Monday, 29 July 2013

Winner of Best in Gamification Awards

We are over the moon that have been deemed one “of the ground breakers in the gamification industry” and have won a Best in Gamification Award by Technology Advice.  Specifically, we won Best Gamification Resources in the Education Industry.

This is what they had to say about us:

“Over at Game Based Learning, education and gamification combine at their best. From posts on gamified learning research to real world examples, Game Based Learning provides a wide range of content for educators and gamification enthusiasts alike. If you’re looking on reasons to implement gamification in your classroom, or just advice on how to do it, Game Based Learning is the place to go.”

To read the full article and see the other winners, click here.

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Friday, 26 July 2013

Motivating Generation X and Y with Gamification

There is a reasonable amount of research into motivation at work being undertaken these days and it is interesting to see where gamification fits into the picture.  A recent study from Odgers Berntson and Cass Business School suggests that organisations are unprepared for the new generation of leaders.  Richard Boggis-Rolfe, Chairman of Odgers Berndtson argued "The retirement of the current generation of corporate leaders will lead to cultural changes that most organisations are unprepared for. In order to thrive in the post-baby boomer landscape, companies need to put serious thought and effort into smoothing the intergenerational transition for leaders from generations X and Y."

But Who are Generations X and Y?
Jane Sunley, CEO of Purple Cubed (a consultancy firm specialised in workplace engagement) explains, “The baby boomers are the generational cohort born between 1945 and around 1961, generation X were born between around 1962 and 1981 and generation Y from around 1981 to 2001… Don’t get too hung up on the dates though, because everybody says that they’re different. The important thing is to appreciate that every generation has been influenced by the environment of their upbringing: education, parents and – in the case of generation Y – the biggest influence has been technology.”

What are the Key Differences Between the Generations?
According to Sunley, there are five key differences between the upbringing, character and motivations of each generation that affect their working styles:

  1. Reason they work – Baby boomers ‘live to work’, generation X ‘work to live’ and generation Y work to fund their lifestyle.
  2. Decision-making – Baby boomers prefer to make their own decisions, generation X will take direction but then like to be left to get on with it and generation Y require constant direction and collaboration.
  3. Feedback and response to work – Baby boomers know when they have done a good job, generation X like regular feedback and generation Y need constant feedback.
  4. Sharing opinions – Baby boomers like to keep their opinions to themselves, generation X share their opinions and generation Y assume others want their opinions.
  5. Attitude to change – Baby boomers are resistant to change, generation X relish change and generation Y are flexible.

Could This Cause Problems?
According to the Cass Business School study, “Only 41% of respondents believed that their organisations are ready for changing workplace demographics of age, gender and diversity.”  Many respondents to the study also commented that “the retirement of baby boomers from leadership positions would result in a mass exodus of talent over the next 20 years, which will intensify the global war for talent among existing executives”.

Obviously organisations will have to adapt their leadership strategies, corporate culture and so on to adjust to the new generations of leaders and workforce as well as the 21st century as a whole.  Sunley argues that understanding the differences between the generations could give organisations the edge when managing the shift in their workforce.  Appreciating the five key differences could help directors form a more effective leadership strategy.

How Should Leadership Styles be Adapted?
The Cass study suggested that, “Foremost among the new leadership skills will be emotional intelligence, people skills and flexibility, which will be needed to attract and motivate a more diverse and mobile workforce… This more collaborative form of leadership will be key to helping executives navigate the 21st Century workforce.”

Professor Cliff Oswick, Cass Deputy Dean, believes, "The increasing diversity of the global workforce will need to be taken into account by corporate leaders. Cultural awareness will be at a premium and leaders will have to cultivate emotional intelligence and be better attuned to gender differences."

What About Gamification?
I have been reading about this topic over the past week or so and it struck me that gamification looks like another way that organisations are coping with some of these new generational styles as well as the 21st century world of work as a whole.  The likes of Google are creating new ‘gamified’ offices that cater to the often young, innovative, creative types that they wish to attract and motivate.  They often include things such as gyms, gourmet cafeterias, dogs, hair stylists, scooters, massage parlours, slides, shops and so on to support the lifestyle and motivational needs of generation Y (amongst other things).

