Top 5 New Features in iMovie for iOS

Released in October 2013, the new iMovie application for iOS 7 brings with it a new look and many new features.  After having a chance to explore this application, I focus on 5 new features that substantially improve this video editor.

Gamifying the SOLE for Teachers: Reflecting on my Learning

The early stages of envisioning, planning and designing a gamified learning experience for teachers was exciting and invigorating for me. Trying to articulate the medium and scope of this PD resource made me rethink my approach in supporting teacher learning. In one way, gamification gave me permission to throw out what had been previously done to develop teacher learning and start from a fresh new perspective. Rather than developing a teacher workshop session on the topic of self-organized learning environments (SOLE), I instead wanted to create an online learning environment that would allow teachers to access the learning environment in a way that best fit their own schedules as well as support their own unique learning needs and strengths. In my attempt to incorporate elements of gamification, I wanted to create a learning environment that would allow teachers to access content at different levels of readiness and experience. I also wanted to provide a social element in this gamified learning experience to promote sharing of experiences, resources and products. Ideally, accessing this network would also serve as a meaningful reward for teachers completing their work around the development of a SOLE learning experience. Furthermore, it was also hoped that observing the work of others would encourage teachers to try this process again and hence “level up” on their learning.

Although the original plan was to have this resource released by the beginning of October, the release of the All-in-One PCs that were to serve as an example of a self-organized learning environment was delayed due to imaging issues around the new Windows 8 operating system. Furthermore, rethinking the support of teachers new to the concept of inquiry-based learning and SOLEs, it was decided to have a system-wide release of this resource on November 22, 2013. Howeverm since this online, gamified resource was near completion, I opted to share the resource with a small group of teachers in order to gather their feedback. As a result, I have had the luxury to spend more time revising this resource as it has since gone through of a number of changes and tweaks. Even with the delay of officially releasing this resource to the system, in meeting and collaborating with others I have had a chance to reflect upon my work and appreciate my own growth throughout the entire process.


The use of info graphics seemed to fit the spirit of th gamified learning environment.
The use of info graphics seemed to fit the spirit of th gamified learning environment.

In Theory VS In Practice

Throughout the entire process, research served to both inspire and challenge my action plan to gamify teacher learning. In their respective research, the parallels between gamification and the intent behind the use of SOLEs were an encouraging parallel that initially strengthened my resolve that creating this learning experience would be a natural and symbiotic process. Moving away from learning that is solitary and moving instead towards a collaborative and intrinsically motivated path of discovery are inherent in the use of both Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and gaming.

The challenge inevitably began to arise when attempting to facilitate this path of discovery in an online forum. Moving teachers towards formulating and developing their own goals and objectives is difficult when trying to articulate and design an interface that is supportive but not prescriptive. It is also one thing to understand and even envision the interactivity you would like foster in a learning environment but for me, actually infusing that interactivity within the fabric and context of my online resource was also very challenging. Even with the wealth of well-established social media platforms and Web 2.0 applications, leveraging these resources into a gamified, online learning environment presented the risk of merely becoming items of novelty rather than critical tools of creation, exploration and communication. Simply embedding a Twitter feed or button on a webpage or blog post, does not ensure nor motivate collaboration. In attempting to find appropriate web applications and social media platforms for this online resource for teachers, the services needed to carefully fit this purpose and intent of the gamified environment. For this project, I was looking for a platform that I could use to provide a virtual space to share the work of teachers in classrooms across the system. I also wanted to have a fairly quick and automated way for teachers to submit their work and then grant participants access to submissions from other participants as a rich and meaningful reward.


Know Your Stuff

At some point between identifying gaming elements that I wished to employ and actually implementing these elements into my teacher resource, I had to revisit my content and ensure that I had a deep understanding of what it was that I wanted to cover within this gamified learning experience. In this particular case, I had to revisit the concept of the self-organized learning environment (SOLE) and dig deeper into the purpose behind this concept. At its heart, the SOLE is a tool and resource to support inquiry-based learning and as a result the focus of this resource now had to account for this critical concept. Failing to address and explore the concept of inquiry-based learning would deprive the SOLE of its intent to support student-initiated questioning and exploration.

I met with our science learning coordinators to discuss their work in supporting inquiry-based learning in science classrooms. Their work in supporting teachers with student-driven learning meant developing teacher skills around generating questions of curiosity that ultimately arise from the student. This observation required me to update the content of my resource and as a result, alter the gamification of this learning experience. Rather than focussing on the topic of self-organized learning environments, I now had to address and link the concepts of SOLEs and inquiry-based learning. Gaming elements now had to account for both concepts to be explored in my learning resource.

