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:

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