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Games: More than Just Reward Systems

For those getting a little tired of the overwrought and oversimplified rhetoric of gamification, here's a gem from MIT's Eric Klopfer:

"The fact that they give rewards is maybe #85 on the list of things that games do."

Games allow players to imagine scenarios, explore worlds, fail, make choices, take risks, fail, learn iteratively, try on different identities, fail, solve puzzles, form groups, think strategically, fail, and find success. Oh and they have points and levels too.

Putting rewards at number 85 on the list is probably a little unfair: point systems are central to many games. But all too often, gamification in education is just dumping a point system on worksheets or some other rote task. It's like saying that you are making Mexican food by pouring salsa on something. Yes, salsa is integral to many Mexican dishes; no, pouring salsa on penne does not make it a Mexican dish. (This is another riff on the famous chocolate-covered broccoli metaphor)

You can watch the full context of Klopfer's comments in video below, taken at a gathering of educators hosted by OpenAirBoston, exploring the intersection between family engagement and emerging technologies. Karen Brennan, a new assistant professor at Harvard's Ed School and the brains behind ScratchED, is also on the panel.

I participated in a panel as well, on social mobile learning:

For regular updates, follow me on Twitter at @bjfr and for my papers, presentations and so forth, visit EdTechResearcher.


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