What does it even mean?
To gamify? It’s the verb of the current trendy label in education known as “gamification”.
According to Wikipedia (Oct 24, 2015):
Gamification primarily refers to a process of making systems, services and activities more enjoyable and motivating.
In addition the Gamificaiton wiki (Oct 24, 2015) refers to “game mechanics” as the:
tools, techniques, and widgets that are used as building blocks for gamifying a website or application
In a learning context this means bringing engaging and stimulating game elements in to the learning environment. Perhaps it’s extrinsic rewards such as badges or recognition levels. Perhaps it is more complex, challenges that unlock new challenges or other types of rewards. Unfortunately for many educators they have misinterpreted Gamification as taking an established game like World of Warcraft and using it to teach their content through it. Now whilst some serious teachers who are gamers may love this, and have probably tried it, I don’t see much senior level abstract mathematics being taught via a dungeon raid.
Hence the term serious games (http://www.seriousgamesassociation.com/) has started to take hold in the education community. That is, not just games for games sake, but games that we can learn from, games that could teach us to change our habits for the better. You see games have a relative advantage in the classroom and great teachers know this and have used games for centuries. Whether it be the competitive aspect of who can sit up straight first in kindergarten to keeping a sticker rewards chart on the wall that monitors behaviour and good classroom deeds. If the rewards feed in to a bigger game machine such as parental and whole school recognition then there is value to the learner in reaching higher levels by continuing to “play” the game (ie. do the right thing). Games don’t need to technology based, but as technology has become more affordable and usable to educators and students the aspect of visually pleasing graphics, bells and whistles, is hard to deny our learners. As Lee (2012) says “serious games do not need to use the latest technology to be considered as such. Yet, often 3D elements make up a large part of how the users want to experience the gaming world.”
The relative advantage of serious gaming is fun and engagement. A well designed game has a hook that will keep your learners “on-topic” for longer, this means more learning time, more discussion , more focus and possibly tangential benefits in collaboration, planning, risk-taking, and an improved desire to succeed.
If you’re interested in finding out more there are some fantastic resources on Slideshare under the Gamification 101 tag.
Lastly remember these wise words from the Gamification wiki (Oct 24, 2015)
The Gamification Process takes long term dedication, careful planning and the right tools and expertise. Keep in mind this… should be only a first step to understanding Gamification and should not be seen as a magic bullet to increase Engagement in and of itself.
Lee, M. (2012)., Serious Games: Gamification for social change. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from http://www.few.vu.nl/~eliens/serious/local/essay/12/33.pdf
Gamification (n.d.). In Gamification wiki. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from https://badgeville.com/wiki/Game_Mechanics
Gamification. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 24, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamification