Gamification is not game-based learning
Posted February 21, 2014on:
I was prompted to write this as I was part of two recent Twitter conversations that revealed how some teachers still confuse game-based learning (GBL) with gamification.
There are several differences and I will just mention two fundamental ones. I am also going to mean video game-based learning when I make reference to GBL.
First, gamification relies on game mechanics. This could mean using the element of competition with leaderboards, collecting points or badges, levelling up, and so on. Learners are not actually playing a game; the teacher has not actually designed a game. They are all using elements or strategies that are game-like.
As its name implies, GBL requires the integration of at least one game for learning. It might be a mobile game, console game, desktop game, online game, serious game, off-the-shelf game, etc. Learners must play an actual game.
Second, I think that gamification is largely extrinsic. A teacher wants his/her students to do something and there is a reward system to get them to complete tasks. A student may not want to do those things, but the incentives are tempting or motivating.
GBL is both extrinsically and intrinsically motivating. But I would argue that if the games are carefully chosen and the activities are managed well, the motivation for playing and learning becomes intrinsic. The students play and learn not because they have to but because they want to.
I should also point out a potential pitfall of poorly designed gamification and GBL. Students may not actually learn what you want them to learn (typically content). With gamification, students might value the incentives over the content; with GBL the immersive play might be the be-all and end-all.
One way to deal with this issue is to recognize that gamification and GBL do not guarantee the learning. The teacher will still need to facilitate activities that consolidate learning and get learners to reflect on their learning. To quote Dewey:
We do not learn from experiences; we learn from reflecting on experiences.
To do this in my teacher education classes, I rely on small group and whole class discussion, one-minute paper reflections, individual and collaborative writing in wikis, thought-capture with online stickies, just-in-time instruction, etc.
For further reading on gamification and GBL, I recommend this article at MindShift.