The fact that generation Y like to work together and collaborate is often encouraged by gamified solutions as well as new office spaces.  Rewards for collaboration can be encouraged by team leader boards, badges etc. as well as collaborative games being used to train, assess, build teams and so on.  ‘Gamified’, 21st century offices also support generation Y’s need for collaboration.  For example, offices are often made with areas specifically for people to bump into each other or act as the proverbial water cooler and encourage people to spark off one another and innovate.  Many offices now create open plan areas with smaller pods or seating areas within them to make collaboration natural, easy and fun.  For example, white board walls, pianos, ping pong tables and so on are often included in new offices to promote team bonding and collaboration.

Perhaps most strikingly, gamification is a way that generation Y can receive immediate feedback.  Members of generation Y are likely to have been brought up around video games and to have amassed a lot of hours playing them.  Games offer immediate feedback which could be why generation Y come to expect it from every aspect of life.  Gamification can allow immediate feedback to occur and give employees a virtual ‘pat on the back’ for completing actions.  This would be time consuming for their managers or peers to do and may not come naturally to them (especially if they are baby-boomers).

What can be gamified:

  • Recruitment – see article. 
  • Learning and development - pixelfountain does this, see:  See article.
  • Strategy and implementation – pixelfountain also does this.  See article.
  • Communications (internal and external) and Marketing - see articles here and here.
  • Rewards, incentives and recognition – e.g. Badgeville.
  • The cultivation of a specific corporate culture – see article.

Motivation is extremely important at work, both for the employees and the organisations.  The infographic below sums up very well how generations X and Y might be motivated differently to the baby boomers and how gamification can be utilised to engage and motivate the workers of today and tomorrow.

Infographic courtesy of Badgeville, click for larger image.
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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

How and Why Learning Simulations Work

pixelfountain design and develop learning simulations, so we thought we’d share some pixelfountain expertise, which is equally applicable to adults as children, rather than our usual games-ED and education focused bloggery.  Not every subject lends itself to a simulation approach and not every learning need or outcome requires such a comprehensive method.  However, learning simulations can be extremely powerful learning tools and this blog article should help explain what learning simulations are and why they are used.

What are Learning Simulations?

First, they are different to games and models, although there is some overlap:

Learning Simulations

Serious yet fun
Learning / Knowledge
Information / Knowledge
Fantasy / Randomness
Real enough
As accurate as can be
Open-ended / Flexible

Usability / User Interface:
Hard in more detailed games
Easy to use
Can be hard


Research into Learning Simulations

A 2010 meta-analysis study conducted by researchers from University of Colorado Denver Business School reported that workers trained on simulation games versus formal classroom or web based tutorials, do their jobs better with greater skill and higher retention of relevant information. Workers not only had higher attainment of declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge at 11% and 14%, but more importantly they developed self-efficacy at a significantly higher rate - 20%. This is one’s belief in their own ability and competence to perform effectively in challenging situations with the intrinsic motivation to attain the desired goal or outcome.

Where Can Learning Simulations be Used?

Learning simulations also have various features that match to learning outcomes, but the subject area has to be appropriate:

Subject Area
Learning Need / Outcome
Big picture:
·         The subject can be thought of in terms of PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal & Environmental).
·         Individuals act according to drivers.
Strategic thinking:
·         Allowing learners to understand how differing PESTLE drivers can impact on direction and requirements.
·         Allowing learners to see issues from other people’s perspective.
·         Providing learners with the skills to make more strategic decisions or understand that decisions have a strategic dimension.
Complexity - components of the system (organisation / community / environment) need to be understood in terms of their relationship to other components.
Systems thinking:
·         Allowing learners to understand and deal with complexity.
·         Allowing learners to think of the machine rather than the cogs within it.
·         Providing learners with a mental map of the system enabling them to make better networks and improve decision making.
Cause and Effect - Decisions can have impacts throughout the system. If this then that and that and that, which makes …
·         Decision making - allowing learners to think about the impact of decisions. 
·         Joined-up thinking - allowing learners to think about multiple variables rather than linear thinking - typical of traditional training.
·         Providing an implementation mind set: this is how things work, this is how I can get things done.
Authenticity (situational understanding):
·         The subject is best understood in context.
·         The conduct of individuals is best understood in context.

Situational / Behavioural Understanding:
·         Allowing learners to test hypotheses and make mistakes.
·         Allowing learners to experience pressure and develop techniques to deal with it.
·         Allowing learners to understand that their decisions and behaviours impact on others and the system. Practice makes perfect.
·         Providing learners with a robust set of skills and behaviours (collaborative mind set).
·         Providing trainers with an integrated approach (testing skills and behaviours).