Feedback from the science learning coordinators also profoundly changed how this online resource was going to be delivered. Ultimately, I had to concede that this resource alone would not adequately address the critical groundwork of changing how we as educators engage students through inquiry. This type of shift requires time, discussion and ongoing trial and error on the part of teachers. In the end, it was beyond the scope of this particular online resource and I had to rethink the system-wide delivery of this gamified learning experience. It was decided that this resource would instead be released in conjunction with a system-wide technology workshop where teachers would be supported in exploring inquiry-based learning first before referring to this online resource that they could then build upon within their own schools and classrooms.


Keep it Simple and Managing Expectations

Reflecting back towards the beginning of this project I had a number of gaming concepts and mechanisms that I wanted to explore and implement. Looking over my completed teacher resource on self-organized learning environments and inquiry-based learning, I admit that I was expecting the resource to be more dynamic and completely different than any resource that I had created before. I appreciate now that my work and exploration of gamification will take time and perhaps it was ambitious of me to expect a complete transformation in the way that I teach and support teachers. But perhaps more importantly, this was a reality check for me and my own misconceptions around gamification.

With the appeal and prevalence of video games, I still struggle with the idea that gamification is the use of gaming elements to support learning in classroom rather than simply incorporating a game into the fabric of a lesson. As a result, gamification may result in changes to instruction that are more subtle where the focus remains on deeply engaging content and learning rather than playing a game about the content. Another misconception that I struggle with is that gamification is accomplished through the use of technology. As I was reminded in an online discussion with Allen Goode (Lead Game Designer, Digital Extremes) technology is not a prerequisite for gamification. In fact the concept of gamification is not new as teachers have long been using gaming elements to try to connect and engage students in learning. The use of “bump it up” walls and even points or rewards systems are but a few of the many well established gaming mechanisms employed by teachers. Although it is tempting for me to want to see major changes in the complexion of my instruction through gamification, I concede that it is more appropriate to regard gamification as a more integrated element that supports rather than take over classroom instruction and learning.

In the end I did bring in many features and elements that I had never really attempted in my previous work supporting teachers. Creating a learning experience that was to be experienced completely online rather than a blended model of face-to-face instruction with online supplementary materials was a bit of a departure for me. Likewise, the design and creation of infographics to better match this gamified learning environment forced me to rethink my approach in presenting content and to be concise with my delivery through the use of both words and graphics. Finally, the integration of social media and Web 2.0 platforms to create an online and automated collaborative space was something that I have never attempted before in a learning environment. Utilizing an online dropbox with the  services of Google, If This Then That and Tumblr, I was able to create an automated way to collect input and contributions from teachers and then have them posted online for other participants to see.


Gamification is not easy

I must admit, I am still coming to grips with my end product. Although I understand that gamification is not the wholesale change of teacher instruction whether online or in person, I believe this also illustrates the idea that gamification is not easy. Deeply integrating gaming mechanisms within the ebb and flow of instruction and exploration will require time, patience and a lot of trial and error. I would also posit that gamification requires the careful evaluation and assessment of various online tools and platforms. Similar to the planning practice outlined in the TIP process (Robyler & Doering, 2010), one would have to thoroughly screen and consider how each gaming element would work and support the learning environment. There would also be the ongoing need to reflect and evaluate how the gaming elements are supporting student learning and to be always on the look out for better and more appropriate alternatives. For example, the tools and features inherent in a learning management system may serve as a more stable and customizable platform for gamification compared to bringing together and coordinating a collection of individual Web 2.0 applications and services.

However, acknowledging the challenges and difficulties inherent with trying to improve teacher instruction whether it be through the integration of gamification or the move towards inquiry-based learning, one can consider the goal of reaching and inspiring every student as the ultimate gaming objective for teachers. This is not to suggest that building the future of our students is a game, but rather the objective to be a better teacher is this goal that drives educators to “level-up” on their knowledge and skills surrounding pedagogy. The engagement and performance of our students provide us the instant feedback that let us know if we are on the right track or if we need to start over. In the end, it is their success and engagement that serve as powerful motivation to move forward and ultimately keeps us coming back to the game of improving teacher practice.


