Gamification in the classroom: The importance of feedback

Gamification at Science World Vancouver

In our household, the end of summer is capped off with a visit to Science World in Vancouver, B.C.  For the kids it’s a chance to spend the day playing amongst exhibits, simulators and demonstrations.  For me it’s a chance to see how my own instructional practice stacks up against the highly engaging learning environment of this science and discovery centre.  With this most recent visit, it provided an opportunity to see how gamification is employed throughout the exhibit floor and how the concept of feedback is a critical gaming mechanism.  With that said the concept of feedback is certainly not new to educators.  However in a gamified setting feedback helps to drive engagement and ultimately encourages the participant to “try it again”.

[box] “The feedback system tells the player how close they are to achieving the goal. It can take the form of points, levels, a score, or a progress bar. Or, in its most basic form, the feedback system can be as simple as the players’ knowledge of an objective outcome: “The game is over when…” Real-time feedback serves as a promise to the players that goal is definitely achievable, and it provides motivation to keep playing.” – Jane McGonigal (Reality is Broken)[/box]

So what did I learn about the power of feedback in the gamified setting of Science World?  And in our exploration of gamification in the classroom, how can we use feedback and assessment to drive learning and engagement?

Feedback was…

Using competition as a way to illustrate proper rowing drive
In order to illustrate how to maximize the power of a rowing stroke, participants engage in a rowing race with the a screen providing instant feedback as to who was winning the race. Ultimately, participants figured out that it was critical to use the legs as the initial driving force for the stroke.

Quick and instant

What helps to make the hands-on exhibits so engaging is the fact that the participant does not have to wait long to see the result or outcome of their attempt and effort. In many instances the feedback was instantaneous, allowing the participant to try again almost immediately.

Brief and easy to understand

Similarly, feedback was brief and easy to understand. Many times the feedback was presented in different ways through graphics, video and even sound. Ultimately if the feedback was to be of any use to the participant it was important that the information was brief yet easy to interpret.

Making feedback social
By keeping feedback brief, relevant and easy to understand, simply allowing others to see and share in the feedback created a very social atmosphere where other participants could learn from each other. In many exhibits, feedback was merely diplayed on a larger screen so others could view it as well.

Relevant and detailed

If feedback is to be brief in length then it needs to be concise and relevant to the task or activity at hand. The exhibits were extremely effective in staying on point and only providing feedback that was specific to the participant, their particular task and their current point of progress.

Relevant feedback also helps to inform the next attempt. Along with feedback that outlined what was done correctly or incorrectly, many of the exhibit activities also provided feedback on what participants could try differently on their next attempt. This type of feedback ultimately makes it difficult for one to simply leave an activity after just one try.


Similar to the classic leaderboard posted on the screen of our favourite arcade video game, there were many interactive exhibits that made the point of sharing the results of previous participants.  In some cases it was meant as a way to generate some friendly competition and further drive the need to improve one’s previous performance.  In other cases, it presented a fascinating perspective in recognizing the diversity in the perceptions and attitudes of other people.  It generated a type of community around the exhibit and encouraged participants to watch and learn from what others were doing.

Ideas for Technology Integration

It wouldn’t be a technology blog if there was no mention of some tech!  Whether in Science World or in a classroom, designing different mechanisms of feedback provides a compelling opportunity for the integration of technology.  In looking at the exhibits at Science World, technology was instrumental in providing instantaneous feedback that was brief, easy to understand and social.  Enhancing feedback through technology is a powerful place to start for those of us who are continually looking to find ways to effectively integrate technology in the classroom.


– K. Takahashi








Starting gamification in the classroom? Keep it simple

Science World Vancouver

Science and discovery centres are great places to see some examples of gamification in action. They present poignant reminders that gamification does not need to be extremely complicated nor lengthy.  In an exhibit from RBC on the Science of Sports, Vancouver’s Science World sets in with some gamification before one even sets foot inside the exhibit. It also serves as a great example of gamification made simple.

In keeping with the topic of sports, the floor and walls just outside of the Science of Sports exhibit display a series of lines and labels indicating various lengths and heights associated with different records around a variety of sports performances.  Some lines show the actual length of a world record standing long jump or show the height of the high jump world record (2.45m).  Lines with some labels… and that’s it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Let the games begin…

With no other instructions provided to exhibit-goers, people naturally started trying to size up their own ability and performances with the displayed records. People were jumping alongside the standing long jump record to see how they fared against Arne Tvervaag’s 3.71m world record.  Other guests tried to jump to touch the height of the high jump record or match the distance covered in a second by a record holding sprinter at full speed.  With this information presented in such a simple yet compelling way, participants were now experiencing and playing with content and concepts rather than just reading about them.

Gamification in the classroom…

The sports examples listed above would lend themselves to a physical education classroom or gym class but this approach can perhaps find a way into other courses and subject areas.  Within the unique concepts, skills and competencies that are inherent within each course and subject of study, there is an opportunity to reinvent the way we present this content.  Looking for a way to present information in a manner that brings scale, accessibility and a perspective that is both authentic and measurable supports an interactive element to learning.  And maybe, just maybe… serve as an enticing invitation to play.

K. Takahashi




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


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:

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.

Gamification: Let the Games Begin

As part of an online course that I currently taking with CSU (Charles Sturt University), we are currently looking at the integration of technology into teaching and learning. This provides me the perfect opportunity to dive into the topic of gamification. Over the next two months I will be exploring the concept of gamification in order to identify and implement gaming mechanisms and evaluate how they can establish and support an environment for learning. In my current role as a Learning Coordinator, most of my work will involve supporting teachers in their own professional development, however if this investigation remains focussed on the learning process then arguably the findings could apply to all learners.

Why Gamfication?

I would not consider myself an avid “video gamer” but I did play my fair share of video games growing up. After a lengthy departure from gaming, it was the iPad and iPhone that brought me back to this form of entertainment and I now find myself getting back into some console gaming as well. In rekindling my relationship with video games, I have also made a few observations:

– there are a lot people (young and old) who are currently playing video games (E3: Who plays video games? The numbers might surprise you)

– there is a move to involve social media and social interaction in modern video games (Social aspects of video gaming drawing in more users and revenue)

– video games can be engaging in the way they instruct and guide the player (Manual labor: Why we don’t need game manuals anymore)

– video games can be responsive to the user (How responsiveness affects players’ perception in digital games)

Monopoly: Here & Now: The World Edition is a game for the iPad that has finally taught me the proper way to play Monopoly!
Monopoly: Here & Now: The World Edition is a game for the iPad that has finally taught me the proper way to play Monopoly!

These observations have ultimately brought to me the topic of gamification and its potential in the classroom. If video games are any indication of the level of engagement and interactivity that students (both young and the young at heart) currently enjoy and expect, then I think I may need to step up my game as a teacher.

Over the next couple of months, I will continue to explore the topic of gamification and attempt to implement gaming elements in my work to support teachers and students. I intend on using this blog as a way to document my learning throughout this project.

Stay tuned and let the games begin…

K. Takahashi