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Gamification as a learning strategy

2014  |  


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Videogames have become one of the most popular entertainments with the most adepts at present. Bearing in mind the natural human predisposition for competing and playing, many institutions, organizations and companies have discovered their particular potential as a tool which can promote certain actions on the part of the users.



Thus digital design techniques, the psychology and dynamics of these games, as well as the technology which they use, are being studied and applied massively in areas like marketing, social networks, health, human resources and training, among others. This strategy is what is called "gamification" and what it pursues is nothing other than stimulating the participation and loyalty of the user through an enjoyable play experience which makes their interaction in a determined context more attractive.

 Game based learning is also being incorporated into the field of education although in a rather more reticent manner. We have to take into account that for many teachers more than a classroom strategy, games are considered a form of reward which lacks a didactic purpose beyond providing variety and diversity to the students in moments where there is no curricular content. However, games, far from being a distraction and a mere entertainment, can contribute to developing certain abilities in the students and providing a relevant and pleasant learning experience, which will motivate them to continue to progress and become more actively involved in their learning.

Let's go through some of the aspects of game based learning which justify its use as a classroom strategy:

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1.    It promotes student participation

Games stimulate student participation and stimulate their interest even in those who are more reticent to learn or those who are not natural "players" as they perceive a change in the rules of the system and this triggers their curiosity to know and take part. For those who are more accustomed to the game experience it signifies a familiar learning environment in which they feel comfortable and where they perceive they have more possibilities to be successful. User participation can be fomented using different game mechanisms like collecting objects, points, classifications and levels. The important thing is to create an attractive reward for the players. We should also, during the design phase of the game, identify the skills or processes which we want to promote, An example of rewards are badges, whether insignia or indicators of personal achievements and abilities which can be acquired during the game as a prize at the end of a stage or for a determined action well done. 

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2.    Personalized teaching-learning experiences.

As teachers we recognize the need to give each student a personalized learning experience in accordance with their needs and abilities as a learner. Games, because of their open nature, provide the students with clear connected goals which permit them to advance from one level to another at the same time as they define and perfect their own abilities and knowledge. The use of avatars which have a similar appearance to the student also helps to strengthen this connection with the game itself. 

target 256px3. As a way of introducing determined contents and promoting meaningful learning.

There are some curricular contents which because of their level of abstraction are more accessible and meaningful when they are presented in a game format. The game also presents rules and clear objectives, which permit the students to know what they have to do at any moment or what will happen as they progress and follow the rules of the game. This clarity in the specification of the objectives of each stage helps them to become more aware of their role as learners and discover for themselves how they can continue to improve.

lightbulb 256px4. Experimenting with different solutions and points of view.

In many games, especially those that are designed as role-play, the students are provided with a vision of alternative solutions for the same problem which positively contributes to awakening their analytical capacity and critical spirit. The students develop in this way the ability to perceive and analyse problems from different points of view and to exercise creative habits.



chat 256px4. Encouraging a team spirit


Games encourage a team spirit, learning among equals and collaboration as support strategies to join forces and pool knowledge and thus be able to progress together until the solution to the problem is found. To see others trying to perform the same task and assume the same objectives generates trust and commitment on the part of the students.


support 256px5. Losing their fear of failure.

It is important not to inculcate in the students the fear of making a mistake. they should experiment and try out new ways of doing things without being afraid of failure. The learning which occurs in a game gives precisely this feeling of a safe environment in which one can try as many times as necessary and start again without having the feeling that you have made a mistake.



The Strong, an American organization (New York) devoted to the study and analysis of games, graphically breaks down the concept of the game around a series of elements, each connected to a determined group of emotions. For example anticipation would be associated with emotions like empathy and expertise, we include an excerpt of this graphic representation of games:

play elements traducción 

There are several free on-line tools which provide the students with a play oriented learning experience as they participate in the design of their own game board and in some cases the rules of the game, we include some examples: 


In which the students trace a route on a game board to guide a character. Each new level implies the learning of new tools and the finding of solutions in a group.








A game based on physics in which the students create a game environment using blocks and ramps to guide a ball in the correct direction. Contents like forces and impulse become more complex as they advance in the game.








A game involving construction, adventure and survival which permits the students to develop the capacity for spatial vision.





