After watching how well my own children respond to playing games, I’ve been tinkering with the idea of gamification in education. My children are diligent students and enjoy learning, especially things they find interesting. They love comic books and video games. They watch countless videos, read blogs/articles, and even make their own vlogs over game theory, Stan Lee, Walt Disney, and whatever else on those topics. My oldest has already decided he wants to be a president on Mars so he has started investigating everything he can about the planet. In this arena, they took charge of their own learning. Their intrinsic need to learn and discover has taken over.

What if our entire education system was like this? What if we turned it into a game? Like completely overhauling public school curriculum to be entirely game-based? Don’t confuse gamification with just playing video games. It is much more than that. Anjelika Kosanic, a product manager at Cricket Media, sums up the principles behind gamification quite nicely:

What makes specific game elements successful can be better understood when studying the field of Applied Behavioral Analysis. These strategies can be used for both good and bad, but can be applied especially well in learning environments where learning may take place over long periods of time. Strategies, such as rewards of all sorts that influence player actions, are helpful to sustain engagement, and help students make connections between lessons, as well as encourage collaborative behaviors. “Gamification” strategies don’t work unless you first observe and analyze your content, curriculum, audience, etc. The combination of designing content that is intrinsically engaging, cognitively stimulating, and behavioral strategies that present stimulus in a systematic way with expectations and rewards is highly effective. I love games, and know how effective they can be, but the processes underlying the mechanics and elements that everyone calls “gamification” really come from a science that few people recognize or talk about. By understanding the science behind games, the science that explains how players are motivated, that’s when you can really create effective learning tools and engaging experiences.

Gamifying the user experience seems to have taken on a skyrocketing trend. Commercial websites like Expedia, television shows, and even airlines use gamification to grab and engage their audience. Marketing pros examine and study the social pulse of the public and modify/adjust as needed. (Although some may argue they actually tell us what we want and then we just blindly follow along.) Why don’t we do that with education? Or should I say, why don’t we do that more often in education? It’s seems like our current system (Teach, Test, Rinse, Repeat) is very out of touch with the modern world.

Many people have already started this type of implementation. Pockets of forward-thinking educators have invested time and research into changing the very core structure of their pedagogy. Perhaps that is what it will take. Rome wasn’t built in a day and changing the fundamental core structure of American education won’t happen over night either.

Here’s a list of online resources that have more info on Gamification:

Gamification in Education: Why, How, Why Bother?

Gamification: Will It Engage and Motivate Your Students?

Gamification of Education

Gamification Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media