cognitivism, constructivism, or connectivism you could add this layer over the top to increase engagement (See

Any thoughts? If we were to draw this as a diagram how would you visualize gamification amongst existing learning theories and processes?

1. Anderson ACT-R Cognitive Architecture
2. Argyris Double Loop Learning

3. Bandura Social Learning Theory
4. Bruner Scaffolding Theory
5. Craik and Lockhart Levels of Processing
6. Csíkszentmihályi Flow Theory
7. Dewey Experiential Learning
8. Engeström Activity Theory
9. Ebbinghaus Learning and Forgetting Curves
10. Festinger Social Comparison Theory
11. Festinger Cognitive Dissonance Theory
12. Gardner Multiple Intelligences Theory
13. Gibson Affordances Theory
14. Gregory Visual Perception Hypothesis
15. Hase and Kenyon Heutagogy
16. Hull Drive Reduction Theory
17. Inhelder and Piaget Formal Operations Stage
18. Jung Archetypes and Synchronicity
19. Jahoda Ideal Mental Health
20. Koffka Gestalt theory
21. Köhler Insight learning
22. Kolb Experiential Learning Cycle
23. Knowles Andragogy
24. Lave Situated Learning
25. Lave and Wenger Communities of Practice
26. Maslow Hierarchy of Human Needs
27. Merizow Transformative Learning
28. Milgram Six Degrees of Separation
29. Milgram Obedience to Authority

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Picture of ryan sanders
Re: How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?
EDIT: moodle decided to remove all the default html markup, re-posting in multi posts

nice timing on the new thread! been thinking about this myself. but more from a commercial aspect. and using moodle as basic website framework. and building games on top of moodles (logins, admin, chat sessions, forums, etc...) 

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Picture of ryan sanders
Re: How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?

 html5 brings <canvas> element, that heavy relies on javascript to do things. ((like a flash game but pure html/javascript code. with ajax/php able to talk with moodle software. to save game stats, (save place in game), and possibly pull some statics from the game. but... a pure html/javascript game is ran in client browser = easily hacked. the only way to help remove a huge amount of "hacking / cheating" is entire game is ran at the server. and only input from user is sent to server. and then the server sends back updates to the client browser. 

BUT the problem with above. there are a lot of HTML and javascript developers, but not enough server side scripting/ coding developers, that have a large enough knowledge / ability to create what a game would need to run on and at the server vs in the client. (hardware, and more likely c and/or c++ coding, to handle real time interaction), a web page (activities and resources) currently available in moodle, no big deal if they arrive 1mili second, vs 3 seconds from now. but real time game, majority of games are. the difference between hardware => operating system => apache => php => moodle vs hardware => operating system => game code, can be huge in processing what needs to happen next in a game. 

other issues with html/javascript and browsers. browser can some time completely stink in handling memory management. if i push a image to the browser via the game 5 times, and then another image 1000 times. and even while i told the browser i no longer need those same images, the browser will continue to hold onto that info for some time till an error occurs or browser crashes. browsers are designed for websites, were ya look at something and may click the "back button" a couple times to return back to some website homepage, and to make that quicker, browsers are designed to hold that info in memory for a descent length of time, and maybe never actual delete / remove the info so you can instantly go back a few pages. when ya start creating games in html5 element. you are stuck at the old doings of how a web browser works for regular browsing the internet. 

flash applets / flash games can be a bit "ugly" due to how much info they can gather and get into, without a persons knowledge. and maybe consider a security risk. java applets (do not confuse java with javascript), can be even a higher security risk. granted there is always better coding practices and pitfalls to avoid. but amount of knowledge and double checking is normally out of aspect of a single game, and a framework is most likely wanted, with some actual games (open source) to make it easier to copy/paste and build a game off of a given framework. 

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Picture of ryan sanders
Re: How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?

folks still create "text based games" there is no visual game characters, or visual 3D or 2D world. but everything is pure "text based" ya given an option of "doors, east,south,west" which door do you choose?, (i choose east),(text comes up noting..) i enter the room and i see a chair in the corner with a person setting in it. (game option comes up), say hello? slam the door as you leave the room? walk quietly out of the room, softly shutting the door? ask a person a question? 

