Friday, May 24, 2013

Badge based gamification: is this just the thing that education needs?

This article is cross-posted on the Iridescent blog.

Before these trends get too overblown, I’d like to dissect and compare two terms that are on their way to becoming the next big thing in education: gamification and badges.

Gamification is a very broad term, that basically involves applying components of games to things that are not games, to make more addictive, enjoyable, and/or game-like experiences.  A very broad term, as there are many types of games with many times of components, that can be applied many other contexts in many different ways.

Badges are really an equally open-ended idea as I described previously. The term badges can mean anything from a boy-scouts style skill badge, to a leveling or ranking system, to simply adding points to an activity. I think there is value in separating out these different types of badges, but for the purposes here I will group them all together into any kind of tangible or intangible item received as recognition for proceeding through an activity.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The costs to gamify education

This article is cross-posted on the Iridescent blog.

In a previous post, I laid out what it means to gamify education (short answer is: incorporate best teaching practices).  If you read that post, it should be pretty clear that those ideas are quite far from our current educational system.  Gamifying education means doing so much more than giving kids badges or points when they turn in homework. It requires a massive overhaul of the structure, values, and philosophy of our school system.

That may sound drastic, and I don’t at all mean to solve the education problem in a two-page blog post.  But I did want to highlight some common classroom practices as a case study, just to emphasize the many ways that they violate gamification principles, and what gamification-friendly solutions might look like.  I’m going to continue using the same delineation from my first post between the Rules (the formal structure of a lesson plan) and Play (the experience created by the implementation of a lesson).

Monday, May 20, 2013

Gamification and Education: the Core Principles

This article is cross-posted on the Iridescent blog.

I always like to say the gaming industry has done in 30 years what the educational industry hasn't been able to do in 300, namely make self-sustaining learning.  The reason games are fun is that games are learning tools, and people inherently like learning (or more specifically we have an intrinsic motivation towards competence).  I like to think of the gaming industry as a hotbed of educational innovation-- games only sell if they are good at letting people learn, so the game industry has gotten extraordinarily good at creating learning.

Thus we come to gamification, a term spawned from the idea that if only we could put these game elements into other situations, we could make those situations so much more fun and engaging.  But as described above, if games are learning tools, “gamifying” an experience simply means improving the learning that occurs in an experience. In this light, education seems to paint itself a ready target for gamification efforts.  But, what exactly does it mean to gamify education?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Let there be life! (to this blog)

After sitting in the dusty annals of google search engines for almost a year now, I hereby declare this blog active!  This blog won't feature much original content, but will be a collection-house for all my random writings, musings, and projects that are taking place in various parts of the online stratosphere.  I will slowly be updating the about pages and keeping content sorted and nice over the next few months.  If you like what you see here, leave me a comment! Maybe I'll give you a cookie (internet or not-internet kind, your choice).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The problem with MOOCs, you see, is that...

Cross-published on the Iridescent blog.

...I don’t like them very much. It was Thursday morning, and the Mozilla Teachtheweb MOOC was about to kick off. I was languishing in a simple decision: should I try out yet another MOOC or give up on them altogether?

This would be my third MOOC, the first two being pretty big failures. In both previous MOOCs (one on Coursera and one on Skillshare) I was part of the 80% that dropped the MOOC in the first few weeks after registering. Why couldn’t these MOOCs keep my attention? It certainly wasn’t the topic or the instructor, as both previous attempts were highly interesting topics taught by great instructors. The format was the problem, I decided.  As the noon kickoff time for Teachtheweb, approached, I listed off the reasons I didn’t like MOOCs:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My interview with Barry Joseph about Phone Apps

A conversation about phone apps led to an interesting interview I had with Barry Joseph, back in March 2013. In my attempt to link all my articles I've written back to this blog, I wanted to make sure that I had a reference to this really great interview.  If you haven't read it, I encourage you to check it out.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What are badges, and how will education use them?

First published on the Iridescent blog on 1/24/13.

Badges are soon to be, if not already, a hot topic in education.  Yet unlike many other hot topics, it’s a little unclear what badges are and why they might be useful. Badges have baggage, meaning badges are entering education with a complex history of varied uses in non-educational settings. Before we can effectively implement educational badges, we have to unpack and understand the baggage.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Khan Academy Controversy: a perspective on revolutionary ideas

First published on the Iridescent blog on 9/14/12.

The Khan Academy is arguably one of those products that can revolutionize education.  And in fact, this is being argued quite extensively lately. All this controversy has got me thinking about a simple question: is the Khan academy a revolutionary take on education?  To answer this, I'm first going to summarize some of the controversy that has invaded the blogosphere, then I'll offer some of my thoughts, and finally I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Intrinsic Reward Structures in Games and Learning

First published on the Iridescent blog on 5/7/12.

This is a quick follow-up to the last post on games and education, I’d suggest reading that first, or at least the section on “Reward Structures,” before jumping here.  

After writing my last post, my girlfriend Hannah posed a question that has constantly bothered me over the past few weeks. Are there any intrinsic reward structures in real life?  

The Role of Games in Education

First published on the Iridescent blog on 4/15/12

Games are highly addictive learning tools, that are for the most part not directed at educational topics. Yet I would argue that there is nothing preventing games from hosting addictive, engaging, educational content. These ideas were formed primarily from James Gee’s writing, my experience playing games, and my experience making games.

How can we make games, that people want to play, more educational?