Algebra, Warthogs, and badges: how gamification motivates learners

When I was in second grade, we had to learn our multiplication tables. Pretty standard stuff 2*2=4, 9*9=81. But our teacher added in a twist, one of the most motivating twist somebody can provide to a group of 7 year olds. She gave us sundae toppings for each set that we “mastered”. learn all the ones 1*1,1*2,1*3… earn a scoop of ice cream. the 2’s another scoop, 3’s whipped cream, and on and on. Our toppings were given to us as construction paper cutouts we placed on the wall and at the end of the unit we got our sundae with all the fixings. Now years later I realize today, that I was a victim of gamification. Before gamification was even a thing, before zynga and cow clicker addicted the world. My second grade teacher was a gamification hipster. Back then they just called it motivation though. We had the “leader board” on the wall with our names on our bowls with our topping badges on top. We even cranked the motivation up a notch by racing each other to see who could finish the tables the fastest and the most accurate. I remember one day at school racing through this multiplication table ( I want to say it was the 5’s but I don’t remember that much) and finished first. After racing up to my teacher’s desk to turn it in and have it graded and got two questions wrong. One of my best friends got up there just after me and had it all right, “beating” me in this battle of wits. Man did that suck in my mind. I still got my topping but had lost the battle. Next time I got them all right and was done the fastest, and that caramel sauce tasted that much sweeter.

This new craze of gamifying learning is nothing revolutionary. Kindergarten and elementary teachers have been masters of it for years. bribing students in every way they can think of, tempting them with class outside, extra recess, story time. All these rewards for doing our work and all this fun we have while learning of all things. People wonder why kids love going to school when they are little and slowly become cynical about its value and enjoyment. It’s cause the teachers stop trying to make learning fun because they have to get through the mandated lesson plan. But there is always that one teacher that manages to squeeze it in, that one teacher who is everyone’s favorite. And now people are heading back to those tried and true methods.

Badges, points, levels, leaderboards, all these gamification “tricks” are being re-integrated into education for everybody not just for little children. Complete one of Stanford’s open online classes and receive a certificate showing you passed or even passed with honors. ” “Badges” are a teensy step in the right direction, but clearly are only motivating to the weak-willed (guilty!) and easily impressed (ditto!). Soon, someone is going to discover a way to apply the crack-like effect of well-designed games like World of Warcraft to the educational realm. I want to learn algebra about as much as I want to spend eighteen hours killing and skinning virtual warthogs” as it says in the article. Online courses like codeacademy and skillshare provide these benefits to their users as well as many other sites. self- motivated learning is growing at a massive pace as more and more sites give access to college lectures, tutorials, books and all those other things one had to go to class to get access to before. Now users can go their own way and get badges to show all the places they have been and all the things they have learned. All through such a simple thing as a construction paper cut-out of a cherry to put on top.

source/inspiration: http://plasticresume.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/skillshare-codecademy-and-the-gamification-of-education/  linked in the article and very related: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

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