HabitRPG – Gamify Your Life

HabitRPG takes gaming mechanisms and applies them to your daily life where rewards and experience points are given (and taken away) for the actions and activities that you complete (and do not complete) during your day. You progress as you to level up and in keeping with the social aspect of gaming you also have the opportunity to compete with others as they navigate their own gamified life. HabitRPG is playable through their website as well as on the app available for both Android and iOS devices. After having a chance to use this application in my own daily work and play, here is what I have learned about gamification through HabitRPG and how gaming mechanisms in general can be better applied to education?

In order to maximize access to your gamified life, HabitRPG is accessible via the website and the iOS & Android application.
In order to maximize access to your gamified life, HabitRPG is accessible via the website and the iOS & Android application.

Accessibility – If the intent of HabitRPG is to gamify your daily life, then it is critical that the application is available and accessible at any point during your daily routine. The ability to record completed habits and tasks on a mobile device increased the likelihood that I would remain engaged in this gamified experience. This dynamic would be completely different if I could only record or view my progress on a single computer or device. In such a circumstance, I would probably lose interest in staying connected to this gamified approach to life. To ensure that this gamified interface to life is always nearby, HabitRPG is now playable on iOS, Android and pretty much any device with a web browser.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? If I am gamifying a learning experience, the elements need to be easily accessible and present where the learning is taking place, as it is taking place. Moving the gamified learning experience online allows students to engage this new learning environment at school, home and everywhere in between.


Breaking up your tasks and activities according to habits, dailies and "to do" items is entirely determined by the user.
Breaking up your tasks and activities according to habits, dailies and “to do” items is entirely determined by the user.

Rewards need to have value to the player/learner – This application nearly fell apart for me very early in this gamified experience as I found that the rewards did not hold a lot of value for me. This in itself illustrated the importance of the reward system and the need to establish rewards or badges that are of value to the user. Fortunately, HabitRPG allows me to create my own rewards that hold greater value and incentive for me. Rather than working towards rewards such as virtual weapons, armour and potions, I found it much more motivating if I were looking to reward myself with a “dessert-based” treat for completing a full workout, or some earned gaming time for achieving a certain level of experience points.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? Experience points, rewards or badges will hold little appeal for students if they do not hold some value to the student trying to achieve them. What would be a true reward or compelling badge for students to achieve? Perhaps this is a worthwhile discussion to have with my class. More on this later.


Goals and levels of appropriate challenge – In HabitRPG you also set the challenges or goals in the form of “habits”, “to do” items and “daily” tasks. Completing these tasks can earn you experience points or rewards, however failure to complete these tasks may result in penalties. Setting challenges at an appropriate level is critical as goals that are either too difficult or too easy will simply frustrate or bore the participant. Furthermore, in order to maintain the interest of the “player”, goals and challenges need to change and adapt as the player continually progresses and improves.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? This concept of appropriate challenge reflects the principles underlying Vigotzky’s zone of proximal development (Hume, 2011). The idea of building upon one’s current knowledge base and understanding is another element of good game design. Arguably, good games find ways of offering levels of challenge that serve to motivate rather than frustrate the player (McGonigal, 2011).

In the classroom, achieving a learning environment that offers appropriate levels of challenge for students is reflected in the concept of differentiated instruction (Hume, 2007). Tiering is a specific strategy that attempts to engage students at their appropriate starting point with course content. Gamification of instruction through the use of structures or “levels” that allow students to either select the learning pathway that is most suitable for their current level of understanding or quickly access content and media that supports the struggling student. Similarly, gamification also involves providing increasing levels of challenge for students as they progress and master content and concepts.


Social – The ability to share with and compete against other HabitRPG “players” is another compelling motivator for this platform. The ability to measure your progress with the progress of your peers is in another form of feedback that can help you determine where you are doing well and where you could improve. In one way, this gamified approach encourages players to talk about their triumphs and challenges as well as their strategies or approaches to overcome failure and achieve success (McGonigal, 2011). In this particular case, it also raises an interesting scenario where participants can be trying to achieve different goals and objectives. This raises another powerful social interaction where participants may need to collectively determine common or at least comparable objectives and goals so that levels of achievement hold a consistent value across the field of “players”.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? The social aspect and potential of gamification can be quite extensive and powerful. For the learning environment, this offers the chance to go beyond playful, competitve banter (or “trash talk”) between students and instead encourages deeper conversations about their own respective experiences with the content. Currently, we can see this powerful social connection behind many of today’s popular video games where there are players continually posting tips, guides and strategies in the form of blog postings, videos, etc. Coming back to the classroom, this offers the opportunity for students to participate in setting the goals and objectives for the gamified learning experience as well as the criteria for success and the resulting rewards and achievements at the end.


