Education, “Pointsification,” Empowerment?: A Critical View on the Use of Gamification in Educational Contexts

Education, “Pointsification,” Empowerment?: A Critical View on the Use of Gamification in Educational Contexts

Stefan Piasecki
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5198-0.ch032
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Gamification as a tool or procedure to add entertaining and motivating elements to usually non-entertaining environments such as schools or workplaces is becoming more and more popular. E-learning platforms like Moodle provide tools and sets of functions to add elements of gamification. An important factor especially in education is technology: individual achievements and progress can be recorded, measured, tracked and visualized and therefore identified and rewarded through bonus points, awards or rankings. This is where gamification can add some challenge and excitement to the learning. But can entertainment and education be combined by technical means at all? What are the possibilities and limits? What implications have to be expected regarding the relationship between teachers, students and a technological – gamified – environment?
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One of the most enigmatic terms of recent years is Gamification. The conceptual similarities to video games are no coincidence - motivating elements bind people, sometimes for months, to PC games and simulations and let them become subjects of sets of game rules and learn complex techniques to master mission after mission in order to reach a goal they have recognized as valuable. In the past forty years, computer and video-games have become widely used and game-genres have expanded from simple shooting or maze games to complex virtual worlds, attracting males, females and families alike. This basic perception makes games, their elements, interface and narrative structure also interesting for non-game purposes and opens a wide field of possible applications that are also applicable to business communication, human resources, public space and lastly also for means of education.

This essay deals with the question of what gamification really is and with which intention it is used in the context of teaching. It is based on both the latest definitions on gamification as well as recent studies and meta-studies that tried to show its effectiveness and methodology and also selected best practise attempts. Although the amount of papers on gamification is constantly rising, the number of actual studies is still relatively small. Here the focus will be laid on educational purposes – gamification in economic environments or within frameworks of behaviour change may only be mentioned for a wider scope. What is “gamification” in terms of tools and processes, what does it mean to teachers and students as a method and professional approach and how is it able to contribute to the further development of already existing skills of students? What consequences does it have when learning processes are suddenly “just fun” or maybe become too “playful”? What does the “help” of technology do to the professional distance between teachers and students? How valuable are individual praise and feedback compared to digitally submitted gratifications, labels and badges? Do they cause a new form of competitive stress?

Following these questions some of the basic terms will be discussed and results of recent research will be surveyed, before the applicability in schools and universities and the effect on teachers and students as well as their interpersonal relationships can be further explained.

Finally, it is necessary to discuss whether gamification is indeed a totally new technique or simply a method to work with or motivate people, which has been on the block for a while but has now been modernised and laced with technology?

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