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3 Things You Should Know About Gamification and Learning

We can all picture it, a kid who has been sitting in front of a screen for hours. His bloodshot eyes have seen it all, from controlling an avatar in a top secret mission to interacting with players across the globe to build a city block by block. What is it about games that can make them so engaging?

You might not realize it, but today, many of the principles and practices used by the video gaming industry are changing the game for education. Understanding gamification can allow you to incorporate its principles and this can make learning more engaging and effective. You’ll be able to provide students with new and exciting experiences.

What is gamification?

Gamification is the process of using game design and game theory to make a product or service more gamelike, interactive, and engaging.

Think about any type of game: a board game, video game, even the simple games you played as a child on family road trips. What do they all have in common? Game mechanics. Games involve rules, and they incorporate systems, methods, and tools that encourage and motivate users by tapping into our innate desire for competition, achievement, status, reward, and self-expression.

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They include things like:

  • Earning badges, trophies, and other achievements
  • Tracking and rewarding activity
  • Creating virtual identities for self-expression
  • Collaborating as part of a team

By applying game mechanics to non-game experiences, like classroom activities, you can drive participation and engagement, and motivate students to achieve their goals.

Gamification works because it taps into our needs and desires.

All people have fundamental needs and desires for achievement, competition, reward, self-expression, and status. These needs span generations, demographics, cultures, and genders. Using gamification and game mechanics can help you reach every student!

Gamification works because it involves transformational play.

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In a game, transformational play happens when a player takes on a new role. They must use what they know and understand to solve new problems they wouldn’t have faced otherwise. In the process, they learn more about their role and about themselves.

In 2011, gamers playing a protein-folding game called “Foldit” helped biochemists unlock the structure of an AIDS-related enzyme. In just ten days they were able to do what scientists had been trying to do for decades. Transformational play allowed them to make a big difference.

Gamification works because it incorporates multiple modes of engagement.

By incorporating game theory and mechanics into learning, you can tap into multiple forms of engagement! These forms include:

  • Procedural engagement: using procedures accurately
  • Conceptual engagement: knowing what to do and why
  • Consequential engagement: using concepts to achieve goals
  • Critical engagement: questioning the usefulness of the concepts

Research shows that using games and game mechanics can make learning more engaging, fulfilling, fun, and interactive.

Using gamification works!

Evidence shows that games can significantly enhance student learning. Companies like Google and Microsoft have used gamification to increase worker morale and productivity. If these principles can work for these companies, they can work for students.

If you’re looking for innovative and effective ways to educate and engage students, then gamification is for you. Now get out there and start playing!

About the Author


Adam Barnes

Adam is an Editor for Edgenuity’s Product Development team and has worked for the company since 2012. He graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in secondary education, with a concentration in history. As a board member for the Arizona Council for the Social Studies, he has written curriculum and facilitated professional development workshops for K-12 teachers on topics such as primary source analysis and Common Core State Standards. He has also worked with the Arizona Historical Society where he aligned Arizona state teaching standards with the museum’s educational programs.