So what is next? Linking this back to my desire to gamify a learning experience for teachers on the topic of Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs), HabitRPG presents some features that I would want to have in my gamified learning environment. It also made me consider how I will actually execute and provide these gaming mechanisms in my work. Is there a pre-existing platform like HabitRPG that I can use as a gamified framework supporting my work with teachers? Or do I need to create my own gamified platform? Is so, how? I am not a programmer and as a result I feel that I would be needing to bring together various online elements and applications to create a way to bring these gaming mechanisms to life. At this point I am leaning towards creating my own gaming platform through a collection of online applications and services. On this preliminary list of applications are Google Docs, Gmail, Tumblr, Storify and IFTTT. I would use our school board’s website host as the hub and then branch out from their to these other online services. But that is for another post… stay tuned.



Hume, K. (2007). Start where they are: Differentiating for success with the young adolescent. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Canada Inc.

Hume, K. (2011). Tuned out: Engaging the 21st century learner. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Pearson Canada Inc.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

The SOLE of Gamification

The Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) is a concept that we have been exploring throughout our system. The idea of approaching classroom technology as a way to provide learning experiences that are student-driven is an attempt to move away from simple “drill and kill” activities. The SOLE supports a process of learning that is facilitated through exploration, posing questions, gathering new information and sharing findings with others.

In a recent SOLE Challenge through TED Conferences, LLC, Sugata Mitra posted a SOLE Toolkit to help educators and parents create their own Self Organized Learning Environment. Participants were encouraged to share their SOLEs and provide feedback on how this learning environment encouraged student- or child-driven learning. In his toolkit, Sugata Mitra identifies 7 qualities or characteristics of a SOLE mindset.

  1. Child-driven – elements of choice and interest motivate student learning
  2. Collaborative – learning is further reinforced when there is a chance to share and engage socially
  3. Curious – tapping into our innate sense of wonder
  4. Open-Minded – allow for flexibility, provide opportunities for experimentation and understand that making mistakes is part of the process
  5. Transformative – opportunities to think critically and learn quickly
  6. Encouraging – finding answers and problem solving takes time and encouragement from parents and teachers
  7. Patient – this is a new way of learning for the child/student as well as parent/teacher

Interestingly, these characteristics or traits offer a striking resemblance to many of the critical elements behind effective game design. The list above touches upon some important concepts and the mindset behind gamification where the child or student is now regarded as the “gamer”. Gaming elements such as collaboration, social interaction, and the creation of engaging challenges (Byl, 2012; Deterding, 2011; Kapp, 2012; McGonigal, 2011) draw immediate comparisons to the learning experiences offered by the Self-Organized Learning Environment.

Jane McGonigal (2011) identifies a gaming quality that perhaps best summarizes the SOLE mindset. She explains the notion that games engage the player in work that is satisfying. Players achieve a genuine sense of satisfaction as they accomplish clear goals and objectives through actionable steps and hands-on work. This is similarly echoed in the use of the SOLE to seek out answers or solutions to high interest questions or challenges (Mitra, 2013).

In supporting the use of SOLEs in schools, my attempt to gamify this support for teachers seems like a natural fit that will hopefully illustrate the intent and spirit of this Self-Organized Learning Environment.



Byl, P. (2012, November 25). Can digital natives level-up in a gamified curriculum? Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Ascilite:,_penny_-_can_digital.pdf

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful play: Getting gamification right.Retrieved May 22, 2013, from Google Tech Talks:

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

Mitra, S. (2013, February 27). Are you inspired by child-driven learning? Download the SOLE Toolkit. Retrieved August 24, 2013, from TED Ideas Worth Spreading:

Gamification: Determining My Learning Objectives

Since an earlier post regarding the importance of content connecting to the gamified learning experience, I felt the need to rethink, prioritize and identify the various learning expectations into one of two groups. By identifying learning expectations as either a specific learning expectation or an overall learning expectation, I hope to create a learning task that manages to address all expectations in an experience that is both focussed and straightforward.  The need to provide support surrounding some of the new features within Windows 8 as well as the new hardware features presented with the HP All-in-One PC fall under the more specific learning expectations in this learning activity. These specific expectations go on to support the greater overall learning expectation of exploring and understanding the potential of the PC as a Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE).

How Will I Approach Or Gamify Specific And Overall Expectations?

