Educational gamification at school: learning by playing with game based learning, apps and serious games

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Educational gamification consists in the use of typical game, video game and game design elements in non-game contexts such as schools, marketing, corporate training, but also health and politics.

Academic publications such as How gamification motivates: an experimental study of the effects of specific game design elements on psychological need satisfaction or Why we play games: four keys to more emotion without story confirm that gaming satisfies the need for competence and meaningfulness of the tasks performed.

Educational gamification is in fact based on the principle that play is a natural and entertaining form of learning that can help human beings in memorisation processes.

Table of contents

Educational gamification: what it is in short

According to the well known Treccani encyclopaedia, the neologism educational gamification stands for a game based learning methodology capable of engaging participants more than a traditional method would.

According to Bret Terril, who in 2008 as senior director corporate development of the gaming company Zinga unleashed the term, educational gamification means: «Applying game mechanics to other properties of reality in order to increase engagement».

Educational gamification, therefore, does not mean making lessons playful, but rather stimulating learning with elements typical of games and video games.

Why do we like to play?

According to Jane McGonigal (renowned game designer, author of the book Reality is broken and former director of Games research and development in California), the activity of playing brings out the best in us.

Playing stimulates motivation, interest, creativity and positive feelings that help those who experience them in their daily activities. In fact, kids who play video games like Halo or Call of Duty 1-2 hours a day would show better reflexes, a higher attention threshold and are less likely to suffer from neurosis.

In other words, according to the game designer, if we translated most of our daily tasks into play activities, we could complete them with more motivation and better results.

gamification didattica

The flow experience

The Hungarian psychologist Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi believes that a kind of rapture of the mind, called “flow experience”, occurs during the game phases. This condition makes the subject totally absorbed in the activity he is performing, giving him pleasure. This happens because, more often than not, games have a simple structure: there is a task to be performed, it is controllable and gives immediate feedback, also a reward that confers gratification.

For the flow experience to take place optimally, however, it is necessary for the levels of the game to be articulated according to the logic of the climax, which by nature gives a sense of progression. This illusion leads players to greater concentration that can distract them from everyday frustrations and worries. And this is why we enjoy playing.

Conversely, excessive fatigue would undermine the core gaming experience, leading to anger, frustration and anxiety. In the case of training, there can be no emotional learning without the right mix; dosing the elements of a game is up to those who organise, create or develop it.

The reward mechanism

As behaviourism states, rewards fix behaviour much more than punishments. Educational gamification, in fact, induces the subject to try again, teaching him that in case of failure he will have a second chance. The error thus becomes an opportunity to improve, a remediable condition.

In games, the subject lives a temporary impasse; nothing prevents him from trying again and progressing at his own time.

Researchers Neal and Jana Hallford describe four types of rewards that can be obtained through play:

However, what makes games and, in particular, videogames really effective in learning processes is the fact that they provide immediate feedback on one’s performance, which is no small thing if one wants to maintain a high level of involvement.

Learning, in fact, is a continuous process of confirmations and adjustments, it is always based on the comparison between the expected output and the one actually achieved; only by correcting one’s mistakes can one adjust one’s aim.

Score relevance

Getting a high score, comparing it with others and, why not, bragging about it to colleagues, classmates and friends satisfies the human need for challenge, as well as the sociability that comes with it. Educational gamification, then, enhances social skills and motivates students enormously. Not using it in learning processes would be unstrategic.

gamification didattica

Educational gamification at school

There are many strategies for implementing gamification at school, but the simplest is to make use of existing platforms that reduce the risk of failure because:

However, it cannot be ruled out that the teacher may wish to be more flexible or customise the experience for his or her students. In that case, he or she will have to make use of tried and tested game mechanics such as the use of:

How to apply educational gamification in the classroom

To apply educational gamification in the classroom, 5 simple steps must be followed.

Defining learning goals

It’s essential to establish what knowledge and skills one wants to transmit to the students through play.

Choosing the most suitable game or software

It’s crucial to choose the game or programme that best suits the learning objectives, both in terms of the level of the students and the time available to them.

Designing gamification

Rules, challenges, rewards, feedback and ways of interacting with the game must be defined in detail in order to make it engaging, motivating and fun.

Implementing playful elements

The playful elements should be implemented in the classroom, in practice, monitoring the degree of engagement and the results achieved by the students, so that action can be taken in the event of difficulties or problems.

Evaluating the results

It is appropriate, by means of a cross-check, to verify whether the learning goals have been achieved and if the educational gamification has had a positive effects on the learning process.


Educational gamification has several benefits, both for teachers and students. It does, in fact:

Educational gamification tools

Educational gamification uses certain tools to achieve its educational purposes. Here some examples.

Game based learning

It’s a form of learning based on games or videogames designed to achieve an educational goal. Game based learning can be used both as a complementary tool and as a substitute for traditional education. For example, many videogames cover topics such as bullying, migration, war victims, etc.

Serious games

Serious games are games or videogames designed to train, educate or teach mathematics, history, languages, etc. They are intended to educate through fun. Basically, they aim to educate through entertainment.

Gamification apps

Gamification apps allow the integration of playful elements with other educational activities such as quizzes, exercises, project work, etc. Some allow the creation of badges, points, levels, rankings, missions and much more.

Educational gamification examples

Here 4 concrete examples of educational gamification, designed for schools.


Classcraft is one of the most popular educational gamification platforms. It allows you to configure different game mechanics such as classes, avatars, events, maps, points and much more.

Renovatio Quest

Renovatio Quest is a free serious game designed by Enea Montoli, a high school teacher in Milan. The game makes maths and physics problems lighter and more fun and can be used by both students and teachers.

Minecraft Education Edition

Minecraft is a popular open world videogame that allows you to explore virtual places made up of Lego style blocks and interact with other players. In Minecraft Education Edition you can search for raw minerals, make tools, objects and build structures. The game, owned by Microsoft since 2014, is available on multiple platforms.

In its education version, kids can:

Each map is free, but to play you need to buy a copy of the game at a cost of around ten euros. Minecraft is also a good way to spend time with your children.

World Peace Game

World Peace Game is a board game designed by educational consultant John Hunter. The goal is to achieve prosperity by solving the world’s problems with minimal military intervention, the opposite of Risk. The game confronts primary school pupils with ethical problems, generating “creative chaos”.

Enter into the world of educational gamification, create your game!

Educational gamification is an innovative methodology that uses the power of play to make learning more engaging, motivating and fun. It can be applied to different disciplines and enables the development of transversal skills.

If you would like to enter the world of educational gamification, create your game, use our platforms and find out more, contact us by filling in the contact form below or by calling 095 5865339; a team of experts will help you define your learning goals and possibly gamify your activities.

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