Gamification in Learning

By Louisa Jaffe, TAPE’s CEO/President and the founder of the Solometrix® learning methodology.

Despite its name, gamification is not just about making a lesson into a game, although that is one option. By using game design elements (such as colors, sounds, storytelling, or challenging scenarios/competition for points, etc.), gamification helps educators and trainers make a lesson come alive and/or become more interactive.

Gamification motivates by exposing the learner to any number of game-like experiences often involving choices of some kind as part of the learning. Gamified practical exercises can motivate learners to stay with the “work” of learning longer and excel faster because experiential learning is empowering. Gamification can lead away from excessive memorizing of facts and employ learning in practical, real-world situations.

One of my favorite examples of gamification is Schoolhouse Rock, an American TV series of short cartoons that first aired in the 70s on Saturday mornings in between children’s shows.

In the video below, you see how this episode gamifies grammar. It’s not a game, but it still excites your imagination, asks you questions, and gives you examples of how to use the skill you’re learning. Simply put, gamification makes it more fun to learn hard things.

In our previous article describing Solometrix®, TAPE’s trademarked learning methodology, we mentioned that it is technology-agnostic. Gamification is a method for engaging the learner’s imagination directly even though many modern definitions tie it to technology. Gamification is not about tech or even about games. It’s about making a lesson more interesting and more engaging, such that the learner is motivated from within to interact with the lesson material and in doing so learns more quickly, more enjoyably, and more robustly.

Gamification can be used for learning content that may be practical but may seem otherwise tedious to some such as grammar, or something recreational and very sensory based, like kayaking in the Everglades.

In the article 5 ways to gamify your classroom from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), author Michele Haiken, Ed.D identifies five game elements we can apply to learning:

  1. Adapt old-school games for classroom use.
  2. Play digital games.
  3. Create a quest (a mission with an objective).
  4. Battle it out with a boss.
  5. Earn a badge for mastery.

The idea is to engage the learner’s imagination (and three-dimensional thinking) in order to train the learner to solve problems – not by looking up an answer but through deriving the answer inside their own brains using their own thinking.

A quest, Haiken’s third element, takes the learner on an adventure where they get to practice the type of thinking they need to use to solve certain problems. This can look many different ways to the learner, depending on what technology employs the methodology. It could be as simple as one person standing in front of a crowd demonstrating something. It could be on a computer, or it could be sung in a song like “Conjunction Junction,” referenced above.

The Schoolhouse Rock video mentioned above doesn’t involve playing a game as it is a presentation only. But it sure makes learning fun as it gamifies the skill of sentence building with the concept of the train cars coming together to form a phrase. We want to gamify difficult concepts in a way that helps the learner think differently about problem solving and rely on themselves.

In Solometrix®, we are going to gamify existing training in many different ways. Stay tuned!