This resource was a supporting document in a recent SOLE Challenge from Sugata Mitra and TEDTalks
This resource was a supporting document in a recent SOLE Challenge from Sugata Mitra and TEDTalks

Similar to the driving experience that I experienced in the Toyota RAV4, I want to keep the learning objective closely linked to gamified learning experience. If the overall learning expectation is to begin using the PC as a Self Organized Learning Environment with our students then I feel as though the gamified learning task itself should essentially involve teachers engaging the HP All-in-One PC as a SOLE. Sugata Mitra’s work on this topic will help to ensure that the gamified task upholds the fundamental tenets of the Self Organized Learning Environment. (Here is a link to a SOLE Toolkit for a recent TED Talks SOLE Challenge)

The specific learning objectives will also be addressed in this learning activity involving the Self Organized Learning Environment. However, I hope to cover these learning expectations as they naturally occur in the gamified experience. Rather than explicitly setting aside a series of small tasks focussing on the specific learning expectations surrounding Windows 8 software and the All-in-One hardware, the learning of these skills and features will inherently take place as teachers work to complete the learning task.

K. Takahashi


Rugged Rukus Review

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The Rugged Rukus by Eton is a speaker system that I really want to recommend and for the most part it delivers on what it promises but there is a persistent recharging issue that continues to dampen my enthusiasm for this portable speaker.



– great battery life

– loud sound for a small device

– recharges other portable devices via USB

– connects to audio devices via Bluetooth or audio jack


– solar panel seems prone to scratches despite solid build quality for the rest of the unit

– solar charging fails to charge internal battery


Last word:

Great idea in concept but issues surrounding the solar charging of this device has essentially taken away the most compelling aspect of this product.

2 out 5

Elements of Gamification: Connection to Content

While out in Vancouver I came across two contrasting examples of gamification. One example illustrated the power to engage and educate while the other example arguably served to engage the participant. As I look to create a gamified learning experience, the end goal is to engage and teach rather than to simply entertain. The connection and integration of learning goals will be critical as I design my gamified learning experience for teachers.

Example 1: Efficient Forms of Transportation – Telus Science World

Whenever visiting Vancouver with the kids, a popular stop for us is Telus Science World. Located in the beautiful False Creek area of downtown Vancouver, it offers a great assortment of displays and activities for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend it!

The Gaming Element

Roll the ball and advance your character down the track by scoring more energy efficient methods of transportation.
Roll the ball and advance your character down the track by scoring more energy efficient methods of transportation.

One particular display offers a hands-on, competitive game to illustrate different methods of transportation and uses a common midway, derby game to promote energy efficient ways of moving around a city. Up to 5 participants compete against each other in a race where they each advance their character or avatar along the board by scoring points in this bowling-type game. More points are earned by sinking the ball in holes that are attached to more efficient methods of transportation. The more points earned results in your character advancing quickly across the board compared to a player who is scoring less energy efficient modes of transportation. Scoring a car as a mode of transportation will earn you 1 step forward, public transit will earn you 2 steps forward and biking will award you 5 steps forward. The contestant who is able to move their character across the finish line first wins the race and competition.

The Connection to Content and Learning

The element of competition and the simple rules of gameplay make this a popular and engaging exhibit for kids (and adults) of all ages. The graphics and theme of this game attempt to generate a greater awareness of energy efficient modes of transportation. Unfortunately in this particular example, I feel as though the content takes a backseat to the game. When I asked my kids about efficient modes of travelling around the city, they were unable to tell me why biking to work was a more energy efficient way of transportation compared to commuting with a vehicle. Assuming that the learning goal for this activity was to have players understand energy efficient modes of transportation, the design of the game failed to effectively connect to the content.  For me, this is an outcome that I want to avoid in my support of teachers and students. If I am to illustrate the power of gamification in supporting learning, then I need to ensure that my gaming elements do more than simply entertain my audience.

Example 2: Driving Behaviour and Mileage – 2013 Toyota Rav4

The dash mounted LCD panel displays both historical and real-time data on your fuel economy.
The dash mounted LCD panel displays both historical and real-time data on your fuel economy.

I had a chance to use a 2013 Toyota Rav4 while travelling around the Greater Vancouver area and I became engrossed in a built-in feature that serves to inform the driver on their fuel economy in real time. Using the LCD display mounted in the dash, drivers (and passengers) can quickly see their overall fuel economy (l/100km) for a trip, follow a minute-by-minute break down of their fuel economy  over the last 15 minutes of driving as well as check their current, real-time fuel economy statistic that will literally change based upon the action on the accelerator and the resulting engine revolutions. In essence, this instant feedback and data on your fuel economy and driving habits gamified the driving experience. I admittedly referred to these statistics several times and became engrossed in how my use of the accelerator impacted the fuel economy. Basically, it became a game of trying to better my fuel economy over my previous trip.

