Gamification by camouflage – fads and higher ed

So, gamification is one of the flavours of the month in the ed tech community. The Khan Academy are doing it and there’s a growing list of people writing about it: various gaming folk are talking about how it might work, an EDUCAUSE article, some smart folk are doing interesting stuff around Moodle course design and professional development, and some high school teachers are actually doing it.

And then this morning via twitter I seen an announcement of the Open Badge Infrastructure from the Mozilla Foundation. There’s more information on the project wiki (which is also a nice example of a MediaWiki site that doesn’t look like a MediaWiki site).

but….

This all looks very interesting. Given the space and time I’d like to think and explore this area a bit more. There’s a lot of interesting possibilities here. But the cynic in me sees this as becoming yet another revolution that disappears leaving little changed.

Over the next couple of years the ed tech conferences and journals are going to be full of publications about gamification. These publications will fall into the standard categories

  1. Various experts offering theoretical insights into why it is a good thing and will change education.
  2. The Edupunk doing some really interesting things, but struggling against the inertia of the institution and its IT department.
  3. Vendor, or early adopter of a tool, arguing why it will be great based on experiment with a class of 10 students doing a game design course (i.e. low lying fruit).
  4. The small scale project with a keen academic/teacher with some support from an IT department or L&T support centre.
  5. Luddite arguing why it will never work and should never be tried. Especially for legal reasons.
  6. some time will pass here before getting onto the next outputs…
  7. The important educational researcher doing “real” research without really understanding what is they are researching. (Must be objective). Usually funded by funding bodies such as ALTC/ARC.
  8. Central IT reporting on plans to implement Mozilla’s Open Badge Infrastructure – or similar enterprise infrastructure – all for the very small price of a gazillion dollars and 10 more staff for the IT department.
  9. …a bit more time…
  10. Reflections about why gamification failed, what we did wrong and what should be done better next time. Perhaps outlining the small box within education for which gamification offers some value.
  11. References to the prior gamification literature explaining why it was wrong, why it didn’t work and how gamification 2.0 promises to revolutionise education by avoiding those problems.

Currently, it looks like we’re around about step 1 or 2. The vendors and luddites can’t be too far away.

I hope it doesn’t go this way, but I’m not confident. It strike me as yet another fad cycle in the making. Simply because the grammar of school/university will be to strong for the innovation. It will be mutated into something that makes sense within the current grammar, thereby robbing it of its innovative capacity.

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