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Incentivizing Water Conservation With Gamification Startup Oasys

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With much of the West Coast mired in a years-long drought, it’s hard to get away from the stream of messaging about water conservation. But much of that messaging doesn’t get through. Many people still use (and unfortunately waste) water in the same way that they did when water was abundant. A gamification startup called Oasys has a developed a device that aims to help homeowners understand just how much water they use.

The Oasys device is shaped like a small disc. The device is linked to a band on the house’s water pump that sends water consumption information to the disc wirelessly, explains GOOD magazine. Mounted on the wall, consumers can view the 3.5-inch display screen on the disc to see how much water they’re using. The disc glows different colors to indicate the type of information on display.

“Basically, it can alert you to times when conservation is important, periods of time over which your water usage is increasing or decreasing, and even alert you (via smartphone updates) when there appears to be a leak in one of your house’s pipes,” GOOD says.

Oasys’ developers understand that homeowners already have ready access to devices that save water, such as low-flow showerheads and faucets. But those devices don’t tell you how much or how little water you’ve used. The Oasys device is based on the idea that awareness of water consumption can be a motivating factor to be diligent about conservation. The company describes its device as a FitBit for the home. Just as the FitBit keeps users aware of the number of steps they take throughout the day so they can set targets and reach goals, Oasys keeps tabs on water usage so users can set water consumption targets and goals. Oasys was developed to help instill in people behavioral changes that lead to permanent water savings in the long run.

So how well will Oasys work? GOOD points out that while the device does a good job of making people aware of their water use, it lacks the tasks, puzzles, and progressive levels of complexity that are characteristic of traditional gamification apps. The Oasys opportunity, GOOD explains, might be in appealing to the mindset and demographic that FitBit did – those already motivated to measure and make changes in their behavior.

Oasys could go even further. GOOD points out that Oasys could provide incentives for users to invest in actual water-saving devices, which would boost the reward aspect. The device could also be part of information sharing that ups the gamification component by comparing a user’s data to the water consumption information of others – perhaps feeding the competitive nature that some people feel. Oasys won’t end the drought but the technology is showing promise of becoming a new tool to water conservation efforts.

Image credit: flickr

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Modernizing Customer Loyalty Program With Canadian Tire Money

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Canadian Tire Brings a 20th Century Customer Loyalty Program Into the Digital Age

Loyalty programs have a long and varied history, with retailers rolling them out in different forms to entice longtime customers to continue spending with them. Canadian Tire, one of Canada’s largest automotive accessory retailers, has one of the oldest customer loyalty programs. Consumers who buy items with cash or credit cards earn paper bills that look like money. The Canadian Tire Money loyalty program has been in place since 1958.

Canadian Tire Money has proven popular with shoppers. The “money” earned isn’t real cash but it keeps consumers coming back to shop at company stores, where they can spend it. Now Canadian Tire is trying to bring its loyalty program into the digital age. The company has launched a new app for customers who also hold a cross-branded Mastercard, according to Marketing magazine. The card, which offers all of the perks of mobile banking, also employs concepts of gamification to promote its use. Swiping the card earns loyalty badges and promotional offers for the cardholder. “We think we can engage something that’s fun and exciting and very different than what other financial institutions are putting it out there,” Cam Thomson, Canadian Tire’s digital marketing manager tells Marketing.

The mobile app that works with the card tracks a customer’s Canadian Tire Money balance, as well as any Money earned as a reward for using the card. The app also has a built-in loyalty rewards system that awards badges for shopping in Canadian Tire stores; making other purchases, such as groceries; and for switching to paperless statements, Marketing explains. For every 10 badges that a cardholder earns, his or her Canadian Tire Money is multiplied by 10 over the next 10 days. Thomson says the money works out to about 8 percent cash back on Canadian Tire purchases.

The program is in its early days, but Canadian Tire believes that it’s positioned for success. In developing the loyalty program and the app, the company took inspiration from the Starbucks payments app – essentially a digitization of the old coffee punch card. Starbucks now reports that more than 20 percent of its total sales come through mobile apps. If customer uptake of the Canadian Tire mobile app and charge cards is as successful as the Starbucks program is proving to be, Canadian Tire Money will have truly evolved from into a loyalty program primed for the digital age.

