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Gamification and learning – benefits and trapdoors Part 1

It empowers creativity, trigging Gamifiering och lärande – fördelar och fallgropar Del 1curiosity, gets the mind spinning and gives pride when finishing a task, the list can be made very long on why computer games engage so many people. It is estimated that one billion people around world play games at least one hour per day. At the same time 81 percent of the global labour force does not feel engaged in their work, says the game-design-guru Jane McGonigal in an IDG interview. There is reason to believe that the amount is similar when it comes to the formal educational system and its pupils and students. With this in mind, how can the engaging power of computer games be used for learning?

How gamification adds value to learning

The engine of a game-environment is based on individual and/or group performance, which has more similarities with the working life than traditional school education. Thereby gamification can be a functioning bridge between the school and its efforts to prepare the students for the working life.


Gamification could also probably benefit to lower the amount of dropouts from the school-system. In a report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 467 high school dropouts were asked why they left school 47 percent responded “The classes was not interesting.” Meaning that the classes were not engaging enough and they could not see the benefits for their future everyday life and working life. With performance-based games for learning where understanding and creativity is required added with a more authentic visual environment the number of dropouts would probably be much lower.

The main characteristics of edugames are that they produce an environment that is based on creativity, problem-solving, persistence and collaboration, in other words training of competencies. They also require to develop an understanding of the content. In other words the requirements to complete tasks are a manifold of skills and to put knowledge into action. The contrast is rather sharp to the traditional teaching-by-telling education which main focus is set on knowledge and in its brighter moments some understanding. This means that an introduction of gamification as pedagogical method would add crucial value to the learning-process as well as give a pre-taste of the working life.

Gamification trapdoors for learning

Above some of the main benefits are shown of using gamification as a pedagogical method, but what are the trapdoors?

1. It is expensive to create qualitative computer games for learning. Since ads can not be a source of income for the game-producer because of the target-group, the cost for the schools could be high. Solution: Create game-platforms that could be recycled to more subjects and approaches.

2. Quality, the developer should not firstly focus on entertainment, instead an edugame’s engagement should origin from developing understanding and use of different competencies to develop skills. But still have an ingredient that spin the gamers mind in amusement. Solution: Originate the development from a learning-approach, but do not forget the roots of the gaming industry.

3. People are different, in the same way as traditional teaching-by-telling pedagogy does not work for many pupils and students, gamification are not the miracle medicine for everybody. Solution: Blended learning.

The next part of this article-series will focus on an area where great improvements can be made with gamification; assessment of knowledge, understanding and skills. Especially since traditional assessment tests often mostly focus knowledge-based facts, a well-designed edugame focus on understanding and skills related to a subject and in that environment the student just have to have the knowledge to perform well. The third part of this article series will then focus game-based learning in the working life.

Written by
LarsGoran Bostrom©



Stealth Assessment – Measuring and Supporting Learning in Video Games by Valerie Shute and Matthew Ventura MacArthur Foundation

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