Gamifying the Classroom

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein.


The Relevance, benefits, challenges and the future…


Many educators and content developers are putting in effort to gamify the classroom. With more and more innovation by developers and adoption by students and teachers, game based learning is having an increasingly positive impact on education.

This is not surprising since our learners were born with technology in hand, and have come to expect media rich, entertaining, social and interactive content in all avenues of their lives. Gaming in education is on the path to widespread integration of all sorts of games in all sorts of classrooms affirmed by a booming market which reached $1.5 billion in revenues in 2012 and is estimated to grow to $2.3 billion worldwide by 2017 according to the independent research firm Ambient Insight.

What is educational gaming all about?

Educational games are games traditionally designed with educational purposes, or which have subsidiary educational value. Educational games are designed to teach people about certain subjects, expand educational concepts (such as a mathematical concept in application), understand a historical event or culture, or assist learners in acquiring a skill as they play. Many types of games may be used in an educational environment, from simulation-based games, to Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, to Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), to Serious Games that take on real-world social issues.

The benefits.

The potential benefits of gaming in education are infinite, but limited to the design success of the individual game and content creators to integrate and exploit the current technology, graphics, relevant learning, assessment techniques, motivation and incentive psychology and entertainment potential.

Gaming in education can affect cognitive and motor skills, assist learners who are visually or audio stimulated and infuse entertainment, interactivity and fun into learning. Most games have problem solving scenarios which can spark creativity and contextualise information for real world application. Gaming, through experiencing consequences, and working toward goals allows players to make mistakes through experimentation in a risk-free environment (like a flight simulator) and in some instances to collaborate with fellow learners to solve real world problems collectively.

As an assessment tool, gaming enables the capturing of immediate, in-depth data about each student’s performance and paves the way for new modes of assessing and perhaps even accrediting progress and achievement in ways that reward and reinforce engagement.

By completing stages and receiving rewards or badges, students are motivated to keep trying where they might otherwise give up, because games have rules and structure and goals that inspire the learner to complete, not only tasks or subjects but perhaps one’s entire curriculum.

The Challenges.

The challenges around integrating gaming into a pre-structured curriculum are nothing short of a complete paradigm shift for content developers, parents and educators.

Gaming if not carefully planned can become a distraction, causing players to become too focused on the game and not on learning or conversely to feel patronized or bored by laboured and repetitive games with childish themes pitched at the wrong age group.

Gamification in education is the most expensive addition to the education space, and although the market is soaring, the investment is costly.

The design process is lengthy and additionally trends in gaming shift so radically that games can very quickly become outdated and obsolete.

Lastly a very real challenge around gamification rests not in the product itself but in usage and integration of the game into the classroom. It is very challenging to insert a consumer ready product into a school without the buy in of principals, teachers and without lesson plans that complement blended learning.

The Future.

We don’t really know what the future holds, but we can say for certain that the gamification is changing as rapidly as technology, social networking and game graphics.

It seems as though multiplayer role playing games (MMO’s) will feature a lot more in providing opportunities for players to improve such skills as, complex learning, thinking, and social practices that extend beyond the traditional subject and curriculum into real world application.

We also have to acknowledge that games are here to stay and that the smarter we are about their design and implementation the closer we get to bridge the gap between learners and educators.

Classrooms of the future

Every educational system in the world is being reformed at the moment, and it’s not enough. Reform is no use anymore because that is simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education. This has to be transformed into something else. Sir Ken Robinson

With the rise of technology and the digital age, classrooms are transforming in a way that we could never have imagined. Though we cannot predict precisely how the classrooms of the future may look, we can see trends emerging rapidly that suggest a total transformation. This transformation occurs in the way we see the barriers to entry of education, the role of a teacher, learning materials and the physical classroom.

Anyone from anywhere can access first class affordable,  if not free education.


One global Classroom?

Technology aided learning  globally is spreading fast, we may in the future see the dissolving of national curriculums altogether to give rise to one global classroom in which all students can access world class information and learn together across continents. Platforms such as Coursera with large global communities are successfully proving that not only is a global classroom possible, but that the emergence of having people working together on projects from different cultural backgrounds enhances the experience of learning and the sharing of knowledge.

Language may not a barrier.

With many translation technologies available online as well as a multitude of digital learning materials, learners now have access to courses in multiple languages and therefore access to multiple cultures and ways of thinking. As the scope and depth of content and technology increases the possibilities of interacting and learning globally are endless.

The classroom could be anywhere.

With mobile learning, the classroom need not be bound to a physical location at all. “Being there physically doesn’t add much value,” Bill Gates founder of Microsoft told CNN Money in an exclusive interview. He believes the days of big lectures with hundreds of students gathering in university classrooms may be numbered.

The exclusive becomes inclusive.
Education is becoming more and more affordable and moving away from its elitism. Future Classrooms could see developing countries using courses and content from traditionally prestigious and exclusive institutions such as Harvard and Cambridge. The impact that technology has on reducing the cost of education, both in the form of teachers, textbook, travel costs and tuition makes top class education available to anyone.

The classroom can happen at any time.

In the classrooms of the future we may see a complete dissolving of the semester/term and of the ‘school day’ as learning can happen at any time of the year, at any hour. Technology could one day provide education that is truly independent of fixed time which can also accommodate varying time-zones in a global classroom.