Image credit: flickr

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Gamified Tutorial For College Courses Pre-Registration

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The New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering is a comprehensive university of engineering, applied science, and technology. Its 150 year history of education makes it one of the oldest engineering schools in the United States. With campuses in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai it is also a multi-cultural, global institution.

When the NYU Polytechnic changed their course registration procedure to a more self-service approach, they hoped it would lead students to take more ownership of their course of studies. Whereas before the students would be presented with a schedule and entered into courses by university staff, students would find and register for classes themselves through the new gamified tutorial system.

The Need For Training

Of course, students needed to be brought up to speed on the new paradigm. At first, the school created webinar sessions where a staff member would present the new steps for class registration. These were informative, but because the training sessions were held at set times certain students were unable to view any of the scheduled sessions. The school also wanted to ease the anxiety of new students enrolling in classes for the first time.

Enter Gamification

To meet this need, the Academic Advisement Center worked with the Faculty Innovations Teaching and Learning Center in February 2014 to develop a gamified system for course registration. In this system, the student logs in and completes a series of missions. Missions are scored and each mission  must be completed in order to move on to the next level.

Results

Because the new system is asynchronous, students can log on and complete the training at their own pace. Also because the new  gamified tutorial use gamification to keep students motivated and engaged. As a result, the university saw a higher percentage of students completing enrollment requirements ahead of schedule. The development team received an Innovators Award for 2015 from Campus Technology Magazine.

Image credit: wikimedia

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Improving Personal Financial Management with Gamified Mobile App Jojonomic

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If you were listing five subjects that seem impossible to gamify, you probably would list personal finance first. Singapore-based start-up Jojonomic thinks it has cracked the code with its new financial management application, offered as what its CEO and founder Indrasto Budisantoso says is the antidote to the very low level of financial literacy in the company’s target geographic market, which is South East Asia.  The goal of the gamified mobile app, according to Budisantoso, former CEO of Groupon, is to facilitate personal finance management by minimizing the number of screens that a user had to work through in order to record transactions and by making it fun.

The “fun” element starts with the application’s slogan, which is “Silly easy personal finance” and its mascot, described as “a furry blue monster.” Gamification starts with the focus on winning “Jojo-points,” apparently awarded to the user each time he records a transaction, though the company’s recent press concerning the new app version does not elaborate on the value of the points or any related redemption opportunities. According to the Google Store, the key features of the application, which was launched in beta in April 2015, include budget-setting capabilities, access from multiple devices, ability to take pictures of the bills that are being paid through the application, ability to set financial goals, and programming of recurring transactions.

All of these capabilities – and more – are vital, according to Budisantoso, in helping its target millennial audience form good financial habits by “creating a pattern of consumption, investment and saving.” The need was validated, says Budisantoso, by a survey showing the majority of respondents in the largest cities in Southeast Asia were struggling to create or maintain those habits. So Budisantoso set out to create a gamified mobile app that would allow users to track their net worth and loans on which they were obligated as well as to set financial goals. The latest version is said to include “social media-like features” allowing the user to share financial tips and perspectives with “JoJoBuddies”.

Though the app is currently targeted at the South East Asia market, the developers say that it supports more than 150 currencies. For a subscription fee of $2.99 monthly, Jojonomic says that the app will also set financial goals consistent with the user’s planned expenditures, such as to buy a house or pay for a vacation. Jojonomic is currently available in both Google Play and the iPhone App Store, and the latest release is said to be compatible with the Apple watch.

Credit image: flickr

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New Research Suggests Fitness Games Improve Long-Term Health

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New Research Yields Evidence That Fitness Games Improve Long-Term Health

If someone gave you the chance to claim a reward in exchange for boosting your physical activity, would you do it? It turns out, a lot of people are taking up that offer, apparent in the growing number of examples of games in health finding a place in businesses. But executives at companies considering such programs might wonder whether they work. New research suggests that not only are patients participating in games, this participation is also leading to measurable improvements in health.