(side note i always hated, east,west,south,north when described in a game) not enough info in relation of time/day and sun location and landmarks to tell what direction is what. up,down,left,right or other descriptive statement always easier to denote at least for me at times) 

these games would more likely fit into "disability act" style of gaming, were folks need to use a screen reader, or possibly javascript is disabled. were folks can click a button and the page refreshes with updated content. these games possibly allowing a real time game environment (within reason) how fast a person read, and time lag for server to update info.


 i would imagine a MUD / text base game. might be more prone to using. simple words (K through say 3rd grade), and then start using more advance words a person may need to look up in a dictionary, to understand what is being described to them. so they understand what to do next within the game, or understand the "feeling / emotion" of what is trying to be getting across to the student. to including "body language" notations. not emote icons smile "smiley face : with ) after it" but rather....with a palish color face, and eye brows lowering in on you, hands and arms rigid. the person states "yada yada". 

having a real time chat box, and some sort of "mud / text base game" might allow students to do a treasure hunt. and helping other students move through a room or dungeon. or the old. un-winding a string, or leaving bread crumbs. 

filling out a "assignment" of how to get through dungeon, and then next student uses last person assignment answer, of how to get through dungeon, repeat, repeat.... for ((grape vine effect)) and learning how to create better instruction and defining the details. example a person in room is setting in chair, and one child uses the person location as a landmark, but in next run through game, the person and chair is no longer there. now what? do you need to find that person first? do something else first? take a random guess and go through a few doors? 

do you need two or more people to get through a trap? in the text base game? one student holding a switch, while another, keeping door handle turned, while rest of students in group walk through disabled trapped area? 

does one student, need to keep watch, and constantly input answer to a math question? does another student need to constantly answer multi choice questions for english / grammer, does another student need to constantly adjust fulcrum / weights (entering distance or amount) in order to disable a trap? 

are these traps and quizes per say, based on overall current grade in the class? are some traps per say based on average grades of students within the group? 

could these games be updated to a flash game / html5 so there is more of a 2D / 3D game play style, i would imagine so. but depends on what is wanted and the student base.

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Picture of ryan sanders
Re: How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?

and the part that most likely caused html markup to dis-appear on me from first post...

i believe in child labor... *coughs*. ya... lets call it a "tournament" and the top games, are then re-adjusted for private details, and shared across the world. and top folks get a prize / ribbon. 

  • 12th graders, input a bunch of stuff into game/s assigned by groups.
  • 11th graders, play the selected few promising games (chosen out of games created by 12th graders across the world)
  • 11th graders, input a bunch of stuff into a game/s assign by groups.
  • 10th graders, play the selected few promising games (chosen out of games created by 11th graders across the world). etc...

other words...

  •  let students describe a world. and then locations within it. (essay style in single line notation). (description of rooms)
  • after describing the stuff, have them enter, use a grid paper or spreadsheet. and enter locations in a grid fashion. and assigning there "descriptions" to various areas. 
  • let folks get in more detail about "single items" in a given area. 

other words creating an interactive world. with descriptions. the grid layout, being a tile based game.  they could put in walls, mountains, what every they want, let there imagination run wild. 

the only issue to above, is scripting out how to find stuff. or puzzles / quizes that need to happen. or like. that is abit much for lower age folks i would imagine, possibly highschool students as well (within reason))

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Picture of Natalie Denmeade
Re: How do you visualize gamification amongst existing theories and processes?

Hi Ryan

As this post is focused on learning theories and gamification,  I have made a new forum post to continue your thoughts on Games in Moodle  here:

Just quickly... I have tried to add HTML5 games to  Moodle and found the best tool was Construct 2 . I exported the treasure map as HTML5 and embedded with an iframe. I have also been using Adobe Captivate 8 which can send results back to the LMS through scorm. The responsive design, advanced variables and javascript options in Adobe Captivate make it an awesome rapid development tool for HTML5 games.  I will try to add some links to examples in the other forum post when I get back from my Aussie summer bush camping.
Merry XMAS to you all!

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