PAX East 2015: Lifelong Learning through Gamification

Gamification is a continually growing trend in the education and employment sectors, a framework for tracking as well as improving performance that is still in the nascent stages of figuring out what works. At PAX East 2015 this weekend, some of the leading minds behind the movement from the Engagement Lab and NOVA sat down to discuss their findings to date in their Engagement Games and the Power of Play panel.

The panel started off with Christina Wilson discussing the Community PlanIt project which used techniques such as creating empathy for characters, open ended questions and trivia barriers to unlock levels. Player created causes also ended up driving higher levels of  participation, which speaks to the value of engaging users throughout the project. It is important to create a system in which everybody wins, but some win more than others (such as the top scoring players).

Another presented project with gamification elements was NOVA Labs, a free digital platform for middle and high school to facilitate student engagement with STEM topics (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Ralph Bouquet stressed the importance of creating a safe space for trial and error and fostering collaboration between students. NOVA’s project produced positive results in increasing engagement among low performing students, and he cited a Gates Foundation statistic that showed a 12% increase in learning achievement in conditions where students had games aligned to content.

The quote that stuck with me was Jordan Pailthorpe’s comment that he aims to empower the attendees of events such as the Boston Game Design Camp to spread gamification techniques when they go home. From the aspiring learners who visit Boston to learn from local game designers and engagement focused teachers to the students who learn STEM principles on platforms such as NOVA Labs, expanding the bilateral relationship between students and teachers as well as diversifying the topics that gamification is being applied to will create usable quantitative feedback for improving learning communities.

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