February 2, 2015By Lance Baily

The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning

Just saw this awesome Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ACSD.org article by Steven Isaacs entitled “The Difference Between Gamification And Game-Based Learning” today and thought it could help expand our nomenclature. Here’s a snippet but you should read the full article!

“Do you incorporate game-based learning into your curriculum? Gamification and game-based learning have become buzzwords in education yet some general confusion still exists regarding what each is and what each is not. I would love to clear up any misconceptions.


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Gamification is the idea of adding game elements to a nongame situation. Corporate reward programs are a good example. They reward users for certain behaviors. Starbucks has done a fine job of getting me to spend more money through their rewards program. It’s not the most sophisticated form of gamification, but I am rewarded for making purchases and can earn extra levels by earning stars based on the program structure. Programs like this have added a scoring game mechanic to commerce. In the classroom, gamification has been integrated in a more authentic manner as some classrooms have become a living, breathing game. Gamification systems like ClassCraft add an adventure game layer on top of the existing course infrastructure. Students create a character, play as part of a team, and earn experience points and rewards based on class-related behaviors. Students are rewarded for helping other students, producing exemplary work, etcetera. Likewise, students can receive consequences for behaviors that are inconsistent with the desired the learning environment.

Game-Based Learning

Unlike gamification, game-based learning relates to the use of games to enhance the learning experience. Educators have been using games in the classroom for years. One of my fondest memories of school was the stock market game we played in one of my high school social studies courses. I learned so much about the stock market by investing with my fantasy portfolio. In fact, as a result of this project, I invested my own money (and encouraged my parents and grandmother to do the same) in Colecovision back in the 1980s. The stock soared after our initial investment and my family cashed in. I don’t think learning gets more authentic than that!

John Hunter has received a lot of positive attention for his game, the World Peace Game, which he has been playing with his 4th graders. Others have used his game or adapted it to suit the content of their curriculum. This is a wonderful example of a nondigital game created by a teacher to enhance the learning experience of students. In the digital sphere, game-based learning has seen quite a boom in recent years.”

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acsd article

Read the full article on ASCD.org!

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