The Future of Gaming and Gamification in Educational Settings
The most recent issue of the NMC Horizon Report on Higher Education contains a wealth of useful information about current and up-and-coming trends in the field of educational technology. One of the most thought-provoking ideas has been gamification. Now more than ever, people of all ages love playing games. Whether those are on traditional consoles like Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii, smart phones, tablets, or any other device, more people are turning to video games for entertainment. In fact, according to the report, the age range for gaming has widened in recent years, “with people ages 18-35 representing 31% of gamers.”
Educators are now developing teaching methods that harness this obsession for gaming and turn it into a tool for learning in the classroom. Bringing games into the classroom rests on “the notion that gaming mechanics can be applied to all manner of productive activities.” Economic negotiation simulations, for example, allow users to develop critical reasoning and problem solving abilities in a gaming setting. Other options take advantage of badging. There, users grade each other on performance in a number of various attributes and earn badges along the way—similar to Foursquare or Girl Scouts.
Examples and Takeaways
At the end of the article, NMC provides a collection of links to notable educational gamification projects. Below are a few notable examples.
The first is called Open Orchestra. Implemented at McGill University, it gives aspiring musicians the chance to take a place in a real orchestra and view videos of the conductor as they play along with the music. For schools without major music departments, software installations like these offer students an invaluable opportunity to simulate live orchestras. Open Orchestra has a wide variety of classical pieces to choose from,
The second is the University of Washington Business Simulations. Their business school adapts complex situations from major corporations and develops simulated group problems for business students to solve. This game in particular provides an outlet for future business leaders to gain practical experience while still in the safe environment of graduate school. Rather than just simply reading business theory, they can apply their knowledge in real-world situations.
The many gamification techniques that the report provides can be placed into two categories—simulation and badging—both of which would be well-received at Tufts University. Entrepreneurial Leadership Studies, one of the most popular minor programs of study, could greatly benefit from business or national economy simulation games. Similar programs could be adapted for international relations or political science majors to play out major historical wars, for example. Smaller seminars from any discipline could implement badging programs to allow students to better know each other and build class confidence. Though I do not know much about the bureaucratic and financial constraints that Tufts has to account for when implementing projects like these, I think taking advantage of a popular recreation form and turning it into a teaching practice would be an incredible idea.
 Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., and Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition
Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium