Category Archives: Gamification

Having “Fun” Without Technology?

Image of a multiplication game praising child on job well done with animated creature

Multiplication app uses game elements of points, immediate feedback and badges/trophies to improve student performance

Today while getting my requisite coffee, there was a cluster of moms.  I know they were moms because they were discussing their young kids, as moms often do with one another.  One woman was struggling to encourage her kids to have fun without technology (no, we aren’t going to go into this topic- this is a tech blog after all).  Another woman said that her younger child wanted a phone like their older sibling (even though the younger kid didn’t understand that the older sibling’s phone didn’t have a phone plan).

Yet another mom said that her kid did better with his multiplication on the iPad (over writing them out)…. wait for it… because he earned points and could earn badges.  Bet she has no idea what Gamification is, but she sees that it works… she identified its benefit.  You can’t seek out a better testimonial than a parent seeing positive results when all they want is for their child to succeed.  Let’s make learning fun, let’s make work fun… because when designed well, there are positive benefits. has provided a good list of multiplication apps.  Know a better app not on this list?  Drop us a line and let us know!

Spring Forward and Spring Cleaning

Florida sunset with palm trees

Living in Florida is always a vacation, except when in traffic

Howdy y’all!  Wish I could say I was on vacation to someplace exciting, but it just ain’t so.

Been busy though and now I’m going to pay some attention to you and this blog…  Take a moment to fill out my survey and tell your friends and your friends’ moms to fill this bad boy out.  Only available for a limited time!

Soon we will be coming back strong with amazing blog entries all about the use of technology in learning and of course, gamification!  I want to hear what you want first though… bring it!

Team Turtle: World Cup Predictions, FIFA Gamification & a Catspiracy!

Neil deGrasse Tyson Dr. Who Meme

My favorite time and space exploring doctor doesn’t need a screwdriver or police box to be awesome.

Big Head? He’s the Brazilian loggerhead turtle that is predicting FIFA Cup team winners before the games take place. He’s 1 for 1 now, eating a fish underneath a Brazilian flag instead of under a Croatian flag or soccer/football to represent a draw. Though, according to this article, the legendary footballer Pele believes Chile will take it all. I’m a hometown girl and will be rooting for the US of A during their games.

While there is no overall gamification strategy throughout the FIFA World Cup Brazil site, they do have a few corporate sponsored games with the possibility of winning physical prizes. The Castrol’s Predictor Challenge does use leagues/teams with leaderboard and points. The game also provides golden questions that are only available 24 hours before the game to encourage daily visits to the site.  How would you have gamified the World Cup website to make engagement better?

While FIFA players are going to fight it out like cats and dogs, back home at the “GSummit” (G for gamification), Neil deGrasse Tyson in his keynote speech suggests that we all have something to teach at the end of the day. If anyone else headed to GSummit, please drop us a line here and share your thoughts.  We are made of star-stuff/star-dust and the universe wants to kill you. Change your perspective because 1/3 of galaxies rotate counter-clockwise. Guess what- he knows where Krypton is! Cat memes have messages? There are probably as many science memes as cat memes. Okay, wait a minute! While blogging at BBWorld13 last year, keynote speaker Clay Shirky highlighted cat memes and now Neil deGrasse Tyson brings them up. This sounds like a “catspiracy”.  Why not turtle memes? The turtles and tortoises of the universe are revolting.

Big Head approves this message.

A new study shows benefits of violent video games for kids’ learning – Washington Post

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A new study shows benefits of violent video games for kids’ learning Washington Post Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive…

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Violent games are beneficial to learning? Not what you expect, right?  Everything in moderation, of course.

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7 Tips for good Gamification Design — Gamification Nation

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My 7 tips for good gamification design in under 7 minutes…

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Great video (with a lovely accent)- take a gander!  7 top tips to help you design a successful gamification design… What do you think is the most important?

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How to Beat the Game- Motivation in Education

boy walking with carrot dangling from a stick via a hat contraptionMotivating students to achieve, learn, retain.  It’s what instructors and instructional designers want.  The question continues to be how to do it best, your newest buzz word- what’s “best practice”?  Gamification is another buzz word being throw around in various sectors from corporate business to education, with claims to increase interaction, sales or engagement by supposed triple number percentages.  Gamification is the process of applying game elements to ordinary activities to affect a desired change. A best practice, possibly. Get ready for a news flash: education is already gamified.

But, Education Is (Poorly) Gamified

Is education is already gamified? Some say yes it is, yet poorly. We say poorly because students aren’t effectively engaged and compete poorly on a global scale.  Let’s address some game design elements currently used in education:

  • Course objectives are goals for attainment.
  • Students earn points for completing tasks (assignments=quests).
  • Students collaborate in groups (guilds).
  • Students get feedback through grades.
  • Students level up based on points, moving from C-> B -> A. Students level up through grade years as well.
  • Grades K-12 have honor rolls while universities have the Dean’s List in the way of leader boards.
  • The ultimate badge/certification is a diploma.