What Makes Learning Simulations so Powerful?

Sitting behind a simulation is an algorithm. This is a set of equations that “model” a situation. These equations are impacted by variables that change due to decisions made by the learners. What happens in a simulation is dependent on the actions of learners and is not buffeted by the vagaries of the coin toss or a Chance Card. That is not to say that randomness has no place whatsoever in a simulation. For example, when calculating the temperature at a given moment in a climate change simulation might require a degree of randomness (say 20%), which makes the simulation feel more real; i.e. the weather is not totally predictable.

Real Enough

Whilst the simulation “models” a situation, it is not a model in the strictest sense. A learning simulation needs to be real enough to allow learners to quickly explore a situation without getting too bogged down in detail.

Ensuring the Algorithm is Real Enough:
[Italics show input form client and subject matter experts (SME)].
Analysis & Initial Design:
   o   Scoping with client.
   o   Interviews with subject matter experts.
   o   Initial design created and is signed off.
Detailed Design:
   o   Look and feel + user interface.
   o   Algorithm developed with input from SME.
   o   Incidents developed.
   o     Detailed design created and is signed off.
   o    Media and interface.
   o    Incorporate algorithm.
Testing & Tuning.
   o    User group plays the simulation and provides feedback.
   o    The simulation is then tweaked.
Train the Trainer and roll out of the programme.

We will discuss more about how to develop a learning simulation in a couple of weeks with our very own infographic.

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Wednesday, 10 July 2013

25 Games Based Learning Articles (and Infographic)

The past few weeks I have been discussing the merits and practicalities of teaching children to program (Part 1: Why is Teaching Children to Program so Important?).  This is a topic close to our hearts and is obviously related to games based learning.  However, it is coming at it from a very different angle.  So this week I thought I’d offer you a round up of 25 more traditional games based learning articles (and an infographic).

Infographic courtesy of The Knowledge Guru. Click here for full sized image.

  1. Mario Kart in the Classroom: the rise of games-based learning - A great article from a converted sceptic of games based learning.
  2. Why Game Based Learning = Good Classroom Practice - Why the rules that govern well designed learning games apply equally well to good classroom practice, including four principles incorporated into most powerful learning games.
  3. The School Where Learning is a Game - A case study of Quest, a school in America that uses games to teach.
  4. 7 Reasons for Games Based Learning - Reasons why games should be incorporated into children’s learning experience, including narrative, emotional engagement and freedom to fail.
  5. How do you Teach Empathy? Harvard Pilots Game Simulation - A group of Harvard education researchers develop a game that enables players to develop their understanding of other people’s perspectives and empathy.
  6. Mediocrity versus Mastery: The Case for Game-Based Learning - Explains how games based learning makes sense in the 21st century and how games can train children to get excited about driving their own education.
  7. Embalm Your Own Egyptian Mummy On-line! - a game that teaches children about the processes involved with embalming a mummy.
  8. Why Learning Games Succeed Where Traditional Learning Fails - Including that they are realistic and social.
  9. Using Fantasy in Instructional Games - Research that shows that fantasy can aid learning.
  10. Learn to Play and Play to Learn: The Secret to Games That Teach - Some of the merits of games based learning, including the more motivating nature of a Game Over screen than an F on a test, as well as the importance of good design in educational games.
  11. CHERMUG mini-games for research methods and statistics - Games to teach university level students research methods and statistics.
  12. Games Teach! - A retort to an article, ‘Games Don’t Teach’.  Contains some good pieces of research that show the merits of games, including “Wolfe (1997) found a game-based approach produced significant knowledge level increases. (7 studies)”
  13. Teaching Like a Game Designer - A checklist for teachers to design learning games (not just computer games), including defining the goal and rules and how the player receives feedback.
  14. Mobile Game Get Water Teaches About Water Scarcity with Good Gameplay and Narrative - A fun game to teach children about social issues such as water scarcity, gender inequality and educational problems.
  15. Game based Learning – Why Does it Work? - Defines what fun can mean in games, essential elements for learning and how game elements meet learning needs.
  16. Cognitive Flow: The Psychology of Great Game Design - looks at how game design can lead to cognitive flow which is the ideal state for learning.
  17. Playful Learning: Computer Games in Education - A presentation from Microsoft Education that explains the merits of games based learning, making games, overcoming challenges and so on.
  18. Games For Good - Tired of simply defending games and explaining why they aren’t bad, the author tries to explain how games can actively lead to good.  Includes a run down of what some popular games such as Civilisation and Assassin’s Creed taught them (e.g. history, geography, navigation, Italian…).
  19. The Big Five: Five Reasons Why Educational Games Work - Includes less talked about reasons such as the fact that they allow players/learners to continually practice complex concepts, that proper utilisation of avatars can reduce barriers like self confidence, that games can lead to affinity groups and so on.
  20. Game-Based vs Traditional Learning – What’s the Difference? - Includes factors such as authenticity and creativity.
  21. Lame-based Learning - The author despairs about how people view games based learning.  For example, how they see it as an adjunct to a serious curriculum.
  22. APPitic - Not an article, but a site that lists educational apps by age, topic etc.
  23. Game Design: The Key to Education? - How to make learning environments more engaging using principles of game play e.g. solving problems builds expertise, learning happens by doing and so on.
  24. 10 Ways Teachers Are Using MMORPGs In The Classroom - Including for behaviour management, science, to promote collaboration etc.
  25. 50 Awesome Videos for Gaming Teachers - a collection of videos about using games in education.
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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Part 6: Programming, Project Based Learning and games-ED