A new study analyzing the activities of more than 150,000 people found that using a software platform enabling subjects to track their health helped them their lower blood pressure. The platform used in the study came from startup company higi, whose fitness software offering enables people to track blood pressure and other health information. The software does more than tracking. By gamifying the tracking with the prospect of rewards, such as retail discounts and gym memberships, people are incentivized to achieve fitness goals, Medical Daily explains.

Nearly half of the study participants decreased their systolic blood pressure. Of those who racked up 20 “reward achievements” using the higi platform, about 85 percent of them lowered their blood pressure to the point where they became non-hypertensive, according to Medical Daily. That’s important because of the 80 million Americans that the American Heart Association estimates have high blood pressure, nearly 20 percent do not know it. The association adds that just half of those with high blood pressure have it under control.

The three-year study was funded by higi, so it’s not independent research. But the American Heart Association thought enough of the company’s research to allow scientists associated with the study to present the results during the scientific sessions at the association’s 2015 Council on Hypertension. From higi’s perspective, a system that gamifies heart health by bringing together tracking and rewards has the potential for playing an important role in improving cardiovascular outcomes.

“What we found in our study confirms what many have felt intuitively: when individuals are armed with their health data, they can make meaningful improvements in their health that may lead to lasting behavior change,” said Khan Siddiqui, who is both the chief technology officer and the chief medical officer at higi.

Image credit: flickr

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Garnering Political Support With Ted Cruz Gamified Campaign Apps

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How The Ted Cruz Campaign Uses Gamification to Garner Supporters and Raise Funds

Gamification has been used in education to motivate students to learn and in private business to improve employee performance for years. It was only a matter of time before the technique began to be used in the political process.

The Ted Cruz for President Campaign has developed a game app to motivate supporters through social media, according to a recent Washington Examiner article. The app is called Cruz Crew. It is used to encourage supporters to take certain actions in support of the presidential candidate. Actions include sending invitations to other people to volunteer for the senator, donate to his campaign, promote him on social media and attend events via the app.

In return, the participant receives points. Thus far 2.5 million points have been awarded to participants for sending 100,000 invites and taking 67,000 other actions. A Cruz supporter named Darrell Greenwald, from California, is the top player, having earned 50,000 points for inviting 2,200 friends to support Cruz’s candidacy.

The Cruz Campaign is following a similar approach with a crowdfunding platform called Cruz Crowd. Participants get points for raising funds from small donors, recruiting other people to raise funds, and unlocking secret codes. Every participant has their own Cruz Crowd page where they can monitor their progress and that of the supporters they recruited.

The Ted Cruz for President Campaign is not only using gamification to raise money and increase the number of supporters, it is attempting to connect to the millennial age group. A huge voting bloc that is comfortable with using social media, President Barack Obama won election and then reelection based, in part, on his popularity with Millennials. It will be interesting to see whether these gamification initiatives of Ted Cruz’s campaign will be able to capture the desired target audience.

Image credit: wikimedia

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Improving Your Business English With Wall Street Journal’s Newsmart

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On the theory that the best way to learn “business” English is by reading the Wall Street Journal and other publications of Dow Jones & Co., the WSJ has launched an online video-driven educational program called Newsmart. A subscription based service, Newsmart proposes to use game based learning to teach business English to non-English speakers by exposing them to actual WSJ articles and videos drawn from the general areas of business, finance and technology news. Once the learner has read or viewed the media, she is guided through an array of exercises intended to test comprehension and to both teach and improve vocabulary and grammar. A beginning user is also offered the opportunity to self-test on a TOEFL interface presumably to assist the student in determining the proper entrance level.

A recent test-drive of the interface reveals a clean, engaging, slick presentation. In fact, Newsmart’s description of its programming is presented as if it was an actual lesson in the series, with multiple choice questions, highlighted concepts, pop-ups and other embedded media. Though the introductory materials do not detail the reward system that is in play for subscribers, WSJ does say that it includes badges, points and a leaderboard, and a message board is already operating on the Newsmart site.

