Gamification, or adding a little excitement to your work

by Holly Boyer, former Head Editor, INALJ Virginia
previously published 4/14/14

Gamification, or adding a little excitement to your work

holly bIf you’re looking for a librarian position in an academic (or even a public or school) library, you’ve probably seen ads that require familiarity with emerging technologies. And if you’re like me, you aren’t really sure what that means. In my last INALJ article I wrote about how academic libraries are using social media as an emerging technology. This time around I explore gamification.

Gamification is exactly what it sounds like: incorporating game dynamics into situations where they wouldn’t normally be, like information literacy instruction. The NMC Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Preview defines is as, “the integration of gaming elements, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game situations and scenarios.” The oft-cited example is that of Foursquare, an app-based social media tool that awards users with badges and designations (such as the Mayor of a location) when users “check in” at a location.

Gamification of instruction is the natural step. Research indicates that playing videos games increases production of dopamine, a hormone that makes learning easier. Also, “people are more motivated, engaged, and often achieve more in games than in the real world.” Plus, adding gaming elements to non-gaming situations is just plain fun (at least if you’re doing it right.)

There are many ways that librarians can incorporate gamification into instruction, especially in information literacy teaching.

  • One example is the Twitter vs. Zombies events that occurred in November 2012 and February 2013. This game was created as a tool to teach users about Twitter as a sort of connectivist MOOC. Participants learned by doing and from other participants. During the two days this game was active, participants learned a great deal about Twitter and other online media, such as what is and how to use a hashtag, insert links into tweets, publish to other social media sites, and so much more.
  • Another example of gamification is the North Carolina State University Libraries mobile scavenger hunt. In addition to more traditional introduction to the library instruction, professors have the option to have their class participate in a library scavenger hunt. Using one of the library’s iPod Touch devices, groups of students have 25 minutes to answer as many of 15 questions as they can. They submit their answers through Evernote, a note-taking app. Through this activity, students become comfortable navigating the library while having fun and with a bit of competition.

There are many ways that you can incorporate game play into instruction, such as level or badge systems (I went to a talk on YALSA’s lifelong learning badge system at Midwinter 2012 that looked interesting) or even rewards programs (like I have my grocery store!)

If you’d like to learn more, the Gaming Round Table is hosting an ALA Annual preconference on Friday, June 27 in Las Vegas called Using Meaningful Gamification to Motivate Library Users: A Hands-on Workshop. It sounds fun and educational! (Of course, I won’t be able to attend since I’m on the committee for this NMRT public speaking preconference.)

Here are a few additional resources if you’d like to read more:

The NMC Horizon Project, which publishes reports for Higher Ed, K-12, and Museums
• Kyle Turco’s Infographic on the history of gamification
• Bohyun Kim’s article for ACRL on gamification
• Jimmy Daly’s article “Where does gamification fit in higher education?” (including another nifty infographic)

Adding gaming elements to instructions makes it more fun, incentivizes and motivates students to learn, gives bragging rights to the nerds with the most badges or highest level attainment, and there is always the possibility of zombies.