Category Archives: Educational Games

Gamifying Learning

If you google “gamify“, “gamification” or “gamifying”, you will find several entries with this relatively new trend on the Web (the term is normally related to Web design and marketing).

I just wrote a short chapter on the “Learning Perspectives: 2010“, Gamifying Learning with Social Gaming Mechanics. This is a topic that intrigues me as an instructional designer.

A quick definition of gamification is to bring game mechanics to services that aren’t exactly games in order to increase user/costumer engagement, adoption and loyalty to a brand. According to Stephanie Schwab, gamification can be described as:

  • Make it fun and exciting to be part of a community
  • Reward audiences for participation
  • Encourage pass-along and recommendations
  • Build loyalty and sales through repeat visits and purchases

This new trend has been gaining momentum in the social Web, and publishers can now get access to resources and plugins that help them gamify their websites. Two examples of such services are:

  • Badgeville – This service offers widgets and APIs to integrate on a website that enable rewards, badges and reputation based on pre-determined user actions (e.g. commenting on posts on your blog, uploading user-generated content, etc.).
  • Nitro by BunchBall – This sophisticated gamification system offers an array of features, including the ability to create challenges, adopt leveling, offer badges and virtual goods, implement a leaderboard, and more. All based on user participation on your website which can be fully monitored via an administration and analytics tool offered by the company.
  • BigDoor Quick Gamification Plugin for WordPress – blog visitors can check in to your blog, post comments and perform other user actions to gain virtual rewards and points. Badgeville also offers analytics tools as well as integration with other social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.

Nigel Whiteoak has several blog posts about the topic of gamification here.

Stephanie Schwab has curated several resources about gamification here.

Here is Amy Jo Kim’s “Putting Fun in Functional – Applying Game Mechanics into Functional Software”

Beware, however, that just adding badges and points does NOT imply you are turning whatever your experience you create into a game. As clearly stated by the game design studio Hide&Seek, a game goes being rewards, it has a set of goals and makes achieving them “interestingly hard” for the player, badges and points are just a way to show them keep track of what they’ve achieved.

I also recommend Ian Bogost’s post “Gamification is Bullshit” which brings attention to the dangers in this “gamification movement” as it tends to disregard other important elements of game mechanics and tends to focus on extrinsic motivators and rewards alone.

How can we apply game mechanics to Education? Do you have examples to share?

Google Forms Branching – Digital Story Telling

The Google Apps team published a blog post explaining improvements to the Forms tool allowing form creators to easily configure branching of pages depending on the respondent’s choice for every question.

This feature has a lot of potential for digital story telling. Teachers or students can create interactive stories that evolve with the reader’s every choice.

In fact, the Google Apps team emphasizes this possible use on that same blog post with the sample interactive adventure “The Hunt for the terrible Dr. von Schneider”. To interact with this story, just click this link and then click “Choose this template” on the next page. This will add the form to YOUR spreadsheets. Go to your account and open the “Copy of Choose your own adventure form” spreadsheet. Click “Form” and “Go to live form” on the tool bar. Voilà!

It is a short little adventure but it illustrates the concept fairly well.


Based on the Google Apps team’s post, as easy as 1, 2, 3:

1. To create a story, go to Google Docs and create a new form with an enticing choice at the beginning.


2. Check the box next to Go to page based on answer while editing the question. Select the corresponding pages they should be directed to based on their answer.



3. Users can be sent back to the same page after being split apart during the story. Under the Add Item menu, select Page break. Then, select what page you’d like your form respondents to be directed to under the drop down menu in the page break.






Uses of the iPhone/iPod/iPad in the Classroom

I came across a short presentation by Grace Poli from Union City High School on The presentaion focuses on practical ways for using the iPod Touch in class, but of courses the uses of all of Apple’s mobile devices are interchangeable most of the time since they have similar technical specifications.

Here are some highlights and resources from the presentation.

Resources and Ideas

  • Apple Learning Interchange –
  • Learning in Hand –
  • iPods in Education Webcast –
  • iPods in Education: The Potential for Language Acquisition – iPod_Lang_Acquisition_whitepaper.pdf

Unexpected Uses of the iPods


1. Train Doctors to Save Lives – American College of Cardiology indicates iPods are used to listen to recorded heart sounds to teach medical students how to better recognize different conditions 2. Bring Criminals to Justice – United States federal district court has started using iPods to hold copies of wiretap transmissions in a large drug-conspiracy case 3. Get Yourself Into Serious Shape – TrailRunner is a free program that helps you plan your route and then loads your iPods with maps, distances, and time goals

4. Tour Around Great Cities – iSubwayMaps lets you download subway maps from 24 major cities across the globe. They range from New York City, Paris, and Berlin to Moscow, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Audio tours of New York and Paris downloard Soundwalk narrated by a celebrity for $12.

5. Calculate the Right Tip – TipKalc helps you figure out the tip and grand total

6. Record Flight data – LoPresti Speed announced plans to use iPods as flight data recorders in light aircrafts (will have the ability to record over 500 hours of flight time data)

7. Throw a Meaner Curveball – Pitcher for the Houston Astros, started using video iPod to review pitching frame by frame to improved overall techniques 8. Learn Foreign Language – University students are using iPods to record lectures, take notes, and even create electronic flash cards 9. Memory Stick – save your Microsoft office files 10. Wikipedia – download one of the largest encyclopedias on your iPod (FREE)

More ideas from other practitioners can be found in the Apple Interchange Learning Community which I highlighted in a previous post.

SCVNGR – Build Scavenger Hunts and Augmented Reality Games

SCVSCVNGR_logoNGR is a fantastic online scavenger hunt suite for those who like to play AND build them. Its SCVNGR Hunt Builder offers all you need to create and manage your scavenger hunts (public or private), including a very easy to use “Clue Creator” that uses a Google Maps mashup to let you pin point the exact spot a clue will lead your players next.

Their XPLR community lets you find “location-based mobile games (meaning you will use your cell phone to play) and join other players in your area, you can also build and share your games. Imagine the possibilities here for community events, exploring museums, zoos, learning about your small town (or big city, but “small town just sounds more “romantic”), conferences, church, a specific subject or freshmen orientatio at school, or simply a new way to get to know what’s around the city you’re visiting for a few days… or as just an opportunity to get everyone at your school or company to explore the campus/facilities…

As this type of game/platform become more popular on mobile devices, we can see the rise of augmented reality type of games such as high-tech scavenger hunts and geocaching…

They are still in private beta phase, but Seth (the founder) was kind enough to give us a beta code that you can use to sign up. Please use the code XPLR532 when Signing up for SCVNGR using this link and “play around” with it…


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