Gamification – Finding Knowledge in Tech”knowledge”y

This weekend, my husband and I were out of town for the wedding of two close college friends in Winston-Salem. We decided to go up a night early to enjoy some peaceful time in the Western part of the state after all of the craziness of the first week back at school. On Saturday morning before the wedding, we had some extra time and decided to visit the campus of Wake Forest and find a cozy niche in the library to prepare for the coming week.

Wake Forest students work in the atrium of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library on Wednesday, November 16, 2011.I sat there amidst incredible architecture, countless books and reverent solitude ready to tackle the tasks at hand. This week in one of my grad school classes, our professor gave us a quest to design a video game and reflect on ways that we could use it in our classroom.  Yes you heard that right – a video game. As I manipulated the controls and tested my game, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself about what others were probably thinking who were working or passing by me. Wow – look at that girl – she is totally off task, wasting her time playing a video game that looks like something I used to play in elementary school. Why is she here in the library playing a game, instead of enjoying the beautiful weather outside or almost anything else that would be more interesting than sitting in a hushed library? I eagerly wished that I could shout out to all of those around me “You wouldn’t believe it but this is actually my coursework in grad school this week!” The astonishment that I knew would appear on their faces was almost too rich to resist.

I have found myself thinking about the assignments and quests in this class even when I am on my own leisure time or could be thinking about a million other things not involving work. The incorporation of gamification in this course invigorates my excitement about taking on a new quest, pushing myself further, even doing more work than is required of me. It is in fact somewhat addicting.

I have mused (and heard others talk) a lot recently about how dangerous the power of technology can be, especially on those as young as our students. Rarely am I out at a restaurant or a sporting event without seeing a myriad of ipads, iphones, tablets, etc. filling the places around me. I think there is an important balance here that we as a society have not yet successfully found. At the same time, I wonder what might happen if teachers began to use the power of technology to engage students in asking the questions and acquiring the content knowledge that they have been killing themselves to teach. What if we used technology as a source of power rather than a threat to students’ concentration?

Enter gamification. If you’re like me, this is a term that I had never heard before until recently. So since my class is based completely off of its structure, I decided to do a little research for myself about what gamification is, who’s doing it, why they are doing it and what it looks like in a classroom. I was astounded by how many results I found. Here are the results I found most interesting focusing solely on twitter results from the past 15 hours:

Storify on Gamification – https://storify.com/lisamlangford/gamification

I had NO idea that there was so much stir about gamification! I was blown away by the amount of information I was able to find about it in such a short amount of twitter time! Gamification appears to be very on the rise, not only in education but in marketing, healthcare, HR, etc. I started to feel like I missed the boat on something new and exciting happening all around me!

gamification-word-cloud-e1381359896747

For those skeptical about gamification, I totally understand your hesitation. At the same time, I would like to offer you some food for thought. As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them”. If teachers are feeling frustrated that technology is distracting their students from learning, maybe it’s time that we figure out a way to bring learning through technology. Perhaps it’s time for teachers themselves to embark on a new quest of learning and investigate the tool of gamification. I’m not saying that it’s this brand new thing that is going to fix all of the current issues with student success or education. I’m not saying there will not be issues to figure out. I’m just saying that maybe it’s worth a closer look.

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