Gamification is a term that is used to describe the use of game design techniques (mechanics) to solve problems, engage audiences and motivate people.  The idea primarily uses technology to improve productivity and engage workers and customers.  Think of Facebook and all the ‘carrots’ they try to offer users to stay at certain sites.  Corporations also use gamification to encourage and engage employees.  Use of merit ‘badges’, credits and other encouragements to make what might be a disinteresting job more interesting.

The idea of gamification is creeping into the classroom.

Today, students are expected to pay attention and learn in an environment that is completely foreign to them. In their personal time they are active participants with the information they consume; whether it be video games or working on their Facebook profile, students spend their free time contributing to, and feeling engaged by, a larger system. Yet in the classroom setting, the majority of teachers will still expect students to sit there and listen attentively, occasionally answering a question after quietly raising their hand. Is it any wonder that students don’t feel engaged by their classwork?

Gamification principles are quickly being incorporated by the private sector to increase customer loyalty and engagement, but can the same tools be used by teachers to increase a student’s involvement with their work?

Gamification, if handled properly, could be what we need to make our classrooms more supportive of creativity while still teaching traditional academics. There are three considerations that must first be taken into account: motivation, administration, and budget.

One Grade 3 teacher has introduced the Nintendo DS into his classroom.

Ananth Pai, a teacher who is transforming the way our children learn, is here to talk about how he went from a globetrotting exec to elementary school teacher extraordinaire!  He asks us all, with urgency in his voice to “Become a drug pusher in schools—we need it.” He laughs. What he means is that we need dopamine in our classrooms.The chemical that signals “fun.”

He learned that 7 out of 10 3rd graders are not proficient in math when they graduate to the 4th grade. They are not reading at all, much less at a third grade level. And he learned that if they cannot do things by the end of the 3rd grade, the decline will begin in earnest from there.

Mr. Pai changed the system. He heard about something called the Nintendo DS from his 6thgrade daughter. He had no idea what gamification was. But nonetheless he brought technology into the classroom, through games on Nintendo DS’s and computers, he let his students play – math games, reading games and other games. Scores rose, reading levels went up exponentially. Gamification, he says, will save education.



Personally, I think Mr. Pai has not introduced gamification into the classroom but rather just a form of technology with which the students can relate.  It is the lowest form of gamification – if it is gamification.

Also, the mere introduction of badges and points are nothing new in education.  The people at have a better idea of what is needed.

The “Gamification” movement continues to gain speed. And while I appreciate some of the careful thinking and discussions, the entire movement is at risk of getting it more wrong than right. Quite frankly, badges and points are, well, missing the point. Gamification should not be based on simplistic, Pavlovian responses to stimulus. Click on a button. Get points. Brush your teeth. Get points. No cavities? Wow. I get a sticker. If that’s the best that game designers can do, the world is going backward, not forward, and I don’t want any part of the Gamification movement.

At The Innovation Games® Company, we think that serious games are more about actual problem solving than racking up points and badges. To realize this vision, effective serious game designers need to create collaborative interaction models that naturally motivate high levels of engagement and participation. The key word is naturally. Not artificially induced and potentially farcical behavior, but games in which the “play” produces a result.



I am in the process of starting a consulting company that will offer professional development services for teachers.  My goals are to introduce board games into the classroom and introduce basic ideas of game design.  This information will be passed on to teachers via one on one meetings or through day workshops.  I am also considering delving into gamification in the classroom.

However, I think it is more than just providing rewards.  Imagine an elementary classroom where for 30 minutes each day the are allowed to choose to go to a work station.  The students would have role cards: artist, scientist, writer etc… and would be allowed to use the roles to go to a workstation during allotted time.  The workstations would represent the roles.  The artist role card would allow the student to go to the art workstation, the scientist to the science station etc…  There could be 5 roles and three would be picked each day.  There would have to be some way of the teacher monitoring and ‘controlling’ the frequency of visits to any particular station.  The visits would be tracked and as a certain number of visits to a station are recorded the student levels up.   While this is a simplistic form of gamification, I believe the teacher’s imagination is the only thing that could restrict this new method.   Of course, sometimes imaginations need to be prompted and that is where I would enter.

