Category Archives: gamification

Online Casual Gaming Trendsetters Gen-X, Millennials, and High-Tech: The Fast and the Future

Humphrey Watson, a writer, submitted the article below for publication on my blog. I find it an interesting read in general, as it highlights the fact that simple games, sometimes, are better than complex ones to increase learner retention and attention…

From old-school to new-school: Bingo! Video games remain popular as educational tools

A challenge educators face daily: how to make learning fun

One big hurdle that a lot of educators inevitably come across is the fact that some students just don’t take to specific subjects as easily as others. In K12 schools, Math is a good example. In the corporate world, think of that compliance training! How do you teach an otherwise dry and sometimes boring subject matter to disinterested students? Why, by turning it into a game, of course!

Using casual games to teach isn’t at all a novel concept. Remember The Oregon Trail and bingo? The educational benefits of the latter, which has been in use inside classrooms for longer than most of us have been alive, can even trace its roots back to Germany. During the 1800s, German teachers started to incorporate bingo into their classes to teach math, spelling, and history.

Consider the simple game of Bingo. Thanks to its easy-to-learn gameplay mechanics, customizability, and the added fun factor in yelling out “Bingo!” every time you form a line), bingo has had great success as an educational tool. From maths to music, geography to geology, bingo can be adapted into a teaching tool for a wide range of subjects. Simplicity is key!

In addition to the borderline obscene amounts of money that bingo companies spend to promote their games (Gaming Realms recently poured millions of pounds into the BingoGodz; ad campaign), the simplicity and adaptability of the casual game mechanics into different contexts has kept this sort of game alive through the years.

New advances in technology have also pushed the “serious games” industry to new and greater heights. Numerous studies, including a recent one from NYU and CUNY, have found that video games can be highly effective in motivating students to learn less popular subjects.

Educational institutions, foundations, and even the government are taking notice. GlassLab;, a California-based non-profit that works out of gaming giant Electronic Arts, has been given $10.3 million by The Gates and MacArthur Foundations to create educational games. GlassLab is not alone, either. It’s just one of many such developers found all over the United States.

Thanks to these new developments, the field of education is certainly shaping up to be an exciting one for educators and students all over the world.

Cite this article:
Silva E (2014-01-27 07:34:56). Online Casual Gaming Trendsetters Gen-X, Millennials, and High-Tech: The Fast and the Future. Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 24, 2014, from

Duolingo – Free Language Learning Curricula (Available on Web, iOS and Android)

I can’t begin to stress how learning languages opened my life to new opportunities, coming from the countryside of Brazil
There are several ways to learn a language for free online: Skype meetups, virtual worlds, video chats, chatrooms (I used to go to my sister’s house to get on ICQ chatrooms to practice English on her computer), applications, open curricula, and so forth… many of these discussed previously on this blog.

Duolingo is especially interesting because:

  • It helps translate the Web (in partnership with Google)
  • It contains gamification elements (rewards and levels are linked to how well you perform in the application)
  • The curricula are instructionally sound and well-designed
  • It is offered on the Web, for iOS, and for Android platforms
  • It is FREE for life (especially in light of major online language learning services like LiveMocha now charging for their services)

Duolingo currently (June 2013) offers courses in:

  • Spanish
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Portuguese
  • Italian

Look for Duolingo on your app store and download it for free.

Pick a language and start learning!


Duolingo on the go

Now on iPhone and Android.

Email a link to my device

Email a link to my device

Cite this article:
Silva E (2013-05-31 11:37:44). Duolingo - Free Language Learning Curricula (Available on Web, iOS and Android). Enzo Silva blog. Retrieved: Apr 24, 2014, from

Value of Humor And Play – Max Levin

Need I say more about how important it is to bring humor and play into Education?

“If play were not pleasurable,
kíttens would never chase each other’s tails, and so would lack
practice in the motor skills needed for survival. If there were no
pleasure in the appreciation of the absurd, if there were no fun
in playing with ideas, putting them together in various combinations and seeing what makes sense or nonsense—in brief, if there were not such a thing as humor—children would lack
practice in the art of thinking, the most complex and most
powerful survival tool of all.” – Max Levin

Mowing the Lawn Can Help with Productivity

Proven fact: mowing the lawn can make you focus on what matter and increase productivity.

Well, maybe the research might not point to mowing the lawn exactly but activities that have nothing to do with work help ease your mind, get it off of work and manage stress levels (see Weinberg, Sutherland & Cooper, 2010) . It is perhaps when you’re away from the desk that the best creative ideas come. Like when you’re taking a shower, that epiphany-soaked shower (pun anyone?).

I recently bought a riding lawn mower. Living the Southeast of the US (Georgia), there is a lot of yard work to be done. I got tired of pushing the push-mower for hours in a row. Well, in reality, I just thought riding a riding mower would be fun. Surprise: indeed!

Aside from hobbies and mindless work, fitness programs and exercises should also be seen as a priority at the workplace, as a way to increase productivity, decrease illness-related absenteeism, diminish the effects of stress on employees, along with several other benefits (Theobald, & Cooper, 2011). Working remotely, I have to say it is a challenge to stay focused on fitness and wellness.

It feels good to say I work at a company that gets it. At SuccessFactors not only do leaders invest in performance management, learning and development, but they seek innovative ways to increase employee happiness and productivity such as the Keas gamified fitness program that has employees cooperate and compete in teams for points, badges, and goods for completing fitness and wellness-related tasks at the office, gym, at home, or wherever they may be. Not only is the program a good example of (simple behavioral) game mechanics applied to the workplace, but it is also a great way to have remote employees bond outside of work.

We need to see learners as whole human beings, not just “students”. Their wellness and health matters. It can make or break a learner’s disposition to learn and apply what they learned. It can influence employee productivity.
Now, let me go back to my weekend. Take the previously mentioned (and much needed, especially after yard work) shower, and can think of not only one but several creative (I’ll let my boss be the judge of that) ideas for work this week.

PS.: Ironically, I guess this week the mindless tasks involved in yard work didn’t help with keeping my mind off of work, writing, tweeting while on the lawn mower… I’ll try again next week…



Theobald, T., & Cooper, C. (2011). Doing the right thing: the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Weinberg, A., Sutherland, V.J., Cooper, C.L. (2010). Organizational stress management. Palgrave MacMillan.


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?

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