The imperative is to address these game elements, as well as others, in order to make them more effective towards the course objectives. Game design is everywhere, as Elizabeth Sampat argues.  Gamification is one tool for learning in education, not a solution or magic formula.  It depends on the design, the mechanics.  Good Design = Good Gaming.

Get Practice in Game Design

Before you begin to apply game elements to your lessons, you may want to get into the “trenches” first. Playing well-designed games is a great way to start to get experience in gamification and game design.  Find games that have a “stickiness” factor- the addictive qualities or that desire to make you want to keep playing.  Ask yourself why you keep playing?  What makes you think about the game when you are not playing? What game elements are used and what continues to motivate you?  What frustrates you, though not enough to make you want to give up? These are the elements you should captivate and employ to increase collaboration and engagement in your courses.

Check out 16 principles of good game design by James Gee for more details how to apply game elements to education.  My favorite is “pleasantly frustrated,” whereas I continue for the past 249+ days to try to beat level 147 in Candy Crush with the sound turned off (because it is annoying), without contributing any money to it’s company, King.

Examples of Applying Game Elements to Education


Applying game elements to education is especially effective when you teach the players how to build their own game.  This Edutopia article describes how students create their own boss level assignment to overcome. The phrase “boss level” refers to the culminating challenge in a video game where players use all the skills they have to solve the problem. Students apply what they have learned during the semester to create a challenging task, a Rube Goldberg machine (a machine designed to accomplish a simple task in a complex way, usually through chain reaction)- transitioning the learner to leader.  This approach provides prime opportunity for a student-centered learning environment.


Professor Lampe from University of Michigan teaching informatics shares how he gamified his class lectures here through- *gasp* a video. Prof. Lampe has received testimonies from his former students noting they have a better recollection of the class experience and the course content compared to others classes.  Study is still ongoing to quantify the result of the gamification of his course.


Steven Johnson from Temple University introduced The Quest to his MIS3538 Social Media Innovation course.  He used self-paced learning and self-selected activities that progressively got more difficulty providing feedback through points, badges, ranking through a leader board and recognition for leveling up.  Read more about it.

Hopefully this has your brain gears churning away of how to apply gamification principles to engage students.  Don’t forget to leave us a comment especially if you think Candy Crush’s music is weird or if you have used gamification in your course. Until next time, keep on gaming!

Size Matters! Grow a Bigger Brain By Playing Video Games

Proof is in the pudding, so they say.  Businesses look to the “bottom line” and growing their wallets so yes, size does matter!  In the field of education we look to grow a person’s passion for learning, learning retention and brain power.    Lifehacker quotes a study where playing games, specifically Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes over two months increased certain areas of grey matter in the brain.  Generally increased grey matter has been associated with better memory, while decreased grey matter has been associated with mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder and dementia.  Specific areas of the brain that grew were related to regions responsible for memory formation, strategic planning, muscle control and spatial navigation.  Here’s an article from Huffington Post that mentions this brainy video game study and others- 9 reasons why videos games are good for you.

Does Playing Video Games Increase Learning Retention?

Brain X-RaySo if playing games increases grey matter (which we can universally agree is good) and if those games contained educational content, would that improve learning retention?  Similarly what if immediately after playing a stress-relieving game, you received instruction- would that also improve or maximize learning retention?  This blog article by 1 to 1 Schools mentions several instances that notes game play improves learning retention short-term, although video games are too “new” to scientific study for long-term data.  Anyone willing to play games for the good of science?  However, this white paper states active learning increases long-term retention.  Simulation games are a great way of fostering active learning.  It’s all in the design.  Leave us a comment if you’ve played a game that has helped you learn something new or help you learn a topic better.  Do you think in the future that you’ll tell your kids to play some video games before they do their homework?

Infographic about Neurology of Gaming

TRENDING: Disney’s Second Screen Live Gamifies the Movies!

We’re going to take a break from talking about game elements that contribute to gamification right now and discuss a new trend in entertainment. Yes, I know I said that this blog was about gamification applied to education, but it’s a complex world where most everything is related.

Ever hear about the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park? I rest my case about the fact that everything is connected (which I would love to include the article link, but as I’m writing this there is a government shutdown affecting the websites- link was placed in after government continued functioning fully).

American Idol & The Voice Give Opportunities for Engagement


By Lestat (Jan Mehlich) [CC-BY-SA-2.5]

American Idol and The Voice are singing competitions where audience members can vote on their favorite performances. American Idol allows audience members to vote during a two-hour window by calling, texting or submitting their votes online. The Voice allows audience members to vote through iTunes song downloads.

