Gamification & Game-Based Learning

What would today's 39 minutes have looked like if this was a race?

The Difference Between Gamification And Game-Based Learning

Gamification and game-based learning are each buzzwords (and buzzphrases) in education. Each can offer your classroom something, but many mistake one for the other.

Can you tell the difference?

The Definition Of Gamification

The definition of gamification is the application of game-like mechanics to non-game entities to encourage a specific behavior.

What It’s Not

Gamification is not game-based learning, nor does it require students to play games, with toys, use electronics. It also doesn’t necessarly require you to create elaborate systems of experience points, unlocks, and badges (though you could).

When Does It Make Sense To Use?

  1. To encourage a specific response or behavior
  2. To increase the visibility and perceived importance of otherwise “minor” and less visible actions
  3. To promote competition; to engage students
  4. To help students track their own progress


Leaderboards (e.g., Class Valedictorian), badges, trophies, points systems, XP, “unlocking” certain content via mastery of preceding content.

As stated, gamification is the process of adding game-like mechanics to non-game entities. Another way to think of gamification is “encouragement mechanics.” A system of carrot sticks to promote desired behavior.

Letter grades are a kind of gamification. Let’s make a game of collecting the most valuable letters. Same with GPA, gold stars, student of month, trophies, certificates. Perform this action in this game according to these rules and getthis reward.

Terry Heick wrote for us recently that “life is itself “gamified”—loosely, through informal social competition (“keeping up with the Joneses”), to the buzz extreme couponers get comparing receipts, to comparing 401k portfolios, gaining access to “Platinum” or “Black” credit cards, or collecting frequent flyer miles. Even sticking a push-pin into the map of every traveling destination you’ve ever visited is a form of “gamification.” As are Boy Scout Badges. You’re making a game out of something that isn’t.”

The Definition Of Game-Based Learning

The definition of game-based learning is simply learning through games.

What It’s Not

Obsessing over video games, nor does it absolutely require you or students to play the games (though ideally, you would); it also doesn’t require video games—that would be video game-base4d learning. It is simply the use of the inherent design of most games (more on that below) to learn.

Learn what? That depends—could be simply becoming better at the game, but in most educational settings, students will instead learning academic and non-academic content by playing games.

(from Teach Thought)

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