June 2012 Archives

Web 2002: Accessibility Meets Gamification

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Before I went on vacation, I attended the Web 2012 conference, particularly the accessibility track. I went to a lot of great sessions, but the one that surprised me the most was one that talked about how to motivate university Webmasters to look forward to digging into accessibility remediation.

The answer proposed was ....(wait for it)...gamification! The presenter Glenda Sims (the Accessibility Good Witch) even mentioned TLT Symposium speaker Jane McGonigal (freaky).

But how to implement this? Glenda handed out web developer books at her school to anyone who did an awesome accessification jobn. Fortunately, they didn't have to be about accessibility. I myself would love to see gift certificates for Otto's handed out...but that's just me. I myself have been known to hand out candy and other desert products, but neither Otto's or TastyKake is very healthy. I wonder what other rewards we could come up with.

What about badges? That actually has been tried thanks to the Bobby Approved icon and other similar badges. Unfortunately, experts started pointing out that "Bobby Approved not Always Accessible" on "Bobby Approved" sites, so that badge ironically became a standard of haphazard accessification (D'oh).

Another idea is the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) which is a contest and a race. Is this something that could work at Penn State?

I do think regarding accessibility as a design challenge has helped me get through a lot of repairs. I think everyone's initial reaction is to think that a blind person could never "get" a hyper visual experience, but that turns out not to be true. We just have to distill what information is really needed. Even a map can be made accessible if it can be converted to a set of directions.

One blind person recently recommended adding QR codes to signs and displays to go to an online version of the information. Apparently if a person has a general idea where they are (via a Braille "QR" tag), he or she can use the iPhone to scan it and get a Web site. Who knew? It's at times like this that accessibility can be fun.

Leaderboard Thoughts for Gamification

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One of the more controversial elements of gaming is the leaderboard (listing high scorers in certain activities). Many students like knowing their scores and some even ask for leaderboards, despite instructor intuitions that students should not be ranked.

I am not always sure about leaderboards either, but I also have to say that even when we deliberately try to avoid declaring a winner, we always get comments that our game wasn't real because there was no winner. Students do like to keep score.

But what to do? How do we get the leaderboard, but not embarrass and de-motivate low performers. At the last Game Day, the instructors talked about this and some good ideas did emerge:

  1. Use Aliases - Sherry Robinson mentioned that she asks students to give a gamer handle and that's what she uses.
  2. Just the Userid - The Typo game only gives the PSU Access ID. Students know their rank and their friends'. A motivated student could look up other ID's but will they?
    The only caveat there was that students were upset that they couldn't beat test accounts from EGC staff (oh well....)
  3. Just the Top 10/20... - Another strategy is to just list those in the top tier. It's also useful for large classes when you might not want to manually list everyone.

These are great suggestions I will remember for the future.