The Gamification of America?

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I recently read a post by Karl Kapp  about a Jesse Schell Vid on the Gamification of Education, etc. Do read Karl's post and watch Jesse's Video before proceeding to my musings on all this.

First, I do believe that we can and should introduce game elements into courses, when and where it makes sense to do so. My fear with the future that Jesse paints is one of overkill. If everything is a game, then we'll quickly lose our incentive to participate in any games, including the educational ones.

Take the customer card you probably are carrying around right now for your favorite supermarket. You probably earn points for each purchase and eventually reach a level where you can trade in your points for some desired object, like a turkey.

This is most definitely a game, folks. Earn points, be rewarded. Get amazing discounts! Lather, rinse, repeat. Yet if you are like me, I'd rather pitch that card and just receive lower prices. Of course, the card isn't for me, it's for tracking my purchases, day/time of those purchases, amounts I spend, etc. All this data is being using to make business decisions and further manipulate me. Is it OK for Big Brother to assess me in this manner and then manipulate me? Here, shut up and have a frozen turkey.

Is it OK for educators to use data points gathered via games to improve teaching and learning and manipulate, er, motivate learners? I believe it is, as our intent is (hopefully) altruistic. We are attempting to improve our craft, not figure out how to sell something. So IMO it's OK that games can motivate students towards a positive learning end. Many individual instructors understand the power of games and are using them as part of their overall instructional strategy, and it's starting to go beyond the individual. Do check out Ultrinsic. They are gamifying education as I write this!

Yet the line blurs when you use the same gamification techniques outside the educational institution, and I fear we'll get to that saturation point where students will want to pitch the educational games out, just as I want to pitch the grocery store points card. When will it all be too much?

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