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Video games and virtual worlds excel at engagement (McGonigal 2011).  Did you know that 28 million people harvest their crops daily in Farmville (Mashable 2010)? Then how come today’s schools face major problems around student motivation and engagement.  Sometimes just getting your students engaged and listening to your  morning lecture seems like a daunting task.  The surprising statistics on increased engagement in using gamification in education are staggering.  This is why gamification has evolved to be part of your class lesson.  Stats show that pros of gamification is that it can be complementary but can also make it worse.  One major pro of gamification is that it develops 21st century skills.  Gamification motivates students to engage in the classroom, give teachers better tools to guide and rewards students and gets students to bring their full potential to the pursuit of learning.  Gamification also blurs the boundaries between informal and formal learning.   Cons include that gamification may absorb teacher resources, teach learners that they should learn only when provided with external rewards.   Klopfer, Osterweil and Salen (2009), states that “Playfulness requires freedom to experiment, to fail, to explore multiple identities, to control one’s own investment and experience. In short, some gamification projects will succeed and others will fail.  Gamification is not a universal panacea( aka cure-all)”.

So what this means, as instructors we need to carefully design our games.  And make sure they are relevant to the concepts and are based on evidence-based research.  When we create games, we must develop meaningful assessments that they are achieving course objectives.   Can you recall being examined on a test and could not relate concepts to what was taught in the classroom?  Many learners complain about this.  Is this a teacher’s mistake or the learner failed to understand the concepts?  Or could both parties be responsible?   In John Hattie’s 2nd Mindframe, he states ” The success and failure of students’ learning is about what I do or don’t do.  I am a change agent”.

My point is that it’s vital that you make your games relevant to the course objectives.  Make sure what the learners are learning in the game are applicable to their course objectives.   Learners want to be examined fairly.  If you give them a game to play with and then test them on something that is completely different, you will have an uproar.   Games, whether you like it or not, are here to stay.  Instructors need to know when to use it and be careful of its dangers.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think if we make games relevant to concepts and assess them fairly in the games that this could be the secret formula for instructors using gamification in education?  Do you see other pitfalls?


Lee, J. & Hammer, J. ( on-line, no date).  Gamificaiton in Education: What, How, and Why Bother?  Retrieved on Oct. 16, 2014, from http://www.gamifyingeducation.org/files/Lee-Hammer-AEQ-2011.pdf