14. 2017-July-26 Day 4- Barton

14. 2017-July-26 Day 4- Barton

Today was Hazel day, and I'd been honestly looking forward to this since I started preparing for my comps.

Today was my absolute favorite day of comps so far. The questions are compelling, difficult, and are extraordinarily important in the justification of my research. My response to the first one I am particularly proud of, and would very much like to further explore and use that writing elsewhere in a publication setting. Today I felt very much in control of my knowledge, I felt limited challenge outside of the need to keep my writing length to a minimum, and I hope that Hazel will be quite pleased with me.

Her prompt:

Test is open book. You may take as much time as you need up to 8 hours maximum. Total length of all the answers should be ~4 typed pages, including appropriate references to justify any statement of fact.

  1. You attended an education conference where you gave what you believed was an insightful presentation bout incorporating an important scientific theory into a game that can be used to educate the general prublic. After the conference a well know (but grumpy) senior faculty member you do not know writes a letter to the editor of a journal that the conference has lowered their standards by allowing someone to talk about 'games' instead of proper education, which thy consider to be a 'formal presentation of the science'.
    • Write a letter or rebuttal that will be published in the journal at the same time, using scientific arguments to explain why the use of games is an effective education tool.
    • What strategies do you think you might use in future presentations to prevent your research being described as 'just playing games'?
  2. Gamification has been used effectively within the business world, but he theory behind it hasn't yet been adopted within scientific education. Describe the central theories used in 'gamification' that have yet to be incorporated into education, and describe what advantages currently unexplored aspects 'gamification theory' can bring to scientific education.



Stoll  (2000) stated in a criticism of “teaching machines” (computers, but could be used to describe any number of teaching interventions that address the role of engagement in learning),

…direct students away from reading, away from writing, away from scholarship. They dull questioning minds with graphical games where quick answers take the place of understanding, and the trivial is promoted as educational. They substitute quick answers and fast action for reflection and critical thinking […] Turning learning into fun denigrates the most important things we can do in life: to learn and to teach. It cheapens both process and product: Dedicated teachers try to entertain, students expect to learn without working, and scholarship becomes a computer game.


The nature of games as an educational tool has been muddled by the failure of edutainment games (both digital and analog) in the 1990’s, which, as Stoll observed, were frequently confounded by their reliance on flashy graphics (for the time) and their educational content frequently being literally trivial, focused solely on memorization and recall, overly abstract puzzles, and not critical thinking and problem solving (the exceptions that exist would merely serve to prove the rule). This perception of gaming has shaded, particularly those in education who are not digital natives, their ability to appreciate game-based learning as a potent scheme for education design (Prensky, 2003). This has only been exacerbated by the juxtaposing k utopic and dystopic imagery of a world subsumed by gamification presented by various authors (eg., Falk, 2012; Walz and Deterding, 2014)).

Games have been used throughout human history. Games such as Shogi, Go, Chess and its predecessors, and others were used in various cultures to illustrate the nature of strategy, and serve as an abstracted model for the games’ more complex real world analogs; training and educational exercises which feature feedback dependent on measures of success or failure already feature a manner of overlap with some of the metamechanics of game design (Hunicke 2009). In the modern day, serious games (designed for purposes beyond solely entertainment) such as those used by the world’s armed force and increasingly in various other forms of training, are a prime example of using games as a tool of instruction. In the past decade the trend of “gamification” (a term with significant debate, as discussed in detail by Rughiniș, 2013) has taken the business world by storm, and has provided inroads for the interplay of gameful design with training implementation, producing applications in numerous industries for serious games. Games can provide through abstraction means convey complex concepts involving tasks and scenarios which would otherwise be infeasible for reasons of cost, time, logistical, and safety (Corti, 2006).

