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Introducing #GBLFriday on Education Unbound

by Justin Marquis Ph.D.

One of the most contentious, but in my opinion, potentially beneficial innovations in educational technology is the idea of gamification – or the incorporation of game play and game production into the curriculum. This innovative pedagogical approach has the potential to engage students at all levels with material in ways that make learning fun, relevant, and self-reinforcing while also supporting them in developing technology literacy and creativity.

Game-based Learning (GBL) is a complicated field that involves psychology, teacher training, instructional design, technology, and a host of other areas that make it an interesting topic. The rich potential of the field also provides a great deal of controversy and even animosity on both sides of the issue as people struggle to come to terms with a new way of educating.  #GBLFriday on Twitter is one way to explore these issues and share your experiences, successes, and failures with gamification.

The Power of Gamification
Gamification is about using technology to return to a more basic, primal, experiential way of learning that more accurately embraces human curiosity, competitiveness, and creativity. In our youngest children we understand the value of play, though we may not always realize that it is through this play that children learn about the language, physics, and social rules of their world. Yet somehow, when our children reach school age we feel a need to strip the fun from learning; requiring them to sit quietly in straight rows to memorize facts and figures. Yet we wonder why we are behind other nations academically; why children are bored in school; and why dropout rates are escalating. The reason is that we are, for the most part, approaching learning from the faulty assumption that it can’t be fun. There are better ways to teach and ensure that students learn and they need not be bounded by a finite physical space. #GBLFriday is a playful medium that allows those interested in GBL to ask questions and share their experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

Technology has freed us from many of the constraints of place and time, allowing people to work from home, communicate with friends in different countries, and explore any topic we are interested in at our convenience. In the same ways, games in education allow for a dramatic expansion of the learner’s universe. Through video games students can manipulate the laws of physics or safely try on alternative perspectives of how the world works. Using games we can capture any reality, historical time period, work of literature, or scientific endeavor and allow our students to live the experience in ways that are comparable to having the actual experience for themselves (Marquis, 2012). It is time for all educators to join the gamification movement and explore these brave new worlds. #GBLFriday further breaks the constraints of space and time allowing for conversations about gamification to happen in a medium that is easily accessible to everyone.

Gamification represents a natural progression of learning from the industrialized, mass production model of education that trained students to be identical drones responding to bells and whistles, to an individualized, contextualized model of learning that pushes students to be innovative individuals confident in their ability to problem solve and think outside of the box. #GBLFriday on Twitter will explore the power of gamification to change education and the world.

Game Design is GBL Too
Gamification is not any one thing, and is not limited by disciplinary or curricular constraints. It can address any topic or any set of skills that a game designer chooses to focus on. Additionally, a seldom considered aspect of gamification is the inclusion of game design and production in school and college curriculums as a multifaceted way of addressing content learning, technology literacy, communication skills, and creativity simultaneously. There are a few outstanding game based schools already serving as models for the ways in which a game-based curriculum can create a powerful, effective, and comprehensive learning environment. #GBLFriday on Twitter will explore these innovative uses of game production in the classroom.

Welcome to #GBLFriday
#GBLFriday on Twitter is one avenue for those interested in gamification to join in a dialogue with me and others interested in this intriguing and powerful method of educating. It plays on the idea of "casual Friday" as a way of emphasizing the informal nature of both the discussion and the way in which games work in educational settings – breaking down the barriers between students, teachers, and what they are learning.

The #GBLFriday hashtag on Twitter will serve as a vehicle for sharing resources, stories, triumphs and failures, for asking advice from experts, and for establishing best practices for both game-based learning and learning based on game design and production. Tag your gamification posts and retweets throughout the week for inclusion in the Friday discussions and I’ll make sure to answer your questions and share your stories with my followers. You might even find something you’ve shared as the subject of a future post on Education Unbound. For more information on gamification and game-based learning check out this Storify collection of my work on GBL.

Follow the conversation on Twitter or Google+ using the hashtag #GBLFriday. I look forward to sharing in your gamification experiences.