Curricular Gamification with Video

April 25, 2015 / By

When I was young my family collected S&H Green Stamps when we shopped. We tried our best to patronize stores that offered them. My job was to paste them into the books and keep track of how many more we needed to accumulate to receive the reward in exchange for them. It was a family activity. We decided as a group what we wanted in exchange for the stamps, and we felt like we were getting something in return for being loyal to the participating stores. Later, as I became a frequent flyer, I remained loyal to the airline whose miles I was accumulating. These activities and so many more are the gamification of our lives, the engagement strategies and loyalty motivators. Everyone appreciates this, even if it is only a perception of getting “something for nothing.”
However, according to extensive research, it really isn’t only the reward that motivates; it is the self-directed, purposeful game activity that brings us pleasure and causes us to continue the activity.
Injecting lessons with game-like activities helps build a classroom ethos where relationships – both teacher–student and peer-to-peer can support the learning process. Additionally, the class benefits from:

  • Teacher time invested in holistic learning of ABCs
  • Student time invested in collaborative problem solving
  • A refocus of ICT interests from desensitization of video gaming

Gamification Model


While classrooms are not game rooms, they are competitive, reward-driven spaces for the young to learn as much about workplace this aspect of our tool in the learning environment by supporting such activities as the White House Film Fest event mentioned earlier in this blog series, and by creating a showcase or reservoir of student work. Games need not take the form of board or digital activities but should be activities that generate enthusiastic participants. The first formal study of children at play comes from the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky whose study of the internalization of knowledge stands at the forefront of learning in game environments. I think parents intuitively understand that play is important in learning. The success of learning games such as Scrabble and other thinking games have long been a family activity.

Video Production – Non-fiction gaming, “a spoonful of sugar…”

PET scans suggest that computer gaming, in terms of brain activity, is similar to reading a book and in some ways more engaging as there is often a hand-eye coordination aspect to the play. If we were to construct learning activities that utilize these socially driven, problem-solving elements resulting in high-status success, students (especially the unmotivated, reluctant learners) may be more willing to partake in the learning process.
Competitions and podcasting assignments are designed to be rewarding and enjoyable; the status of having a team’s video projected on the school’s television system maximizes the reward. If a project is good enough to be exported to YouTube and “goes viral,” what higher status comes in today’s multimedia society?  However, having fun does not mean that serious hard work is not required to earn the reward. Nor do I suggest that this approach to learning is the primary focus of a classroom; it is an affective, cognitive stimulator.
In this short, Shake it Off, a school community is accessing the affective domain to help build a school community.
When collaborating to resolve a problem students should feel that they are at play. It is not another time for instruction. They should be exploring their mental project. They will frequently race to post it, sharing with their classmates and seeking the acclaim they need. When they see an aspect of another project that they could have used to good effect, they frequently will ask those other teams how they get such and such result. In one case, for example, a team told a story of the digestive system by placing themselves in a human’s internal organs using a green screen (chroma-key). I could see the learning move outward to other later projects.
Computers and mobile devices are used by young people as toys. We wish to have young people increasingly engage with technology as a productive tool. The rewards for an effective video podcast can be as powerful as reaching the next level in some game. Recently, President Obama awarded this status with fifteen minutes of fame as he agreed to interview with three YouTube personalities.  He has also continued the now annual White House Film Festival that provides an opportunity for young people to project their thinking onto the national stage.

Anything can be engaging and fun by design

Video games became intriguing for me because when my family returned from Saudi Arabia in the mid-eighties, my son’s grandmother gave him a Nintendo 64K gaming console. I reacted negatively, but could do little to thwart either my mother-in-law or the attraction of the game. I watched and then actually began to tape my son as he interacted with the popular Mario Brothers.
Friends would come over to play, and my son shared the controller. He would explain the way to overcome obstacles; he was teaching! He was five and using his understanding of his cognitive map to help a friend solve a problem. How was this possible? Later, he invited me to play. At first I was resistant, but since I was interested in his behavior while studying interactive technologies in a new program at the Ed School, I eventually succumbed to his invitations.
I wanted the praise my son would bestow upon me in conquering Mario’s digital world. This learning occurred during a time of reflection in my teaching career. I experienced a paradigm shift from teacher-centric to student-centric search for ways to provide mindful, meaningful learning in game-like environments. How could I use this metacognitive engagement in my classroom that was being generated in this gaming world? WeVideo provides me with a tool I can use without having to focus on technical training.
In this project from one of my classes, we can see several girls who enjoy cooking but are reluctant class participants. The assignment required that they tell a story and inform about Singapore culture, while maintaining class interest.
Schools are captive environments but fail to maximize the impact of games to engage students. Children do not read books today because they have the choice to do other things that they find more rewarding – a typical youthful, hedonistic response; gaming is more pleasurable than reading or even watching television.  It is important to point out something from a 2010 Google TechTalk by Gabe Zichermann: “Games are the only activity that can get people to take actions that are not in their self-interest or even against their self-interest in a predictable manner without the use of force.”
Further reading:
Edtech Tools Get Creative With Formative Assessments by Patricia Brown
Some parents across the country are revolting against standardized testing by Emma Brown
Learning Games vs. Gamification: There is a Difference! by Peder Jacobsen
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