A complete re-invention of the role of a teacher


Flipping the classroom

Video recorded lectures are a primary form of technology based learning. In this form lectures are recorded on video by expert teachers who are dynamic at teaching, thus levelling the quality of teachers. These video lectures get watched outside of the class environment in the personal time of the student, and exercises and ‘homework’ are done in the classroom (flipping the classroom). The teacher’s role in the classroom then becomes a facilitator rather than a lecturer free to hone in on the individual learners needs.

Peers as teachers.

Peer to peer teaching is emerging as a powerful supplement to teaching. It’s a very simple concept. Learners who have mastered a concept share their knowledge with learners who are struggling. Whether in a physical classroom or in online forums this form of peer teaching and tutoring is proving to be highly successful. The role of the teacher shifts to assist in pairing up weaker students with stronger ones.

Unlikely Teachers.

Besides for individual and peer to peer learning the most unlikely of candidates can become teachers. The Granny Cloud devised by Sugata Mitra is one such example. This is a group of grandmothers all over the United Kingdom who assist and encourage students in India with their learning via Skype. Sugata Mitra hopes to see a 25% increase in attainment thanks to this coaching/feedback mechanism.


Learning Materials will be unrecognisable.


Digitised classrooms.

In future classrooms we will see each learner with some technological device, be it a computer, a mobile, tablet etc. as their primary learning ‘station’.  However with touch the emergence of touch screen technology we may even see the entire class working on one giant touch sensitive wall, or screen.

Interactive and fun learning materials.

learning materials will be geared at stimulating the learner through multi-media. Gaming, video lectures, interactive apps, and learning programs of any sort are progressing in a way that entertainment and learning are synonymous.  The boring old text book will fade away in favour of content and technology which is exciting and relevant to the digitally savvy learner.

Personalized and relevant content.

Similarly, the learning content will shift from a ‘one size fits all’ model to a more personalised way of delivering content in a culturally relevant way. Information will always be relevant always aggregating new global affairs and discoveries.

Paperless environment

Considering the rise of technology in the classroom environment it is not together unfathomable that learners will operate in a completely paperless environment.


The physical appearance of the classroom will transform.


No more lecture style classrooms.

In the Classrooms of the future, due to developments in both the philosophy of ‘flipping the classroom’ and the rise in technology, students will no longer sit in rows at individual desks. The Classroom will take on more of a loosely structured cluster shape where desks are huddled into groups and easy to move around depending on the project and technology at hand. This resonates with the idea of teacher as facilitator rather than lecturer.

Alternative architecture for the classrooms of the future

New designs for school architecture are suggesting rounder more inviting style of building which moves away from a cold ‘prison’ like feeling to a warm sustainable  building which is equipped with solar panels, roof gardens and other ways to integrate warmth and sustainability to learners of the future. The idea is that the learning environment needs to be dynamic and interactive.


In conclusion, these contributing factors have seen an increase in the development of innovative schooling models, an upsurge in homeschooling as well as other non traditional education models. With an increase in creative content driven technology solutions – the classroom of the future is set to change. Whilst these changes may not happen rapidly, or all at once, we need to begin the journey into transforming our classrooms for tomorrow, today.


When gamification fails!

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Experts would agree that gamification is here to stay – being touted as one of the key technological trends that will continue to pick up momentum in 2014. Having said that, Gartner has predicted that 80% of gamification efforts in 2014 will fail.

Before we delve into the causes of ineffective gamification efforts, let’s look at the definition. According to Gartner “Gamification describes the use of the same design techniques and game mechanics found in all games, but it applies them in non-game contexts including: customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, sustainability and health.”

Gamification is said to benefit business in the following ways by applying game thinking in creating reward and motivation mechanisms to enable these key objectives:
1) Behavioural change
2) Skills development
3) Driving innovation
4) Talent sourcing
5) Social development & education
6) Health awareness & management

A good example of successful gamification is, ‘My Marriott Hotel’ – which attracted 25,000 players in the first week of going live! Marriott needs to hire and train 50,000 people per year to fill vacancies in  hospitality. They developed this game which allows prospective employees to play various hotel roles virtually and apply for a job.

Whilst this smart application of game thinking, in an operationally intensive & expensive HR process is an example of how gamification can succeed, there are many examples of gamification efforts that have been unsuccessful.

Let’s examine some of the causes of gamification failure:
• Is gamification the correct solution for your business objective? Will it appeal to
your target audience?
• Poor design – gamification requires the expertise of gaming designers who intrinsically
understand the mechanics that drive user engagement, interest, motivation & needs. It
also requires market research upfront to ensure that the game is enjoyable and will
resonate with your target audience.
• Rewards that don’t matter! If the objective of gamification is to achieve change by
motivating certain behaviour or outcomes, then the rewards offered by the game needs to
lock in users. If the player doesn’t value the reward – participation will wane.

1. 27 November, 2012. “Gartner Says by 2014, 80 Percent of Current Gamified Applications
Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives Primarily Due to Poor Design.”
2. Marczewski, Andrzej. 19 August, 2013. “Why Does Gamification Fail? A Few Reasons…”