The Applicability of Gaming Elements to Early Childhood Education

The Applicability of Gaming Elements to Early Childhood Education

Holly Tootell (University of Wollongong, Australia) and Alison Freeman (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5071-8.ch014
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Many educators and technology developers advocate the use of gamification in educational environments. However, it is important to evaluate the applicability and value of gaming elements to the environments in which they are being implemented. Early Childhood Education (ECE) presents a unique educational context framed by national curricula and philosophical approaches that influence the adoption of technology, and therefore, gamification as an approach to enhancing learning through intrinsic motivation and engagement. This chapter evaluates the applicability and value of gaming elements to the use of technology in Early Childhood Education (ECE). Various definitions of gamification, particularly in the context of education, are considered. Six tenets of ECE and the concept of play are explored to inform an analysis of the appropriateness of gaming elements to ECE.
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Defining the Concept

Gamification has become a popular practice in many contexts, including enterprise, health, education, advertising and the military, with varied levels of acceptance and success (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). Despite widespread discussion and application of gamification, and broad agreement on many key aspects of the concept, there is no single definition agreed by both practitioners and researchers (Erenli, 2012).

Even within a single context such as education, definitions vary (Muntean, 2011). The many definitions of games and gamification, and the embedded characteristics of some of these definitions, were considered in the context of learning by Erenli (2012). Based on a review of the literature, the following definition of gamification within the context of education was proposed (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011, p.10): “Gamification is the use of game elements in contexts that had originally no link to game related elements” (Erenli, 2012).

Kapp (2012) noted the importance of defining the basis of gamification (i.e. the ‘game’) in the context in which the game is ‘played’, and therefore the context in which the gamification is applied. The importance of context is supported by the work of Tootell et al. (2013) which considers the need to examine the use of any technology within its social context of use, linking this to the critical theory idea of ‘lifeworld’ (Habermas, 1984). Kapp defined a game in a learning context as “a system in which players engage in an abstract challenge, defined by rules, interactivity, and feedback, that results in a quantifiable outcome often eliciting an emotional reaction.” (2012, p.7) and hence defined gamification as “using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.” (2012, p.10)

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