In contrast, schools have served as the definitive tool of formal education for centuries, if not millennia. A structured, curriculum-driven path of instruction allows for consistent mass instruction of students, in preparation for the skills thought to be needed in society. Formal education is constrained/defined/codified by hierarchical structuring, administrative formality, large-group classroom management, and distinct measures on student success (Smith 2006). This corresponds to the purpose of formal education in preparing students for integration into the community at large, described somewhat grimly as, “. . . a mechanism of indoctrination for the practical purposes of social efficiency.” (Kliebard, 2004). This prioritizes the bulk instruction of predefined topics in curricula with limited to no room for expansion into unique development of groups or individuals, particularly as the requirements for civic literacy grow over time (Harper, 2010). While this seems rather cynical assessment, formal education certainly continues to be an important means of learning, due in part certainly due to its ubiquity as a societal paradigm.

Games, with their familiar structure and intrinsic blend of simplicity and complexity, are tools, just as a hammer or screwdriver. Games are readily understandable because they are recognized as games. Games thus can serve as an affordance, an object whose directly perceivable properties indicate their possible use (Norman, 1988); tools can serve as affordances as, by design, easy; one uses a hammer to drive nails; they shouldn’t be challenged in figuring out how a hammer works. A toy, in contrast, an object of play, derives its value from the challenge of determining its use, of figuring it out (Malone, 1981). In many ways, games are themselves both puzzles (toys) and the tools with which to solve them. The facility of their use as affordances allows for easy engagement, while their conjunction with puzzles, which can require critical thinking and assessment to work through, makes them readily usable for the incorporation of didactic content.

Thusly, serious games designed with purposeful intent for education, can and will be used and tested as tools both within and without formal education. As game-based learning and gamification is developed as a field (Rughiniș, 2013), early papers reveal the naive state of it as a discipline of research, as frequently papers revolve entirely around the experience of gameful design and playtesting in the educational realm (Gibson et al., 2015; Magee et al. 2016; Moazzam et al. 2015), facets which have already been well explored in the realm of game-design outside of academic settings. However, promising efforts are already being made to study both the effectiveness of game-based education tools, as well as the lessons learned in developing their implementation (Eisenack, 2012; Ramirez & Squire, 2014; Kapp, 2012; Connolly et al. 2012). What proves to be critical for increasing appreciation by educators and education researchers of games as tools is their assessment and evaluation in the paradigm of education research methods, as game-design and education research continue to integrate and contribute to one another.



The central tenet of gamification and gameful design (for the sake of brevity I will use the term gamification exclusively throughout) is motivation. Motivation is a primary driver in user engagement in any activity, including learning (Lepper, 1998). Both intrinsic (self-fulfilling) and extrinsic (reward/punishment derived) motivation can be effective tools in driving engagement (Lepper, 1998). Extrinsic motivations typically consist of positive or negative rewards and punishments exterior to the activity directly that may or may not be reinforcements for desired behaviors and outcomes. Intrinsic motivations come from the performance of the activity itself, or from internally produced reinforcements. Studies have shown (classically, Skinner: see Snowman et al, 2009), that extrinsic rewards can produce motivation for behaviors, but can frequently diminish engagement with the activity proper and any intrinsic motivation.

The most common definition of gamification, “Game-elements in non-game contexts” (Deterding et al, 2011) is frequently criticized in part due to it’s overly reductive and form driven phrasing. What becomes evident, as you begin to examine the interface of instructional (educational/marketing) and game psychology are a significant number of overlapping theories of motivation, in turn underlying sustained engagement in actions, decisions, or mental models (Ch 3., Kapp, 2012). These theories interweave most significantly within Self-Determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 1985).

Self Determination Theory delineates three major facets needed for meaningful intrinsic motivation: Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness. Autonomy describes the ability of a person to have a measure of meaningful control over the outcomes of their actions within an environment, an ability to perform an action and appreciate that the outcome corresponds to some degree in a rational measure. Competence is the sense of being able to perform a task, neither with so little skill that failure or success are out of  one’s control, nor so much that success is a guarantee; it is the self-perception that you understand the dynamics of inputs and outputs in a context, and are neither unchallenged nor overwhelmed. Relatedness then consists of your actions existing within a context relating to other actors, whether they be other individuals (social relatedness) or merely the responses produced by your actions. When all three of these factors are felt, a sense of self-confidence and worth is produced, intrinsic motivation is easily maintained, and engagement in the pertinent activities can be sustained.

