What first made you interested in gamification? How has that interest evolved?
This is a long answer. However, I’ll try to give it to you concisely. I did not like school growing up. The best parts of school were all the non-curricular components and/or the unique and wild ideas of creative teachers. I never intended to become a teacher, but when the chips fell and I ended up as one, I wanted to leave a lasting impact on the profession. I didn’t want to do it the same way.
I began as a K-4 Phys Ed teacher who was asked to change up a physical education program that was viewed to be “lacking” due to parental demands and expectations. I immediately went to work fusing different elements into the program. It went well, and I was named a Top 20 teacher in my province. Fast forward, cancer with a close family member had me move cities and schools to care for them. I was now a grade 8 science teacher. Immediately, I saw myself in these kids. Disinterested, fearful of repercussion, very few genuinely interested in science. I didn’t want to add to this, so I began to speak with them and ask them why school was bad for them. Their answers led to some themes, some themes led to gamification and gamification was not too present in education at the time (2014), so I set out towards designing my own program from scratch by twisting and weaving together marketing and business ideas with school goals and game mechanics. The rest, as they say, is history!
In terms of evolution, I went from a teacher who was ridiculed for his ideas and beliefs of what education could be to someone who was considered an “expert” (I still don’t believe that haha) in gamification in education. I went from simple concepts to full-fledged year-long games with entire RPG systems and mechanics. I went from disengaged students to students begging for more quests and challenges (work). I went from having no clue what I was doing to writing two books on the topic, keynoting about it, doing 2 TEDx talks about it and being recognized as a Top 50 Teacher in the World via the Global Teacher Prize for my contributions to education. Also, all my resources are free because to hell with charging for it, ideas need to be shared.
What do you think is the most impactful innovation you have seen in the gamification space over the last year?
I wouldn’t truthfully say there is an innovation per se in education and gamification (this is truly the only sector I follow regularly) but more of a movement. As mentioned above, people thought I was a moron for this – well they used much harsher words but you know – and the idea was shrugged off by many. It didn’t have enough data, pedagogical substance, blah blah and so on.
The biggest “innovation” is literally the movement of gamification as an accepted, recognized and trusted educational pedagogy. More and more teachers are using it, seeing incredible results and sharing their own successes on social media. I’m extremely proud to have been viewed as someone on the forefront of this because in the end, if you can make kids engaged and teachers happy … what more could you want?!
Are there any trends in your field that you think game makers should be aware of or keep in mind?
The improper use of / design of / applications of gamification. Like many things, people are seeing this as a money grab and the term “gamification” is being overused. Sticker charts are not gamification. A paper avatar is not gamification. The list goes on. I’m trying to keep my eye on the trends to ensure that the hard work quality educators around the world have put it is not drowned out by money-hungry business people looking to make a buck by jumping on a “bandwagon” to create a “buzzword”
In your estimation, what has been the biggest benefit of gamification to your field?
Easy – student engagement and retention. Kids are fired about these programs and in turn, many teachers are telling me about their students’ increased…
– work completion and quality
… and the list goes on! When I first designed my own game, this was the main goal, and I’m so happy to see, hear and observe these same goals being set and met by teachers all over the world!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Not at the moment. I just think this whole gamification concept is the literal future of education and so many other industries! It is so much fun to design and apply. To share and collaborate. To play and enjoy!
This went from an idea I had no clue about to literally changing my entire career and truthfully, life!