Disruptive technology: Gamification

The ILN has looked at games in libraries in a previous discussion topic in 2015. More specifically though, gamification, “the use of game mechanics and experience design to digitally engage and motivate people to achieve their goals” (Burke, 2014), is being used in libraries to disrupt the customary orientation programs, and the usual methods of teaching information literacy.

This post will look into the specifics of game elements, and some programs that can be used to build these gamified programs.

Game elements/mechanics

Dan Hunter recently spoke at the Australian Law Librarians Association (ALLA) conference on exactly this topic. He has also written a book about how gamification can be used in different businesses, and a recent toolkit to help you build a game. His presentation detailed how libraries can utilise game elements around already existing programs to develop intrinsic motivation in users, so that they really want to learn and complete the tasks. Game elements/mechanics include things such as:children-593313_1920

  • Point systems
  • Badges gained by completing particular tasks
  • Leaderboards (for healthy competition)
  • Avatars (a user’s in game persona)
  • Progression/levels throughout the game
  • Social elements – chat, share, interact

By building these elements into a program, your users are more engaged, they have fun and are more motivated to get involved.

Let’s look at some ways these game elements have been used in teaching and orientations.

Game examples and software

La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, recently developed an online orientation game based on the ‘escape room’ theme. Rather than providing the same old library tour, where students follow around a librarian and listen passively, these students logged into the game and autonomously explored the library to solve puzzles linked to their learning.

This concept relied on ‘problem-based learning’ – in that users are more likely to remember what they do than what they read. The game was built as a web page – students access the URL on a mobile device and login so that usage data can be collected. Progress bars are provided, and when a puzzle is correctly completed students get a message of success, and a ‘winning feeling’. Interestingly, this game incorporates both physical and online elements. Students need to go to particular areas of the library to gather information that then helps them solve the puzzle on their mobile devices. Real life prizes (such as vouchers) were provided by sponsors at the completion of the whole game. The creators used a storyline and theme so that all the puzzles have a natural flow, and ensured the game could be played in pairs to encourage team-work and bonding in new students. Looking at their data, as well as survey responses they collected, the orientation game was a great success. It ran smoothly and was incredibly popular with students.

Another example of using games is in teaching. Usually, librarians may run a workshop, or go into a class and take a lesson on research skills. We may play some group activities and games, and we might do some demonstration of how to search or reference materials. Gamification can help us to break out of some of these more derivative teaching methods and add a bit of pazzaz to our lessons. If we are lucky enough to have classes embedded in a unit, this technology can be even more useful.

One piece of software is called Kahoot. It’s free and easy to use. Simply create an online poll, quiz or discussion question, and get your students to play it live in class. They don’t need to download anything, it’s all in the cloud. You get a PIN when you create your game, just get the students to go to the URL, put in the PIN and they can play. You will see the results automatically so you know how well students are understanding the lesson, and can discuss things further based on the results. You can even embed videos and multimedia into your questions. This is especially great for those classes where students are reluctant to answer questions or input into discussion for fear of ‘looking stupid’. With anonymous responses everyone’s happy to give it a go! Software such as Credly enables you to make badges for users to claim, or you could work in a point system yourself.

A great mobile app for gamifying learning is called Quitch. While this is a paid service, it has many great features. Because it is linked to a student mobile device, you can ‘push’ quiz questions to them at particular times, to coincide with certain lessons. Students can learn on public transport on their way to class! Plus, the pre-made platform is very easy to use and generates a lot of really useful statistics about each user and each question asked.

How to get started

  1. The first step is to decide exactly what it is you want your users to learn.
  2. From here think about a theme you may want to base the game around.
  3. You can then develop puzzles, questions or tasks where the main learning points are embedded.
  4. Programming may be something you already have skills in, or perhaps you need to bring someone on board with some coding skills, or use a premade template provided in a software program.
  5. Make sure to test and promote the game thoroughly, and collect data to evaluate the game’s success and areas for improvement.

Liz Kolb has written a great blog post on the steps she used to gamify learning in her classroom, and provides links to even more great software.

  • Have you gamified any of your library programs, or experienced a gamified program somewhere else?
  • Are there any programs or software that you have used to create game elements in your teaching or programs?
  • Do you think disrupting the status quo using gamification is a good idea?

You can discuss with your ILN partner or join in the wider conversation here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook using #interlibnet.

Michelle De Aizpurua, ILN Content Officer.

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016B and tagged , , , .

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