The Connection to Content and Learning

This feedback feature helped inform and encourage driving habits that maximize fuel economy. In this particular implementation, gaming elements and content were intimately connected. Since the content or learning goal was to identify and establish fuel efficient driving practices, the use of both collected and real-time data on fuel consumption served to gamify the driving experience. In a way, trying to determine accelerator habits in order to improve one’s fuel economy was the game itself.

This experience illustrated a critical concept for me and my understanding of gamification. The learning was based in the gamified experience where in this particular instance the participant discovers firsthand how driving habits impact fuel consumption and perhaps more importantly, serves to potentially impact how we drive in the long term. The learning was active and facilitated through the gaming mechanisms displayed in the dash of the car.

What this means for me and my project

Content and Context:

If I hope to have teachers learn more about this All-in-One computer (see my proposal to gamify a teacher research) and how it can be used effectively to promote collaborative learning then:

– the gaming elements need to facilitate the learning on the HP All-in-One itself
– there needs to be an element of instant feedback
– there needs to be an element of discovery and play

Next Steps:

–  I will need to spend some time with the hardware (HP All-in-One) and software (Windows 8) and determine the specific concepts and content that I want to address and cover with teachers.
– I need to find or create a system or platform that I can use and customize in order to provide instant feedback to the teacher who is navigating my resources on the HP All-in-One. My early research on a potential platform seems to be pointing me towards Google docs and perhaps Google+.
– Determine a task or set of tasks (that is accomplished through using the HP All-in-One) that allows for and promotes discovery and play. A lot of research surrounding gamification identify the concept of appropriate challenge and/or problem solving in effective gaming (Byl, 2012; Deterding, 2011; Kapp, 2012; McGonigal, 2011). Based on that, I would imagine that creative tasks or challenges that reflect activities in the classroom would be of greater interest to the teacher.



Byl, P. (2012, November 25). Can digital natives level-up in a gamified curriculum? Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Ascilite:,_penny_-_can_digital.pdf

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful play: Getting gamification right. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from Google Tech Talks:

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

My Gamification Attempt: The HP 8300 Elite

Here it is.

This is it.

As part of my learning action plan for my CSU course (EMT501), I want to research and apply the concept of gamification in my work as a Learning Technologies Coordinator. My proposal initially indicated that I would attempt to gamify a technology workshop or resource that I would facilitate or use in supporting the professional development of teachers. The actual subject or piece of technology was to be determined at a later date once I had a better idea on the topics and resources that I would be supporting in the fall of 2013.

Well that time has come and I have decided to gamify the support and training surrounding the release of a new piece of PC hardware that will soon be available to our schools for purchase. It is the HP 8300 Elite All-In-One Personal Computer (PC)!

What? Why?

I chose this particular technology because of the circumstances surrounding its upcoming availability for schools around our district.

– All schools will have a chance to get hands-on time with this PC

– This particular PC is the first touchscreen PC available to schools and classrooms

– This is the first PC that comes in an All-In-One form factor

– This PC will be the first to usher in the Windows 8 platform into our schools

Needless to say, the new features in both hardware and software will require supporting teachers and students in its use to support learning. More specifically, this is the opportunity for us to begin rethinking how schools envision the use of PCs in the school. We want to move forward from the commonly held concept that the personal computer is simply a one-to-one, media consumption device. With a large touchscreen that can handle up to 10 points of touch and an operating system that is designed for a touch interface, the All-In-One presents the opportunity to create a centre of learning where groups of students can collaborate and create together. This concept echoes the research and work of Sugata Mitra surrounding his concept of the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE).

OK, Now What?

Early in these stages of planning, I am still unsure as to what this gamified learning experience will look like. I am beginning to work through Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken and I must admit I am left with more questions than answers. I am struggling with the definition and difference between the terms “game” and “gamification”. In trying to envision a gamified learning experience, I am trying to move beyond simply offering badges or rewards to help motivate teachers to engage in the professional development surrounding the HP 8300 Elite All-In-One computer. In trying to implement McGonigal’s gaming concepts of challenge and feedback (McGonigal, 2011), I am concerned in having gaming mechanisms that may serve to distract rather than enhance the learning environment. Is this an indication that I am still in need of more research and information or am I simply getting cold feet?