Project Based Learning (PBL) is big news in the education world.  I wrote a blog article about the benefits of PBL in March, which you can read here.  I also discussed a new school in the U.S. that used PBL heavily to teach its children, in this article.  It is essentially a way of teaching children things through them completing a project.  They are given a topic or goal and they must complete a project around it.  It is an extremely engaging way of learning that enables children to see the real-world value of the knowledge they gain.

Image courtesy of NMCorg on Flickr.
Teaching children programming lends itself very well to PBL, either at a whole class level, or in smaller groups.  Using the goal of creating a game, children can learn to program along with many other skills (media skills, logic, problem solving, creativity, maths etc.).  The project could also be situated around a subject, which could increase subject matter knowledge in a stealthy way.  For example, a game about history would lead children to learn about that history, for the game to be successful.  The project could also go further and teach children entrepreneurial skills, business skills, marketing skills, social media skills etc. if the game is to be sold and marketed.  Even if it was never to be actually marketed, a hypothetical case could be presented and the children could still learn these skills.

games-ED (which brings you this blog, see tab at top of page for more info) believes that it is important for children to have some understanding of programming.  We also appreciate the myriad of extra skills to be gleaned from teaching children to program and how powerful PBL can be.  The skills that we use to develop games combined with our ability to deliver training enables us to run PBL courses.  We have experience of running 450 workshops and 40 school classes and have previous PBL experience.  For examples, see Climate Crew and Eco Busters.  For more information visit:

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Monday, 1 July 2013

Part 5: Case Study - Code Club

Code Club is a U.K. network of free after-school clubs to teach children between the ages 9 and 11 to program.  It is volunteer-led and it provides groups with specially written projects to help them learn basic programming.  The projects teach children how to program by showing them how to make computer games, animations and websites.

Their mission is to give every child in the UK the chance to learn to code.  They aim to have Code Club in 25% of primary schools in the UK by the end of 2015.  So far they have 899 clubs across the UK.

Each term, children learn new skills.  Terms 1 & 2 use Scratch to teach programming basics.  Term 3 teaches the basics of web development using HTML and CSS.  Term 4 teaches Python and so on.  Volunteers go to their local club for an hour a week and teach one project per week.  Clubs are usually held in schools, but also can be held in libraries, community centres etc.

Their philosophy: “Code Club is about fun, creativity and learning through exploring. It’s important that the children enjoy their time at Code Club and that it doesn’t feel like another school lesson. They should understand that they’re in charge of the computer, and can (and should) make it do what they want, not the other way around.”

They have also launched Code Club World and already have some clubs in other countries.  The mission of is to give every child in the world the chance to learn to code by providing project materials and a volunteering framework that supports the running of after-school coding clubs.  So far, they have materials in English, Brazilian Portuguese, Dutch, German, Norwegian and Ukranian.  They also welcome any offers to translate the materials into your native language.

If you want to learn more, support Code Club or even start your own visit: or for Code Club World:

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