Wikipedia defines gamification thusly:

Gamification is the use of game design techniques, game thinking and game mechanics to enhance non-game contexts.

Typically gamification applies to non-game applications and processes, in order to encourage people to adopt them, or to influence how they are used. Gamification works by making technology more engaging, by encouraging users to engage in desired behaviors, by showing a path to mastery and autonomy, by helping to solve problems and not being a distraction, and by taking advantage of humans’ psychological predisposition to engage in gaming. The technique can encourage people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading web sites.

But what exactly is it?

Well if you go on Khan Academy for any length of time, you’ll see precisely what I’m talking about.

On that website my kids (and my students) earn *badges*, *energy points*, and whatnot from answering questions correctly in a row and/or very quickly and from mastering topics…

Whatever it is, I must say it works.

Because they get super excited about about every ridiculous accolade and virtual word of praise a website bestows on them. I guess I used to get excited about fancy stickers and stars drawn on my tests by elementary teachers too…

And it’s not just on Khan – gamification is rampant on all of these well-designed educational websites. They are harnessing the “science” of addictive, progressively-more-difficult video games for more noble purposes.

Like I said, it seems to be effective. Earlier today I sicced my son on a new website I came across – – and he enthusiastically pecked away at it for well over an hour. (He learned important new words: paradox, ostentatious, hyperbole, gregarious, juxtaposition, etc.)  I had no idea whether it was a decent site or not….but the *hour plus* he spent on it provided all the proof I need.

And just the other day I witnessed another example of successful gamification with him.

Now I had been trying to get him *more into* chess for a while now…but these things are delicate. Chess can be a very serious/intense affair for young people. The last thing I’d ever want to do would be to burn him out or turn him off by pushing too hard.

So the other day John asked to play in an online tournament (they have them every hour on and I gave him the green light. Well he absolutely loved it! He was all fired up throughout the 1.5 hours it lasted and has been begging every day since to go online and participate in another anonymous, no-physical trophy chess battle.

How could I possibly say “no”???

Technology is doing amazing things these days…

But are YOU harnessing it for your own noble, educational purposes???