K. Takahashi



McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

Mitra, S. (2010, September 7). TEDTalks. Retrieved August 17, 2013, from YouTube:

Microsoft’s Future in Education: The Xbox

A lot has been made about Microsoft’s foray into tablet hardware with its Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets. With Apple and Android tablets having a substantial head start in finding their way into classrooms, Windows-based tablets are still trying to gain a foothold in this competitive and crowded market. (See Best Student Tablets for 2013 from LAPTOP) But in looking at hardware for the classroom, the products that are now attracting my attention are the devices that allow for the sharing and display of content on a screen or projector. Devices like the Apple TV and more recently Google’s Chromecast offer a way for students to share and project content and media with the class. Right now, it seems this particular corner of the market is still up for grabs, but for how long? If Microsoft is looking to innovate in the classroom, I would argue that opportunity lies not in their line of tablets but in their Xbox.


A device to rule them all

As a teacher, I am constantly looking for a way to bring together and utilize the variety of electronic devices that enter my classroom. The ability to have students project their laptop or tablet screens to a classroom TV or projector irregardless of the brand or operating system would be a powerful tool for the educator. This piece alone would help bolster the potential of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative in a school.

One major disadvantage of the Apple TV is its ability to only work with Apple devices. Google’s Chromecast however, makes the first major step in bringing together multiple platforms as it works through the Chrome browser. There is nothing stopping Microsoft from doing the same with the Explorer browser. Factor in the wide scope of tools and services at Microsoft’s disposal and you begin to craft a pretty compelling product.

Play to your strengths, Microsoft!

Unlike the Apple TV or the Chromecast, the Xbox is essentially a computer and as a result, it opens up a larger scope of functionality that would be of great interest to educators.

Microsoft Office – if the Surface RT comes with a free version of the Office Suite, why can’t the XBox? The ability to connect a keyboard to the Xbox as well as the ability to call up, display and edit documents, presentations and/or spreadsheets on a large screen would be a welcome feature in the classroom.

SkyDrive – right now Xbox users are able to install a SkyDrive app on their Xbox but are only able to view photos and videos on SkyDrive stored on their SkyDrive. If Xbox users could access the same level of SkyDrive integration that Surface RT users enjoy, this would be another powerful feature for all Xbox users.

Skype – Although not yet available as an app for the Xbox, Skype seems like an obvious addition particularly once the Xbox One is released with a Kinect as part of the bundle. Video communication with other classrooms, teachers or guest speakers would extend the reach of the classroom whether it is across the hall or across the globe.

Kinect – In the context of gaming, the Kinect is still trying to find its audience and purpose. In the context of the classroom, the Kinect could offer a compelling alternative to the interactive whiteboard. For students who are visual/spatial or kinaesthetic learners, the Kinect can offer a new way of interacting with digital media and content.

Going beyond


Right now the applications available for the Xbox 360 are quite limited. However, speculation and rumours about the upcoming Xbox One being able to run Windows 8 applications is a compelling feature that would extend the scope and use of this console in the classroom. Granted, the selection of applications in the Windows Store is quite limited when compared to the offerings from Google’s Play Store as well as Apple’s App Store. However, simply having access to the current selection of Windows 8 applications would provide access to titles such as, Evernote, Google Search and Twitter. Having applications like these now accessible from the classroom Xbox would further solidify its position as being more than just a gaming rig.

But what’s wrong with gaming? Admittedly, the first thing people (students included) will associate with the Xbox is video gaming. Looking beyond simply playing video games is the intriguing opportunity to create your own video game. Microsoft’s DreamSpark in conjunction with Xbox Indie LIVE Games Development offers access to developer and designer tools where students can create their own games and then play them on the Xbox.

“What Most Schools Don’t Teach” is a video from CODE.ORG that makes the call for schools to address the need for students to learn how to code. Being able to read and write code prepares students with the mindset and skills to live and work in the rapidly developing digital age. The Xbox can position itself as the educational tool of choice that allows for the viewing and testing of student-created games.


With the upcoming release of the Xbox One this fall (2013), there is an opportunity for Microsoft to move the Xbox console beyond the gaming market. Though there have been a lot of predictions and rumours, we will just have to wait until the official release to see what this new hardware has to offer.

K. Takahashi

Gamification in Action: Jeep Promotion

Once a couple of participants appeared at a booth, many others soon followed.
Once a couple of participants appeared at a booth, many others soon followed.

