Gamification In Genetics

(graphic courtesy of BigFishGames/blog/stats)

The question was recently posed to me on Twitter:

How is GAMIFICATION impacting Life Sciences–specifically GENETICS?

My answer was simple: In many powerful ways combined with crowd-sourced “citizen scientists”!

To follow-up with Abraham, here are a few reference links to information on the GAMIFICATION OF GENETICS

The Gamification of Scientific Discovery from BigFish Games

Gamification & Genetics







Fierce’s top 5 feats in life sciences ‘gamification’

Gamification of life science – The CAGI challenge



Gamification in Education

Below is a great infographic on Gamification in Education. It is from Knewton Learning. The Gamification in Education infographic emphasizes the amount of time spent by people playing games in other areas of life and begs the question of whether the intrinsic values of gamification can also be incorporated into education, to increase the engagement, graduation, and important skills needed by students in the future.

As I’ve written in previous posts, it’s first important to distinguish Game-based Learning from Gamification, while recognizing there are measurable cognitive, social, emotional, and learning increases, with successful implementation.

See also: Gamification in Education: What? How? Why Bother?

Gamification in Education

Some signification data points from the Infographic include:

Continue Reading…

educational thought leadersThank you to for including me in their recent blog post (August 5, 2013) titled 5 Questions for 5 EdTech Thought Leaders

The article contains answers from four other educational thought leaders:

Following are the questions that were posed to us and my answers:

In your opinion, what’s the most exciting thing happening right now in digital learning?

Individualized and personalized learning that is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week from mobile devices.

Technology versus textbooks: will there ever be a winner?

I don’t believe published paper text books to be a sound investment when there are dynamic and interactive digital options that can always be easily updated. While I may personally prefer the freely-available openness of the Internet and its vast array of resources, I understand the need for grade-level appropriate, self-contained, subject-specific digital texts. That said, I worry about student families and institutions being beholden to expensive publisher costs for eTexts.

What’s going to be the next big thing in educational technology?


If you could give one piece of advice to teachers about to integrate technology in their classroom this fall, what would it be?

Don’t hesitate because you think you have to be the controlling expert. Start small and learn alongside your class. Most importantly: Have fun!

What’s your best kept EdTech secret?

If there is an “EdTech secret”, it’s that people are the most significant ‘technology’ and that learning occurs best when powerful connections are made. Technology is simply a tool to help teachers extend their reach and for students to access content, investigate, share, and produce demonstrations of their understandings.

I encourage you to read the original article for all of the insights from the above noted educational thought leaders. Follow them on Twitter and visit their web sites for outstanding information on educational technology and learning in the digital age!

Original eSparkLearning article: Educational Thought Leaders

About eSparkLearning — Their mission is to transform learning so it’s personalized, best of breed, engaging, and mobile; enabling students to succeed in school and in life.

A wonderful article posted today at STEMwire on gamification and game-based learning.

Read the original article at:

Article from

More than just play: game-based learning environments are powerful tools for STEM

Patrick Stinnett, a technology education teacher at Oconomowoc High School, makes sure that students in his Elements of Game Design class understand one thing very quickly: it is not a class “where we just sit around and play video games.” Stinnett’s students use different software applications to test and design their own games.

His class represents a growing movement to recognize the entire gaming universe – from design to play to gamer culture – as a set of tools that could revolutionize educational practices.

Game-based learning environments

Traditionally, the games-for-learning concept has implied the use of games with education content to teach a specific skill or concept. Learning sciences researchers, however, have in recent years expanded the idea of what a “game-based environment” in learning can be.

“I define game-based learning fairly broadly… I think of an environment that offers a chance to either design or play a game that uses a lot of principles of game design that learning sciences talk about, but I see it as a little bit broader than just off the shelf or commercial games,” said Dr. Dani Herro, assistant professor of digital media and learning at Clemson University. “Anything that would be a game like experience, that offers challenge, a chance to design.”

Game-based environments can be implemented in different ways in STEM classrooms. Some teachers use individual programs like Gamestar Mechanic, teaching video game design in additional to their regular material. The Quest to Learn school in New York City, on the other hand, emphasizes an environment that uses principles of game design and game play to teach a normal standards-based curriculum. Emerging research indicates that these non-traditional ways of conveying content, and teaching skills like logic and design thinking, can be more effective than a traditional lecture setting.

