What I learned about learning

I knew a great deal about how people learn when I started this course, but I took this opportunity to dig deeper and find more nuances. I also did a lot of research on the relationship between games and learning which turned out to be quite rich. I had first been introduced to gaming ideas in my spring semester when I took the Teaching and Learning in Immersive Environments. I had expected to hate it, but instead it opened a door to a whole new way of thinking about learning. I am grateful that I was allowed to pursue this direction this semester by trying to redesign an existing course with gaming strategies.

What I discovered though was that you can’t just layer on game ideas and expect it to work. You have to know what you are trying to accomplish, what the similarities are between learning and game play, and surprisingly, how narrative fits in to the whole picture.

When Raph Koster states that “Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun.”(p 40) I can easily recognize my own narrative. Any time I can learn something I will – it is, as I have stated in earlier posts, an “extreme sport”  for me. But for my students the same “puzzle” that intrigues me, can read as “noise” to them, which makes them bored and they quit. These gaming concepts speak to that which educators have discussed for years – meeting students where they are, establishing relevance, and fostering engagement in the way content is delivered.

Exploring gamification I have increased my toolkit for engaging students at multiple levels. I feel I will be more vigilant about tapping into their basic human need for challenge, while attending to their narratives. Their storylines were not always part of my approach, but now I will be watching for those.

The online environment, which I considered a superior teaching environment to the f2f classroom as soon as I was using it, is very well suited to the kind of differentiation that attending to student narratives requires. Gamification can tap into deeper and more basic human motivations as I encourage them to engage with content. Mastery can become its own reward over time, even if it needs a few badges to get things on track at the start.

My understanding of the CoI model was very helpful as I explored the JISC REAP assessment material. I see now that the ideas of using assessment to support engagement and empowerment will require a change in my courses. To support these deeper learning components, I need to add more reflection. I was surprised to see that self-regulated learning is best supported with peer activity and hope that my newly designed collaborative activities will work in this way. It will be something I will be monitoring. I think the gamification relationship to this is probably the use of collaboration or team/guild type activities. Working together they learn to self-regulate and “level up” to master ever more difficult challenges.

Learning about learning will never conclude for me. I was delighted to locate new research and new models and have the opportunity to spend time integrating them into my own professional toolkit. I look forward to building on these in the future.


Koster, Raph, and Will Wright. Theory of Fun for Game Design. New York: Paraglyph, 2004. Web



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