Digital Games for Empowerment & Inclusion

I have been inited to the expert workshop on Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion” taking place in Seville, 23-24 January 2012. This workshop is part of the “Digital Games for Empowerment & Inclusion” (DGEI) programme, which is initiated and run by the European Commission’s Information Society Unit of the JRC-IPTS and DG INFSO ICT for Inclusion Unit. The programme started with the analysis of the State of Play of Digital Games for Empowerment and Inclusion, which aim is to:

“(…) to define key (technological, research, policy, industry/market, social, economic) opportunities and challenges of putting Digital Games at the service of empowerment and social inclusion purposes, and to gather evidence of impact in this domain.”

The aim of the forthcoming DGEI Expert Workshop in Seville is to:

“(…) discuss lessons learned, key drivers, opportunities and limitations of different approaches, practice and policy initiatives already in place, as well as to define the main issues to be addressed taking stock of existing knowledge and results from the field.”

I am really honored to be part of the DGEI programme and to be able to present some good/best practice “Made in Germany” and worldwide.

My goal is to collect good practice examples on how digital games can support empowerment and inclusion of groups at risk of social inclusion in three major areas, i.e.:

  • Adult literacy with focus on improving mastery of reading and writing
  • Participation with focus on social participaton of young people
  • Employability with focus on changing unemployment/precarious work situation

I will be very greatful to all of you for hints of good practice related to digital games in these three domains. What I am looking for are especially evaluation outcomes or any other evidence that digital game projects can support social inclusion.

Thank you for your comments on that!

Gamification in Education 2012

Gamification was definitely an important trend this year and it looks like it will continue to make an impact not only on marketing but also on education next year. The term “gamification” has even made it to the US selection of Oxford’s shortlist for the Word of the Year 2011!
Gamification is defined by the Oxford University Press as
 the application of concepts and techniques from games to other areas of activity.
Designing for gamification in education is not the same as as designing educational games. It is more about translating and transferring what we know about the potential of games for captivating attention, motivating to do things and coming back for more in educational settings. Andre R. Proto writes in his blog post on “Gamified Classroom”:
“With the current state of school budgets, teachers interested in gamification can’t depend on state funding to provide their class with the technology needed for video games. No matter how good a system, any gamification platform that relies on technology is sadly out of reach for many classrooms. We need a method for teachers to implement game mechanics into their classroom without adding to the financial burden. Any other solution, no matter how engaging, isn’t scalable.”
To me one of the most interesting projects ever is the school “Quest to Learn” in New York supporting a dynamic curriculum that uses the underlying principles of games:
“Quest to Learn has purposely responded not only to the growing evidence that digital media and games offer powerful models for reconsidering how and where young people learn, but also to the belief that access for all students to these opportunities is critical.”
Another project related to gamification in education that got much attention this year has been Mozilla Open Badges Project, aiming at “making it easy to issue and share digital learning badges across the web:
Learning today happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen outside of school. Mozilla’s Open Badges project is working to solve that problem, making it easy for anyone to issue, earn and display badges across the web — through a shared infrastructure that’s free and open to all.
Some interesting applications include the The Peer 2 Peer University and the course on “Open Badges and Assessment” started by Doug Belshaw. By the way, Mozilla Open Badges Initiative will be leading a track on “open Badges: open Data for Open ePortfolios” at ePIC 2012.
There have also been a number of individual initiatives with such pioneers as Lee Sheldon at Indiana University designing courses as multiplayer games and abandoning grades for game points. You can find out more about it in the blog “Gaming the Classroom“.
Another development worth mentioning are new features of the microblogging service Edmodo. Nic Borg, the co-founder of Edmodo, recognised the “the gamification of the classroom” trend: In 2011 Edmodo started offering some new functionalities such as badges — with which teachers can award students — and a Quiz Builder assessment engine.
If you take a closer look, all these projects show that the idea of gamification goes far beyond collecting points or badges and leveling-up. It is all about enhancing learner engament and supporting the learning process in a formative and iterative way. The premise of gamification is that it no use sitting and waiting for intrinsic motivation but it may be more effective to apply strategies to trigger interest and engagement. As Elizabeth Corcoran puts it in her article “Gaming Education“:
“Gamification, by contrast, doesn’t rely on internal motivation. Instead, it’s using the oldest tricks in the book: providing instantaneous feedback, egging on the competition, and rewarding even tiny steps of progress. Gamification assumes that the player isn’t especially motivated — at least at the beginning — and then provides barrels of incentives to ramp up that motivation.”
With this year coming to an end, it is the time for New Year’s resolutions.  As far as my work as researcher and lecturer (and starting from next semester as visiting professor for educational and social media studies), my personal resolution is to further explore the area of gamification in education.
What I am interested in, is to see how gamification can be applied to support university courses and online communities. This is of interest to me for a number of reasons. First, I would like to experience this new design process. Second, I want to find out what can change in the classroom – for good and for bad. Third, I would like to discover the patterns of gamification that can be of value for different types of courses in higher education. So, I will be re-designing my current courses soon and designing my new courses based on selected game principles. I am really looking forward to this new experience.
I have started curating the “Gamification in Education” topic with Games and Gamification on, a stack on Gamification on Delicious and a new Twitter stream with #gamification on Hootsuite. I am looking forward to sharing brilliant ideas and good practice from all over the world and across different educational contexts.
Last but not least, here are also some of the key blogging gamification experts that I have been following in the last months:

Hope you find this useful too …