“When you have an environment that’s a little more immersive, kids don’t stop, they don’t quit when something becomes challenging,” said Herro. “They push themselves to keep solving the problem because they want their [game] to work. I guess I’ve been so amazed at how hard a child will work.”

A unique medium to develop STEM skills

Stinnett sees this same work ethic in the students in his Elements of Game Design class. The subject matter of game design brings many STEM skills to his students.

“With the programming,” said Stinnett, “You’re going to have to have logic. You pick up technical skills, like using the computer, manipulating the computer. We use Google Docs so they know how to get on the Internet, do email, so they’re picking up those things.”

He adds that programming also brings important lessons in group work to his classroom.

“They know how to collaborate, because they’re going to work as groups, they do peer reviews on each others’ games… they’re learning to collaborate together and give suggestions,” says Stinnett.

Despite these advantages, many teachers avoid incorporating game-based activities or modules into their classes because of time constraints. If, for example, a teacher is not already comfortable with games, they might have to devote significant amounts of time to developing a meaningful lesson.

Strict, assessment-based curricular requirements might not leave room for creative lessons. But Stinnett thinks it is worth the effort.

“There’s no other medium that is like games. You don’t have any other medium where you’re engaged, where you can control the medium… You control the story, the sound, you control everything,” says Stinnett. “Teachers should keep in mind that it’s not just playing games. Somebody makes them, and that making is really where the STEM comes in. It’s designing them, it’s creating them, and that it’s a multibillion dollar industry. It touches everybody.”

Game play and culture can also teach STEM

Just as they do in classrooms like Stinnett’s, game environments outside of the classroom can build critical STEM skills. Dr. Sean Duncan, an assistant professor at Indiana University Bloomington, has studied more traditional, narrative-based gaming platforms such as World of Warcraft and Legend of Zelda to better understand science activities that occur in these spaces. Duncan hypothesized that STEM-like processes occurred in spaces around the games; specifically, he studied what happens when players discuss game activities and design in forums.

“We can identify model-based reasoning, see how they’re using math, see how they’re using arguments, using evidence,” said Duncan. “It dawned upon me that what they’re really doing is trying to figure out how to shape the design of the game. They’re trying to understand how the game works, but also induce the community to get the game redesigned in ways that they would prefer it to be. ”

Duncan thinks that the video game industry could work together with educators, researchers, and designers to actively encourage these kinds of non-formal learning communities.

“There’s a real interest in cultivating these kinds of communities,” said Duncan. “But haven’t been turned on to the fact that thinking about them as learning spaces could be very useful to them as well. So it’s really a matter of trying to triangulate. We have theories of learning, models of practice, and people who pay attention to everyday learning culture and also game design, and they’re not all taking to each other. Helping them all understand each others’ perspectives is where I’m at right now.”

Implementation will require buy-in from teachers

Teachers like Herro and Stinnett face significant obstacles in creating these kinds of learning environments in K-12 settings. Parents who don’t want their kids to just play games all day might seem like the hardest population to win over, but both Herro and Stinnett note that, given the opportunity to understand the educational potential of games, most parents support their use in classrooms. Some can relate games to their own learning experiences.

“I’ve had parents who will talk to me, if they’re a nurse, about how robotic heart surgery is similar to holding a joystick,” said Herro.

Stinnett notes the importance of having “a principal or somebody in the administration to really back [you]” in implementing game-based lessons, especially in convincing reluctant teachers to put time into a new way of teaching.

“You get teachers in the school who are like, ‘eh, it’s games’, and you have the older teachers who don’t believe in it, and don’t think it has any use in the school environment,” he said. “So having an administrator that gets it and understands what kids are learning from the games and how they design them is huge.”

Incorporating games, game design, and game-based environments into K-12 educational settings is just one piece of a growing movement to increase the use of technology in education. The ubiquity of games outside the classroom and the engagement that they create within it indicates that they could be powerful tools for engaging a new generation of students and teachers in STEM.