What is intriguing about the Newsmart application is the videos, which apparently reflect English as it is spoken in its “natural habitat,” at normal speeds and using real native speakers. Or, as the WSJ says, “The videos can be difficult to understand. The people often speak quickly. They use words and phrases that you don’t know. They use cultural references and technical language. The speakers also use many different grammar structures. They sometimes stop in the middle of a sentence, or forget what they wanted to say.“

New individual subscribers are offered a 30 day free trial, and can buy access to the programming for $7.50 USD/monthly or $75 USD per year. An enterprise version of the application, known as “Newsmart Pro,” provides what WSJ describes as “enhanced data analytics” allowing performance to be assessed over a range of standards including TOEFL. While the program is also available as an Android or IOS app under the name “Newsmart!” (which includes an exclamation point for no apparent reason), the enterprise version, Newsmart Pro, apparently is available only in IOS. And while available languages are not easily discerned from the full site, the iTunes description identifies that it is available in English, Arabic, Bokmal, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, traditional Chinese, and Turkish.

Image credit: flickr

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GeoQ: Game Based Training Tool For First Responders

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Few environments present training challenges more difficult than those encountered in disaster management. The elements of any particular disaster – including location, severity, duration, the extent of damage to infrastructure, and existence of any continuing threat – are unique. Even so, and regardless of the exact nature of the event, one thing is certain: public agencies and first responders need immediate access to accurate data regarding conditions in precise locations. That not only allows the correct first responders to be deployed to the places where they can have the most impact, but it also reduces the confusion inherent the same conditions being reported by different people in different media.

Enter the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s open-source disaster mapping system, GeoQ. Developed by Presidential Innovation Fellows in conjunction with the NGA and FEMA, the platform allows for crowdsourcing of geo-tagged photographs depicting conditions on the ground into GeoQ, which local or regional agencies can access in real time to better understand conditions on the ground and to more effectively deploy first responders.

To date, GeoQ has been used with good results in connection with 15 disasters including the Nepal earthquake. But GeoQ’s utility is not limited to geographic-condition reporting. A more recently-added functionality is triage data sharing, added after NGA’s Huntsville, Alabama team reported that first responders were recording, on their own arms, triage-related information such as the number of critically injured patients.

NGA tech lead Ray Bauer, who was awarded a 2015 People’s Choice Bold Award for his efforts to advance GeoQ, has identified the value of and has promoted GeoQ as a game-based training tool. After the NGA evaluated other platforms such as the Waze real-time traffic application, NGA augmented GeoQ by adding a gamification server and game-driven content allowing first responders to earn points and/or badges for various tasks such as accurately locating and reporting buildings that had been damaged by a tornado.

As of now, GeoQ badges are awarded for successful completion of training exercises and related activity concerning tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes. The system in fact was tested in the aftermath of a tornado in Oklahoma. Bauer explained: “We actually tested gamification … and we witnessed what was I thought pretty awesome. We didn’t even tell the folks what the points were for, and people started to compete in a friendly way. They were actually coming to look for more work, because the analyst next to them had completed their work and had 10 points and they completed theirs, and only had eight.”

The NGA is counting on local and state authorities to use GeoQ, which is open-sourced, as a springboard for creating locally-relevant disaster training. That’s consistent with Bauer’s view that the emergency management paradigm – in which federal agencies invariably end up taking the lead in relief efforts – should be reversed so that local authorities are in the lead. With access to GeoQ images and data, local authorities invariably will increase efficiency in disaster response.

Image credit: flickr

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Exploring Travel Experiences with Shangri-La Hotel’s Love Journey

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Shangri-La Hotel Chain Engages Single Consumers With Gamified Website Ahead Of November 11 “Singles Day” Holiday

In 2010, Chinese e-commerce behemoth Ali-Baba decided to take steps to increase sales in the period between the October Golden Week holiday and Christmas.  Ali-Baba knew that November 11 was already viewed as “singles day” and had been a special shopping day since the 1990s, presumably because the two “elevens” in the date roughly translated into “only one” and appeared to be “bare sticks” or singles. Single-handedly, Ali-Baba turned November 11 into the world’s biggest online shopping day, easily eclipsing the sales revenues generated by Black Friday and Cyber Monday, traditionally the biggest shopping days in the West.