Purpose games

Purpose Games

This tool makes it possible to create interactive games about an image, batteries of multiple choice questions, games about geographical maps with which the students can challenge each other in simple competitions and revise curricular contents. Many of these activities and games can be shared with other users on the Purpose Games platform.



es una herramienta gratuita que te permite crear un juego interactivo sobre una imagen o una batería de preguntas de tipo test. No sólo los profesores, sino los propios alumnos pueden crear este tipo de actividades interactivas para repasar contenidos curriculares y para retarse los unos a los otros en pequeñas competiciones - See more at: http://enmarchaconlastic.educarex.es/2011/04/07/purpose-games-crea-actividades-interactivas-de-forma-sencilla/#sthash.wShp64Bx.dpuf



Permits the students, using a graphic editor which can be personalized, to create games of all types from arcade type games, platform games, physics games, space adventures, etc.








Gamestar Mechanic


A platform in which the students learn to design video games.








In eTwinning we can also find examples of good practice in projects based on games, we are including a collection of the ones we find most interesting:


gamification habitacion fermat

eTwinning tourists in 5 star hotels

An entrepreneurial project of building and managing a fictitious hotel chain in which mixed nationality groups of students (from Spain, Slovakia and the Czech Republic) work on the design and production of the facilities, the tourist brochures, the search for clients-tourists and the provision of the different services in the hotel chains created. In each country a teacher-inspector supervises the work daily and assigns quality stars at each of the stages which are completed.


Fermat's room

An eTwinning project based on the film of the same name. The story revolves around a group of mathematicians who keep a mysterious appointment on a farm. They are confined in a luxuriously decorated apartment and begin to receive on their mobile phones puzzles and riddles. When they take more than a minute to solve a puzzle the room begins to shrink! Its walls move in, limiting the space inside which becomes more and more oppressive. The development of this project permitted the construction of a 3D model of the room, a store of mathematical riddles and a video game among many other activities. All the information can be consulted on the following web site.


gamification twelve laboursSearching twelve labours to Hercules

Italian and Spanish students investigate heritage, art, local history, traditions, folklore and mythology in a game which simulates the twelve labours of the mythological hero. The work is presented to the students in the form of a Webquest and the teachers supervise the development of each of the respective labours.






permite crear un juego interactivo sobre una imagen o una batería de preguntas de tipo test. No sólo los profesores, sino los propios alumnos pueden crear este tipo de actividades interactivas para repasar contenidos curriculares y para retarse los unos a los otros en pequeñas competiciones. - See more at: http://enmarchaconlastic.educarex.es/2011/04/07/purpose-games-crea-actividades-interactivas-de-forma-sencilla/#sthash.wShp64Bx.dpuf



gamification getting closer

Getting closer

Spanish and Finnish students decide to meet virtually in an intermediate European city situated on an imaginary line which joins their two towns of origin. And like any planned journey, they have to get financing and make provisions for everything they need. The students divided into mixed nationality groups start the competition in which the winner will be the team which first meets up in the agreed city. Their journey is not devoid of obstacles which are recorded in their logbook. On their journey they have to choose their means of transport, the most convenient route using a system of coordinates and locating points on the map, and exploring the cities which they pass through with an eye always on the meteorological conditions, arranging how to get money in the local currency ... After passing each stage they get a virtual credit which they use to buy fuel for the next stage of the journey. Link to the TwinSpace of the project.


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We hope that the article has served to stimulate your interest in introducing the dynamic of games into the classroom and that you have a try as part of your eTwinning projects. If you do, we would like to hear of your proposals. So we are proposing the following. We invite you to form part of our eTwinning group in FACEBOOK and to tell us your ideas for gamification for eTwinning projects (whether completed or not) in which you include objectives, contents, task assignment and creation of student working groups, possible involvement of other curricular areas, time-line, technical resources, aspects to be evaluated, etc. You can send your proposal from 10th February to 10th March 2013. We will select the winner from among the most creative proposals and we will reward them with a BQ Edison 16 GB Tablet. We will also publish copies of the proposals submitted in a future article on our website.


Image source: photocompositions by the eTwinning NSS using free icons from elegantthemes.com, screens from the different free on-line game creation tools and images from the TwinSpace of the projects selected as good examples of gamification.

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