While spending some time up in gorgeous Whistler, B.C. I stumbled across a Jeep advertising campaign promoting its latest line of off-road vehicles. This promotion was one of many taking place during Crankworx, an annual freeride mountain bike festival that takes over Whistler mountain and village. With such a huge festival taking place, a company has to find ways of attracting the attention and time of consumers over the many other companies and businesses attempting to do the same. The folks at Jeep employed simple yet effective gamification to generate consumer interest and engage the crowds attending Crankworx.

Referencing some of the early research that I have found on the topic of gamification, this presents a great opportunity to connect theory to practice. What do some of these gaming concepts look like when implemented? What impact does gamification have on consumers? More importantly how can these gaming elements translate to the classroom? What are the benefits? Drawbacks?


Providing opportunities to be social (Muntean, 2011)

In their advertising campaign, the folks at Jeep had set up a variety of booths throughout Whistler village. They were easy to identify through their display of different Jeep vehicles that you could open up and explore. But perhaps the most compelling feature that attracted the public to these booths were the small crowds of people who were already actively participating in the activities and puzzles organized by the Jeep staff. Once 2 or 3 people gathered around the booth, it seemed to generate a ‘buzz’ and hence attract more participants. The activities themselves provided more opportunity to be social as participants could work collaboratively together or compete against each other.

A challenging game but one that is easy to grasp and start.
A challenging game but one that is easy to grasp and start.

Engaging participants by providing opportunities for problem solving (Kapp, 2012)

The type and nature of activities or challenges that participants needed to complete in order to receive a reward (see the next point) were straightforward yet presented an appropriate level of challenge for the player. Examples of activities included timed challenges where players had to complete a task such as stacking 5 lug nuts with only a pencil or recording a set number steps with a pedometer within one minute. Other challenges involved singing a song of their choice or completing a modified game of Jenga.

We quickly learned that there were different challenges offered at each Jeep booth around Whistler village and as a result, we could not help but check out each booth that we came across. By simply differentiating the activities and tasks offered at each booth, it almost became a game in itself to see how many of these booths you could find during your travels around Whistler.

Using leaderboards and reward systems to motivate participation (Byl, 2012)

Upon completing your task or winning your challenge, the Jeep staff would reward you with a prize. In the sites that I stumbled across, the prize was a nice and compact LED flashlight. A practical prize that seemed appropriate for the advertising campaign. Of course when friends and family caught wind of what I was able to earn at a Jeep booth, it only encouraged them to now keep their eyes open for these coveted Jeep displays. Admittedly, I had to prevent myself from getting completely swept up in this gamified advertising campaign and resist the urge to dedicate my afternoon in earning the most Jeep prizes within my group of friends and family. However, I experienced first hand the motivation and engagement generated through some simple gaming mechanisms.

It is the course content that will provide the important narrative behind the gamified learning experience (Deterding, 2011; Kapp, 2012)

One of many Jeep booths located around the Whistler Village
One of many Jeep booths located around the Whistler Village

It is important to contrast the purpose and intent behind an advertising campaign with those of a learning classroom. In this particular example, the folks at Jeep used gamification as a way to extend the scope of their advertising campaign. Specifically, Jeep used the opportunity to collect the email addresses of participants as they registered to participate in these booth challenges. Contrast that example with a classroom setting where teachers would employ gamification to help engage and motivate students to uncover new content and concepts in an interactive way.

I found it interesting that the tasks and challenges employed by the Jeep advertising booths did not provide games that would specifically aim to teach participants about the Jeep line up. While you have the attention and interest of hundreds (if not thousands) of participants why not teach them something about Jeep products and what separates them from the competition. Using distinguished parts and materials from Jeep vehicles rather than generic plastic pieces or props as game pieces would be one way of educating the public on the Jeep product.


In the end… 

This gamified experience grabbed my attention and motivated my participation in this advertising campaign. The gaming mechanisms employed were relatively simple and provide the potential to introduce these mechanisms in the classroom. Concepts like rewards, tasks of appropriate challenge and opportunities to collaborate and communicate with other participants are not necessarily new to education (Kapp, 2012) however presenting these concepts in a way that best supports the learning goals and needs of the student will require careful planning and consideration from the teacher. In planning to educate teachers and students, if I am not clear on the intent behind my gamified classroom, I run the risk of merely entertaining rather than engaging and supporting the learner.



Byl, P. (2012, November 25). Can digital natives level-up in a gamified curriculum? Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Ascilite:,_penny_-_can_digital.pdf

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful play: Getting gamification right. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from Google Tech Talks:

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Muntean, C. I. (2011). Raising engagement in e-learning through gamification. The 6th International Conference on Virtual Learning 2011 (pp. 323-329). Bucharest: University of Bucharest.