As traditional retailers for “singles day” are conventional online merchants selling consumer goods, there was not an obvious strategy for promotion of consumer engagement as it relates to travel experiences as a part of “singles day.” That didn’t deter Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, an international chain with 90 hotels and more than 38,000 rooms marketed under the Shangri-La brand. According to PR Newswire Asia, Shangri-La decided to launch Love Journey, a gamified site where singles are being offered 20% off the best available rate as an incentive to try one of the chain’s unique experiences in Australia, Fiji and South East Asia.

The “game” opens October 27 and continues through Singles Day. The focus of the site is a personality quiz by which a user can identify herself as a Thrill Seeker, Nature Lover, Art and Culture buff, Elite Traveler, Urban Voyager or Tranquil Traveler. Users choose among six options at every level of the quiz, answering questions like “How would your friends describe you?”, “What excites you most about a journey?”, and “What is a romantic setting for you?” After classifying the user’s travel style, the application then proposes three travel options that Shangri-La believes are a good match for the user’s “travel personality.” An additional “hook” is that users are prompted to share their #LOVEJOURNEY with their friends online. Not only are those mentions aggregated as a part of Shangri-La’s “Love Journal,” which apparently contains exclusively crowd-sourced content, but six lucky participants will win a free trip, which is a three-night stay at any Shangri-La hotel.

Image credit: wikimedia

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Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Walking Through Gamification with Andrzej Marczewski

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Last week, we feature Capgemini solution designer and author, Andrzej Marczewski to discuss his newly released book, “Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play: Gamification, Game Thinking & Motivational Design”. Andrzej’s new book serves as a guide to using gamification as well the theories and concepts on which gamification is built upon.

Watch the full interview below to learn about:

  • What was Andrzej trying to address in his new book that was previously missing in other gamification literature?
  • How does Andrzej vision of user player types differ when compared to Bartle’s version?
  • Is it possible to develop a test to discover each player style and subsequently merge them together?
  • What are some of the barriers one has to overcome in order to get “buy-in” for Enterprise Gamification inside corporate organizations?
  • What are the recent developments for gamification across Europe?
  • How does Andrzej respond to companies who explicitly states they want gamification but in actuality want a game?
  • What is the origin story for naming the book title?

Special Bonus: Catch Andrzej Marczewski and Gabe Zichermann at the Gamification World Congress 2015 by entering special code “dopamine” to get a special 25% discount on tickets!

Watch the video, listen on the audio podcast or subscribe to our iTunes channel below. Be sure to catch our next episode of the Gamification Revolution.

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Write Smart: Gamified Writing Tool for Government Employees

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Government Uses Game Based Training to Improve Writing Skills in Employees

In 2010 President Obama signed the Plain Language Act. This act requires all federal agencies to use clear and effective language that the public can understand easily. The intent is for the government to stop using jargon and overly complex sentences that make it difficult for the everyday person to participate. The act lists no less than 30 specific rules and several other guidelines that are now required of government employees. Unfortunately the task of training them has been less than successful up to this point. Mike McClory, a professional working on writing training said “Five years later, only about one government employee in 10 has even heard of the law, and very few have participated in any meaningful plain writing training.” So McClory and his colleagues are introducing game based training in the skills of Plain Writing.

Write Smart has been around since 1983 and is a leader in the field of plain language training. They are currently in the process of rolling out their program to government employees. The employees have access to training videos that talk through and demonstrate the appropriate word placement. They also have access to several online games to help them practice the skills they are learning. Incidentally the company is redesigning the government website to use the terminology “word puzzles” rather than “games” because many government computers restrict access to games. However, the activities are identical.

The games all have a similar format and come in three levels. In all the games the object is to create a correct plain language sentence from a set of words. The words are labeled with parts of speech to help you with the puzzle as well as helping you discover the patterns in how sentences are built. In the first set of puzzles the goal is simply to put the words in the correct order. The second set of puzzles adds punctuation and the sentences become longer because they have two clauses to be potentially joined by punctuation. The final set of puzzles also includes the option of eliminating or changing words to make a higher quality sentence.

The main access point to the games is through the eBook (Write Smart by Mike McClory). At the end of each section there is a link to the next puzzle. In this way your reading becomes interactive and you not only get to practice what you just read but you get immediate feedback about your comprehension of the current topic. The eBook is available to the general public as well as government employees.