Be interested in any comments.


About Clive

Just an average guy who loves board games, movies, musics, books, comic books, video games and anything else fun.
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6 Responses to Gamification

  1. I think you have hit the nail really hard on the head with this post. Gamification takes a lot to get going and a lot to keep going! As a teacher I have no time or resource to be able to change the way I teach this radically unless someone has laid groundwork or developed resources.
    While I do have some problems with bringing your DS to class, I think structuring education with those intrinsic motivational components will benefit a huge number of students.
    I agree fully that gamification of education needs to be much more than Pavlovian! Imagine the collective force of WoW brought to bear on learning math, science, language, etc.!
    Pretty cool man!

  2. Clive says:

    Thanks for the comment. While I have no problem with using a DS in a classroom to add enjoyment to subject matter and as a reward system, the use of tools by themselves is not gamification (as I know you agree).

    Gamification can be used to bring out creativity in students, it can be used to make students responsible for learning. I can picture a big game board (map) on the wall of Sophie’s Grade 2 class. It is a game for reading. Each players is an explorer and the class library is coded with icons represented on the map. Read certain books and you explore certain parts of the map and move across the map…again brainstorming by myself…it would motivate her to reading at home!

  3. First thx for this great introduction to gamification (and good luck with your company I think this is a really cleaver idea). Now here’s some of my thoughts of the subject.

    1- Even if using DS or any other device similar is not the best or the deepest idea, I think it’s still a great way for teacher who lack time, to improve the system and generate excitement for learning. But it’s sure that a company specialize in that domain can produce device and game better suit for the purpose.

    2- In the same path of thought, I think there are already plenty of boardgame that can help children to learn, mainly in our actual society where skills are more important than memorize knowledge. Take these boardgames as example Timeline for history class or something like Rush Hour for logical. I’m sure there are a lot of game that can be tweak out there and be use as a start for the gamification of learning.

    3- Justin I found your point about like WoW learning community very interesting and it remind me of the book “Ready player one” where almost all children went to virtual school. This can eliminate at lot of problem (size of class and number of student, transportation, bullying, discipline, and even the geo-location of the teacher). In fact, this can also bring a lot of new problem, but i’m still thinking this a good start!

    4- I think we all agree that points system are almost outdated, but I’m pretty sure there are some way to actualize them by taking inspiration on video game like RPG where you actually level up after taking some quest. I thought this because the pavlovian way may be seem harsh but it’s still on of the first way human being learn.

    Thx for reading
    for more thought on boardgame in general follow me on twitter :

    And Clive if you need playtester or only critic someday, drop me a line!

  4. CunningAllusionment says:

    As a teacher and boardgame lover, I’d like to say that I wholeheartedly support play-centered learning, but I am not a fan of “gamification”. The reason is because gamification relies on fostering student dependence on extrinsic motivators (points, competition, badges, etc.) instead of building intrinsic motivation. I much prefer the concept of “gamefulness” which is not simply slapping game-like rewards on something that isn’t actually a game, but rather is redesigning the entire experience to be genuinely play-based. Check out for some info on it.

    I’m new to teaching (I’m in a graduate credentialing program), but want to use games as much as possible. Any resources you’d be willing to share with me would be very much appreciated.

    Also, have you heard of John Bennett? He’s a math teacher that promotes replacing secondary math classes entirely with games.

    • CunningAllusionment says:

      So I just actually read the last quote from Innovation Games and that sounds much better, but in the industry, Gamification still predominantly means badges and points.

      • Clive says:

        I agree – badges and points are just carrots…another gold star or sticker! To incorporate actual game mechanics/ideas would be innovative. However, most teachers would not have the time to make or create or monitor the resources for this to happen.

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