“There’s a faddishness to education technology… but the thing that’s a little bit different about games is that games were something the kids were already doing, something that the kids are going to be continuing to do as the median age of gamers just goes up and up,” said Duncan. “There’s a lot of value in just thinking about games as culture, as a part of a larger engagement in media in our daily lives… as less like a tool to fill a particular content role, and much more the persistent force in kids’ lives.”

Games Can and Do Teach

In the Gamification debate

The evidence is clear that games can and do teach. We also know that online learning and lectures often do not teach. In the end, it is not the vehicle delivering the instruction that makes the difference, it’s the design.

  • Original Research [DOWNLOAD PDF]
    Does Game-Based Learning Work? Results from Three Recent Studies
    Richard Blunt, Ph.D.
    Advanced Distributed Learning

Summarizing the gamification research, in an article from Learning Solutions Magazine:

The findings indicated that the mean scores of students in classes using the game were significantly higher than those of students in classes that did not. There were no significant differences between genders, yet both genders scored significantly higher with game play. There were no significant differences between ethnicities, yet all ethnic groups scored significantly higher with game play. Students 40 years and under scored significantly higher with game play, while students 41 and older did not. Blunt further indicates that “these studies add definitive research in the area of game-based learning. The DoD now has studies proving the efficacy of digital game-based learning and how it can improve learning.”

While three studies indicating learning from games is a start, and already debunks the myth that “games don’t teach,” one could make an argument that it is hardly a foundation for making the assertion that games teach. True, but this is not the only research indicating games are effective teachers.

Connolly, et al. (2011) looked at more studies and reached the same conclusion. They conducted a meta-analysis (study of studies) by reviewing 129 papers reporting evidence related to the impacts and outcomes of computer games and serious games with respect to learning and engagement. The majority of the studies reviewed—121 (94 percent)—reported quantitative data, with eight (six percent) reporting qualitative data. One strong conclusion they reached was that the most “frequently occurring outcomes and impacts were knowledge acquisition/content understanding and affective and motivational outcomes.” Certainly, knowledge acquisition and content understanding are learning—learning from games.

In the two meta-analysis papers Clark reports on, both authors indicated that games teach (see comments on original article). These findings from Blunt, Connolly, et al., Hays, Sitzmann, and others support the argument that games teach and positively impact motivation. This isn’t looking at one isolated study. It is looking at over a hundred studies both qualitative and quantitative, from different meta-analysis studies and individual studies. The evidence is clear and compelling.


Game Based Learning


Last spring, Belle Sherman partnered with Imagine Learning, language and literacy software company, to provide game-based activities for learning English, struggling readers, students with disabilities and early childhood education students. For three months, selected students in pre-Kindergarten to fifth grade participated in a pilot program, using the software an average of 20 minutes a day. (Note: an average of ONLY 20 minutes per day)

While game-based learning cannot take the place of traditional teaching, it is a resource to fill in students’ individual knowledge gaps and enhance the learning experience for all students

The program is receiving national attention after Belle Sherman Principal Dan Breiman [LinkedIn] wrote about the program’s success in the recent issue of National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESPPrincipal’s Magazine.

Read Principal Breiman’s Game-Based Learning Report: pdf-icon


 About Principal Daniel Breiman

Innovative leaders are to be commended for their ability to recognize and implement positive institutional change.

From the Ithaca City School District

Mr. Breiman has worked in education for 10 years, beginning as an inclusion teacher in New York City Public Schools. He went on to serve as special education chair before becoming a principal of an elementary school in Houston, Texas, where he and his family have lived for eight years. Dan is originally from Ithaca and he and his family are eager to return.

As a principal, Mr. Breiman raised student achievement, expanded the fine arts program, increased
overall student attendance, improved security and safety of students and staff, and began the transition to an International Baccalaureate Program. He is passionate about learning and raising achievement of all students, while understanding the importance of inclusion and diversity and the role they play in teaching and learning.

Imagine Learning’s Research

NOTE: This is provided for information only because I believe the underlying research is important.
I am not being paid and this is not an endorsement.
The following is from their web site at:

Research shows that Imagine Learning English has a positive impact on students’ literacy and language ability. Students in Illinois saw great gains in literacy, based on their scores on the Illinois Snapshot of Early Literacy (ISEL). Students in California improved significantly in language, which is reflected in student scores on the California English Language Development Test (CELDT). To view summaries of these studies, click the links below.