While the Plain Language Act is five years old, the gamification of the training process is brand new. The company is releasing videos, updating websites and publishing a new edition of the book all in the fall of 2015.

Image credit: Pexels

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BeeBlock: Retaining Employees with AppleBee’s Gamified App

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Applebee’s Employs Gamification to Retain Staff and Improve Customer Service

RMH Franchise, the owner of 173 of the 2,200 Applebee’s restaurant locations, was having a problem with staff turnover. The company was experiencing an average turnover rate of 120 percent. The turnover was proving to be costly, with a replacement expense of between $400 to $10,000 depending on the seniority of the employees.

To counteract against the staff turnover, the organization decided to implement a gamification program called BeeBlock. Powered by Bunchball’s Nitro gamification platform, the program motivates its staff through a system of competition and rewards. According to CIO, the way the system works is that an employee would log into the game using a smart phone or a tablet. The game involves fulfilling certain tasks in exchange for points and badges. Employees who rack up enough points can win prizes, ranging from Applebee gear to products such as Xboxes and iPads.

Tasks might include selling certain special menu items that Applebees introduces from time to time. Employees can also earn points by successfully completing quizzes on company rules and best practices. For example, kitchen staff might be asked to determine when is an appropriate time to wash hands during a shift.

While no data is available yet on how the game has affected turnover, customer service ratings are up at the top 50 percent of RMH’s locations. The company is planning to roll the gamification system out at 33 newly acquired Applebee’s restaurants.

As a way to refine the gamification system, Andy Petroski, corporate faculty member of learning technology at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, suggests that it be tweaked to encourage long-term improvement. The game could be used to identify potential managers and to encourage servers to improve their customer service ratings, for example.

Learn more about the BeeBlock gamified system as presented by RMH’s Regional Marketing Manager, Robin Jenkins during GSummit 2014.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

* Correction: For clarification, RMH purchased gamification technology from Bunchball and subsequently developed the specific gamification strategy using Bunchball’s technology and named it BeeBlock.

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Developing Literacy Skills with Video Games in Education

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Games in education are nothing new. Because of their strategic nature that they share with subjects such as math, reading and writing, games have been used in the K-12 curriculums for decades. What is new is the use of a specific type of game for these subjects: the video game. This is especially the case with language arts. Like comic books, video games (including computer or PC games) in language arts curriculum have been controversial over whether they’re appropriate learning tools. This is because of the violent and seemingly trivial subject matter that video games have been stereotyped with. Besides this, its very graphic nature, moving pictures, has connoted the video game to be as mind-numbing as television has typically been made to seem. Like TV, the video game has been turned into an enemy of the traditionally more academic medium: the book. But these stereotypes are being broken more and more each day. Video games are showing capability of teaching the necessary literacy skills kids need to survive both in their studies and in the workplace later in life.

Lately, it has been shown that certain video games help children improve their writing and reading skills. According to Dr. Justin Marquis in his article, “Building Social Skills and Literacy Through Gaming”, “games [including video games] are very much based on the same sorts of narrative structures and conventions as traditional written texts.” Games such as Sim City and other world-creation games, especially role-playing ones that involve a lot of text in the narration, are both appealing in their graphics and special effects while requiring the players to read text and think for themselves in developing settings as part of the game. A Scientific American article states that “SimCityEdu, a version of [Sim City], is likewise a learning and assessment tool for middle school students that covers English, math and other lessons they need to master to meet Common Core State and Next Generation Science standards.”

Besides games involving development of reading and writing skills within the games themselves, there are also video games that inspire kids to read and write outside the game. According to Clive Thompson in his article at Wired.com, “Games, it seems, can motivate kids to read . . . way above their level.” He says this was proven in a couple of studies, one with middle school students and the other with 10th graders both of who played games like Minecraft. Although Minecraft is a more mathematical than literary video game, the results were that students would feel motivated to go out and read material that talks about it, including guides and advice books that show how to improve playing.

Thompson also says that kids who play these games improve in their writing skills because they participate in online discussions on the games’ sites. They don’t only improve their conversational writing skills but also their fiction writing ones. This is due to their drive for fan fiction based on these games’ characters. Thompson says, “Behold the teeming seas of Minecraft fan stories at sites like FanFiction.net . . . .”