Educational Psychology theories, such as scaffolding and operant conditioning can in turn be utilized in conjunction with gamification to produce elements of the facets of Self Determination Theory. Scaffolding, simply put, is the external support and feedback (such as from a mentor or instructor) that allows for comfortable risk taking and development of skill until such time the scaffolding can be reduced and/or removed (Vygotsky, 1978); this concept is intuitive to understand in practice, and further reinforces a learner’s sense of competence, as well as provides meaningful feedback which is useful for both self-correction and a buoyed state of autonomy (Gredler, 1997). Operant conditioning can then be used as a model for optimal utilization and calibration of extrinsic rewards/reinforcements, again serving as a source of feedback contributing to perception of both autonomy and competence. Social Learning Theory and Cognitive Apprenticeship in represent the intrinsically social elements of games (which in turn are frequently the elements incorporated into gamification) in conjunction with the instruction through observation of cognitive modeling that richly reinforces relatedness in game contexts (Lepper, 1998).

Games further support learning and motivation as their nature of episodic and iterative plays allow for distributed practice (periods of learning/practice spaced out over separate short sessions; the opposite of cramming) and the creation and use of episodic memory, the exploitation of one’s memory to be assembled in the form of narratives to allow easier recall of learned information associated with such narratives (Gredler, 1997). As games as a both social and stochastic event can produce varying dynamics and outcomes, it facilitates the construction of micronarratives that can be associated with incorporated didactic content. Thusly, games purpose-built with didactic framing and content can prove even more effective at conveying ideas to players passively as the players actively participate in the game. Beyond such simple mechanics as using dice or decks of cards as random number generators, interactions with player decisions and actions allow for comprehension, even in a somewhat complex system, of the direct cause and effect relationships of multi-faceted interactions.

Game designer Peter Hayward has stated, “Every board game lies somewhere between a . . . puzzle and a story.” (personal communication). A puzzle differs from a game most distinctly in that puzzles are deterministic, as long as the puzzle is the same, the solution will remain the same. Adding elements of randomness or psuedorandomness, either from game mechanics or player interaction, allow the puzzle to become stochastic. Making the solution not a fixed perfect state, but an optimal state that may or may not be achieved by all the participants, makes it into a robust game, rather than merely a test of multiple persons’ ability to solve the puzzle according to some common assessment. Puzzle components are incorporated into a game by adding randomness or exterior forces to make them into nondeterministic puzzles, and the story component is how the math puzzle can be framed as a simulation, modeling a concept or process. Thusly, as one appreciates how to do well in the game, they can understand how the mechanics and the connected thematic components are attached to one another, and these takeaways can be applied to the understanding of the presented concepts and models. The fine line between what constitutes puzzles and games, especially in gamified contexts, is especially germane considering that over 80% of games used in studies on game-based education are either puzzle-based or simulations (Connolly et al, 2012)

The major obstacles to satisfactory and successful gamification in science education is recognition and understanding of the utility of its utilization by science educators. Rughiniș (2013) reframed the definition of gamification in education contexts as, “simple gameplay to support productive interaction for expected types of learners and instructors”, to bring in line the intent of gamification of learning with its form, the focus of earlier definitions. This definition better supports the needs of educators, namely the inclusion of expected outcomes.

Just as there has been a call for scientists themselves to be agents of science communication in the past two decades (Bazzaz, 1998; Lubchenco, 1998; Weber & Schell Word, 2001), scientists and science educators must take an active role in the development and implementation gamification in their field. As both informal and formal education become increasingly interactive and participatory (Wilms, 2003). Developing effective didactic gamified content requires experts in both the subject matter being presented as well as the design of the interventions themselves. Gamification, and in parallel gameful design (time will tell if the semantic distinction between the two will grow or fade) requires specific knowledge and intent, and implementation to successfully produce materials that can effectively utilize the motivation producing components of gamification to effect learning outcomes in education settings.


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15. 2017-July-27 Day 5- Duff

15. 2017-July-27 Day 5- Duff

13. 2017-July-25 Comps Day 3- Svenson

13. 2017-July-25 Comps Day 3- Svenson