Kevin Bell’s article titled “Gameful Design: A Potential Game Changer” explains the theory of gameful design, which is a process that “looks at the elements that make games, or other forms of engagement, intriguing and then applies those principles to educational experiences.” Bell also explains that “gameful design embraces incremental implementations of proven intrinsic motivators while it acknowledges, accentuates, and builds on the work that good instructors do as second nature.” Gameful design is a strategic approach to creating games that will have significant educational impacts. The approach is used to avoid creating games for the sake of creating games.
One aspect of the reading that I found especially relevant to enhancing my understanding of gaming and its potential use for learning was the focus on fragile students. These are students who have multiple risk factors including low socioeconomic status or first in their family to attend college. Many of these students face great challenges when they enter college and are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts. Professors are working with some incredibly high stakes. Particularly at the intro level, they must engage these fragile students immediately to ensure that their confidence is not shaken and that they successfully complete their courses. If these students fail, the likelihood of them returning to school is low. Bell’s emphasis on these students made me realize the greater impact that gameful design can have in education. It’s not just about having fun while learning- there are real, significant impacts that have the potential to change the outcomes of so many students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. The games may be fun, but their impact can be extremely serious.
As I was reading the article, I kept thinking about the programs that I co-facilitate and how they could be improved with gaming. My coworker and I are currently teaching a computer class to our Environmental Services (EVS) employees. Many of them are unfamiliar with and fearful of technology. The department director advised us that his employees like playing games and will most likely learn best if something is made into a game. We have incorporated a typing game into the curriculum where employees can practice typing. This game has typing challenges at each level and once the employee successfully completes a challenge, they are then faced with a more difficult challenge. The employees seem to really enjoy it and are getting more comfortable with typing. However, we haven’t incorporated any other gaming components in our instruction. After reading this article, I think we have so many more opportunities where we could incorporate gaming to engage the employees. Bell’s rubric for “Intrinsic Motivators for Gameful Design” is really helpful and could help us develop a gaming strategy for this computer class. My coworker and I could definitely incorporate a gaming app that could help strengthen employees’ computer skills. We could also incorporate the aspects of gaming design into the classroom i.e. creating a “level up/progress” component. As employees learn new skills, we could tell them that they have moved up a “level” in the computer class. This could increase their confidence and keep the class light and fun- which is a goal of ours.
Games are not always the answer to instructional problems, but if they are artfully crafted and deployed, they can have significant outcomes. Reading this article helped me understand gaming from another perspective and inspired me to think of more creative ways that I can deliver material to the employees within our organization. In order to be an effective instructor, we must meet our students where they are and show them that we care. Gamification has the potential for us to do both.