Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gamification vs. Game-based Learning, Who Wins?

Educators are looking for ways to increase motivation and engagement in learners. Gamification, and game-based learning, are increasingly popular discussion topics in educational circles. Research suggests gaming significantly contributes to engagement, focus, and self-determined learning. Anyone who has played Minecraft, Clash of Clans, or Angry Birds understands the intrinsic power of overcoming obstacles. leveling up, and achieving success as a result of improved skills. Recent posts have shouted the virtues of gamification and game-based learning interchangeably, but aren't these concepts vastly different?

While both gamification and game-based learning (GBL) can contribute to motivation, focus, and engagement in learners, these concepts when applied to classroom situations, are not the same thing. Which practice makes a bigger impact on learning? When it comes to gaming in the classroom, who wins?


Gamification adds a layer of gaming elements to classroom practices. Key components can include points. leaderboards, badges, and player roles.
Pros - Competitive students can be motivated by point rankings. Learning roles provide purpose to classroom activities. Badges for competencies and contributions can be motivating for learners. Differentiation is built into gaming levels.
Cons - Research by Daniel Pink tells us that extrinsic elements have been shown to reduce motivation in learners. Competition can interferewith collaboration efforts in the classroom.
Example - Chris Aviles, one of my PLN heroes, has gamified his high school classrooms. He does this to foster an environment of interdependence, purpose, and skill mastery for his students. Chris's ability to blend intrinsic motivators (mastery learning) and extrinsic elements (badges) has fostered a classroom of increased student engagement and empowerment.

Game-Based Learning

Game-based Learning utilizes classroom games to engage students in skill acquisition and thought processes that support meaningful, fun learning experiences. Technology enables the creation of games that support differentiation, metacognition, and personalization of learning.
Pros - As you would guess, games are fun learning tools that can increase engagement and motivation. Interactive games coupled with one-to-one devices create learning opportunities that extend beyond classroom walls and bells. More than 85% of school aged children play digital games.
Cons - It takes time for educators, who may not have experience with games, to evaluate and reference them to learning standards. Games can be distracting to other classroom activities. Games are constantly being updated and changed. This makes it difficult to maintain consistency with these resources. Technology limitations can hinder the effectiveness of digital games. (Top 100 Learning Game Resources)
Example - Medical schools and military organizations use simulation games to assess performance under duress. Charlie Filipek has not only gamified his AP Biology courses, but he also uses online games such as Quizlet and Kahoot to formatively assess his 1-to-1 students in a fun and engaging way.

There are similarities between gamification and game-based learning, however the differences are obvious. Gamification is the addition of gaming elements to augment classroom processes. Game-based learning is the implementation of games to reinforce the learning of content and skills. Knowing the similarities and differences, which practice has more potential impact on learning in the classroom? Who wins when games are used for learning?

References & Related Reading

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Gamification of the Classroom - Teacher Tech, Alice Keeler

Game-based Learning - Mindshift Compilation

A Guide to Game-Based Learning - Edutopia, Vicki Davis

Gamification in Education - Edutopia, Vicki Davis

Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students - Edutopia, Douglas Kiang

Game-Based Learning - Edutopia Compilation

photo credit: Chealion via photopin cc


dylangers said...

I can't speak to which is more effective (gamification vs game-based learning) but I think it is obvious that gamification has more potential as a consistent part of the classroom. Some of the best lessons I've ever been a part of are the organic conversations where the class all takes a journey down some unintended rabbit hole.

Gamification, to a certain degree of course, allows the beneficial elements such as badges and levels to remain influential no matter where the lesson goes.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thanks Dylan, I have seen a few excellent examples of gamified classrooms that also implement aspects of game-based learning. Our gamified PD using Schoology was well received for the differentiation and blended delivery. Thanks again for contributing to the learning. Take care & talk soon, Bob

Game Designing Courses said...

Very good comparison between gamification and game based learning. I think interest on gamification would automatically lead to game based learning.