Gamification – a useful innovation for language learning or just a fad? – #ELTChat summary (19/12/12)

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Gamification – a useful innovation for language learning or just a fad? – #ELTChat summary (19/12/12)

This post is a summary of an #ELTChat. If you know what it is, I hope you enjoy reading this and take a while to contribute or share. If you still don’t know what ELTChat is about – head over to the project’s website and give it a go. You’ll be glad you did!



1. The name of the game: What is gamification?
Royalty free image courtesy of

Royalty free image courtesy of

This was the first question to answer – and an important one, as several participants didn’t feel au fait with the concept, or at least with all its shapes and guises. Several definitions, examples and questions followed in this part:

  •  Gamification – the application of elements of games (esp. video games) to other walks of life, like the classroom (@Shaunwilden RT @DaveDodgson)
  •  Think about having levels, lives, goals, aims etc – all part of the gamified classroom (@DaveDodgson)
  •  Here is a definition of sort from wikipedia (@Marisa_C)
  •  I think gamification isn’t about playing games in class, but using the mechanics of game play to change how we teach. (@theteacherjames)
  •  Gamification is the use of game design thinking in non-game contexts (@grahamstanley / @eannegrenoble)

There were many more questions and problems related to defining the term (you can definitely read them all in the discussion’s transcript). But one of the first questions to handle came straight afterwards:


2. Gamification: a useful addition or a passing fad?

This one looked like it would divide the house, and there were a few doubts over how resilient and useful the concept would turn out to be – along some enthusiastic voices:

  •  If gamification refers to using games in class then it certainly isn’t a passing fad! (@naoimishema)
  •  I really like the idea of using ‘lives’, ‘bonuses’, ‘power-ups’ & ‘rewards’ with my classes. Not sure how but I like it! (@theteacherjames)
  •  Wikipedia article mentions reward points and badges – not my cup of tea so that part seems fad-ish to me :-) (@cioccas)
  •  Like anything, there is great potential for misapplicaiton e.g. simply renaming units as ‘levels’ or just focusing on rewards (@DaveDodgson)


3. “Who got game?” – gamification in a language classroom

This part seemed to be a lot more varied, as doubts, ideas and approaches were shared back and forth – we were very lucky to have Graham Stanley with us on the night!

  • This #gamification thing is more about classroom management than I realised (@teacherphili)
  • Think about it – when you start to play a game, you fail a lot and slowly figure it out… (@DaveDodgson)
  • [It] certainly builds tolerance to error and failure and a try again mentality (@cerirhiannon)
  • [Gamification] for me  can have a role to play in behaviour management , motivation and assessment in ELT (@Shaunwilden)
  • Games are also such a big part of YLs lives – I asked a class to describe their favourite games & they came out with tons of vocab and structures they had acquired from games. Using those terms in class for a non-gaming topic helps me connect with them (@DaveDodgson)
  • Instead of pass/fail students earn experience points and increase in level  – interesting twist on assessment (@grahamstanley)

4. The losing game – pitfalls of gamification in ELT classes

This, for me at least, was a really interesting part – for all the exciting and enjoyable things to be said about the concept, the participants did mention and discuss several problems associated with it. (I wonder if you can find solutions to these?)

  • gamification has lots of pitfalls – it’s not just about PBL (points, badges, levels) – also – too much focus on extrinsic motivation, demotivating some students (@grahamstanley)
  • when tapping into competitive streak (…) [it’s] good when they’re competing against the game and not each other (@ceirirhiannon)
  • I’ve seen far too many games and not enough focus on purpose in the classroom of late (@Shaunwilden)
  • true, & Students (esp young learners) pick up the “fake game” awfully quick – “it’s not fun, just pretending to play” (@Wiktor_K)

5. Pick up your game – gamification-related links and resources

– The definition – from Wikipedia

– Gamification – a free online course (Coursera)

– Jane McGonigal – the game design guru – on

– The ‘Gamification’ Of Education – on

– What Teachers Really Think About Game-Based Learning – on Mind/Shift

– “The Irony of Gamification” (flick through the PDF until you reach the article) – In English Digital

– Graham Stanley’s collection of articles on ramification

– Classdojo – a classroom management app

Teachers: would you use gamification in your language classes? Learners: is your language learning in need of some serious gaming-upping? How to go about it? Let us know. And see you all on #ELTChat!


About the author: Wiktor K.
I’m a passionate language learner and a keen-to-improve teacher and educator. I currently live in London and work for a language learning publisher. I love sailing, traveling, jazz, coffee, good company and new discoveries!

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