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Last month at InstructureCon, more than 200 people joined us for Canvas Network’s first-ever game night.

InstructureCon 2015 Gamification Game Night

We figured that because most games require at least two players and have the capacity for up to eight, the event would provide an opportunity for people to socialize and make new connections within the Canvas Community. And because board games help develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, or in some cases, like Hungry Hungry Hippos, hand-eye coordination and motor skills, they’re excellent tools for teaching and learning.

For example, players have to think before they act: “Should I take two cards or three?” They need to speculate based on the information they have in the situational environment: “Should I place my pieces on the board now or wait until my next turn in case someone else has a card I need?” Players must strategize: “There are a lot of blue cards left; maybe I can get ahead by collecting blue since no one else is collecting them.” These concepts are drivers behind a surge of interest in game-based learning design.

Just as educators want to fuel a hunger for learning and see their students commit to excellence (however you want to define “excellence” is up to you), learners who are engaged want more. Games are perfect for this because they have an end, but there is no end to the play. When the end of the game is reached, you can can start a new game and play exactly the same thing but get better at it, or play with different people and have a new experience or reach a different conclusion.

When we talk about gamification, or game-based learning design, we’re not talking about replacing math worksheets with math apps, or tossing out a digital badge or two. The learning experience must be authentic and meaningful for the learner. The lesson objectives must be clear and achievable, but also challenging and suitably complex. Scores, points, badges, prizes, rewards, or tokens can be used to recognize achievement and serve as motivation to encourage further learning—but the learning and the learning experience should be the focus.

Game mechanics (those elements of game play that drive us to play more and achieve higher scores) create a compelling experience that captures learners’ attention and interest, challenges them in a pleasurable way, and offers rewards that they value.

"Operation Gamification" at InstructureCon wasn't really about game-based learning design. It was about creating an opportunity to build relationships, discover shared interests, and further develop camaraderie among Canvas users. If you’re interested in exploring gamification (as a newbie or an expert), join the conversation in the Canvas Community Instructional Design space. There are plenty of seats at the table; we’ll deal you in.

Keep Learning,
Carrie Saarinen
Sr. Manager, Instructional Design and Development