Both shows encourage live tweeting with performers and judges. These two shows really set the stage for audience members interacting with each other and their entertainment shows.

Disney’s Second Screen Live- Gamifying the Movies

Disney re-released “The Little Mermaid” in theaters with the following twist: bring your iPad downloaded with Second Screen Live App to interact with the movie while you are watching it. In fact when you enter the theater, you are split up into different teams named from the different characters to add a sense of competition to the mix. In addition to tapping out bubbles and fireworks, audience members solve trivia questions to rack up points.

Disney has applied game elements such as points and competition to watching a movie. Would you pay movie theater prices to watch a movie you’ve already watched? Most likely not, unless you have special connection or you watched it when you were a kid and now you have kids of your own. Disney’s betting on that too.

McDonald’s Monopoly Game Uses Gamification

In a previous post, we shared a monster of a list noting examples of gamification to include: McDonald’s Monopoly Game. “McNopoly,” as I’m coining it, encourages you to buy something that you might not normally buy in quantity, in the hopes you “win” something. Everyone likes to be a winner. It’s like like the phrase, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” Someone wins at McNopoly, somewhere. However, lots of little prizes: free fries! Bet you buy a Coke to wash those fries down.

Gamifying the Movies- So What Does It All Mean

Most of us multitask, some even while using the toilet. I know, TMI. Do we really need to add another layer of stimulation in our movie theater going experience? However, the entertainment industry wants to capture ALL of your attention.

So what does this means if it was applied to education? How can we increase interaction and engagement by using some of the same elements that Disney has used? Perhaps live tweeting during classes using a specific hashtag (#FSULIS5385)? Hogwarts house style points system for answering questions correctly or doing the right & good things?

What would you do to increase engagement in learning? Would you see “The Little Mermaid” Second Screen Live if it came to a theater near you? Drop us a comment or two about what you think? Until next time, go get your game on! Don’t forget to drop by our Facebook page for additional #gamification content: .

Can Virtual Reality Keep Us Safe During Disasters?

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Screenshot of Virtual Reality Game to Prepare for Disaster

The United Nations recently commemorated the International Day for Disaster Reduction, an annual effort to raise the profile of disaster preparedness.

Sky V. King‘s insight:

Games are useful when applied to a variety of fields.  Here the United Nations uses games to help us prepare for disaster while “gamers solve decade old HIV puzzle in 10 DAYS!

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A Game By Any Other Name… Defining a Game

What’s in a name? that which we call a game, By any other name would play as fun?

Hold up, wait a minute!  How could I blabber on about gamification without even defining what a game is?  You might say, “Silly goose, everyone knows what a game is.”  You might be able to identify a game by virtue of its fun factor, but what qualities make a game, a game?  Let’s take an example and break it down.

Is Tug of War a Game?

Sepia image of Zulu men posing for picture, playing tug of war in 1903

by Okinawa Soba (Flickr); CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Everyone will probably agree that Tug of War is a simple game.  First you need a rope and two teams, right?  Then you place the rope on the ground, unfurled and straight.  In the middle, there is a real or imaginary line drawn.  Equal numbers of players (usually 8 per side) aligned themselves with the ends of the rope on each side of the center line.  When the command is given to pull, each team pulls in the opposite direction to get the other team to cross the center line.  There are variations on these rules and more formal ones can be found the Tug of War Federation rules page.

I’m not keen on using Wikipedia as a scholarly resource, but it does have a nice definition of what a game is: “A game is structured playing, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements.”  Games include the following components:

  1. Goal
  2. Rules
  3. Challenge
  4. Interaction/Choices.

Using our Tug of War example, the goal is to get the other team to cross the center line to prove which team is stronger.  Our rules include using a certain number of equal players on each side, defining the center line etc.  The challenge of game is overcoming the obstacle of the other team’s strength.  Interaction doesn’t necessarily refer to interaction between players even though in this example this occurs.  Interaction or choices refers to a player’s feedback from interacting with other players or acting upon game tools.

Another good but very general definition of a game by Kevin Maroney is “a game is a form of play with goals and structure.”  Simple and easily expressed; however, it folds rules, challenge and choices into “structure.”  Later when we talk about what makes a good game, we’ll want to have these different aspects separate for evaluation.

Watch a Video: Popcorn Time

Check out this TEDtalk by Will Wright, creator of Spore, the Sims and Sim City.  He talks about the birth of his game Spore and how he believes games can change the world.  Can you identify the four (4) game components of Spore we mentioned previously in this post?  I know, it’s a little long but totally worth it! Drop us a comment or two about your definition of game or your thoughts on gaming changing the world.  We’d love to hear from you.  Until next time, keep on gaming!