Video games are showing us that they are no longer just good for pass-time entertainment but are worthy of an academic curriculum. Like comic books are becoming more accepted into the literacy curriculum, video games in education are also becoming more accepted as well.

Image credit: flickr

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MalariaSpot: Gamified App For Malaria Diagnosis

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How Gamification in a Mobile App Could Help Improve Malaria Diagnosis

The competitive nature of people brought out by playing games has a new application in training people how to diagnose the disease malaria. It’s a game called MalariaSpot and it’s an example of how gamification in mobile apps is bringing new ways to improve health care.

Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 200 million cases of malaria annually that kill about 627,000 each year. The standard practice for diagnosing malaria consists of detecting the parasites, then counting the number of parasites in a blood smear sample.

Malaria diagnosis is done through a microscope – the greater the number of parasites counted, the more severe the infection. Medical professionals view approximately 100 images to do this count, a lengthy and tedious process. The more times a specialist does this diagnosis, the better he or she gets at the process. But studying these images to diagnose malaria can take specialists up to half an hour. With gamification, MalariaSpot aims to shave the diagnosing time down to minutes.

Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous. MalariaSpot aims to tap the wisdom of crowds. By turning malaria diagnosis into a game easily accessed and played on a smartphone, MalariaSpot’s developers aim to distribute malaria images globally so that people can play a game that allows people to see images and count the parasites.

The malaria images players see are real; they were provided by the National Institute for Communicable Disease in Johannesburg, South Africa. The concept for MalariaSpot came from Dr. Miguel Luengo-Oroz, a researcher from the Universidad Politenica de Madrid, in Spain. The game measures the accurate counts and the mistakes, and tracks a player’s scores. The game also tracks the speed and accuracy of players overall. The goal is to use knowledge gleaned from the analysis of non-diagnostic experts to help the diagnostic experts improve the way that they do their malaria analysis.

If MalariaSpot works, it could drive development of artificial intelligence engines that helps diagnostic experts make better and faster diagnosis of malaria.

Image credit: Wikimedia

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Virtonomics: Business Simulation Platform for Education

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Amy C. Edmondson

Virtonomics is a strategic online business game that gathers over 1 million players worldwide. A virtual economy, fully populated by sentient people – businessmen and businesswomen, entrepreneurs, university and college students and overall smart individuals forming a friendly, business oriented community since the game was released in 2006 , December 11. Players are keen to share their knowledge and experience, explain how to implement successful business strategies and grow your company exponentially.

The new players who are joining the Virtonomics are related to business industry at some point. We do have business subject students from universities joining our game to gain some practical experience as well as entrepreneurs simulating their possible business idea. Some academics are playing this game and testing this business simulation platform with the vision to apply it in the lectures at universities. Business experts are playing this game out of curiosity and to measure their skills.

Virtonomics

The game unifies multi-tiered business and company management simulation (17 interconnected main business processes, 141 subsidiaries), multidimensional global business simulation (25 industries, 203 products to produce, 33 countries, 300 cities), social simulation (gives you an opportunity to try different roles while managing virtual business) and virtual economy. In general, Virtonomics was created and is developed as a business and economy environment simulation, which can be used for the development of practical and business orientated skills. Differently from the classic business teaching approach, Virtonomics allows you to understand and interactively study business as a system, seeing not only structural elements (standard management processes like marketing, finance, HR, etc.) but also the connections between them (typically, these can be seen only after gaining practical experience).

There are many great examples of Virtonomics game being implemented into education processes. Gamification in education is being used by Daniel L. Simonds Jr. He is the teacher from United States of America who used the system to teach the principles of economics. The course is an economics survey course for ESL (English as a Second Language) students, and Virtonomics is incorporated into the business unit.  During that time the students run the business for 1 year in the Virtonomics world. Students had to create a business empire over a 52 day period and needed to provide feedback on their decisions, the techniques they are using and applying it to economics theory. Every 13 days they had to prepare a shareholders report that includes important information about their company and data such as balance sheets, income statements etc which they used to form charts and graphs.  The students also present a final annual report to the class.

Recently, we have launched the startup and called it Simformer. We used the idea of business simulation game and adapted it for corporate and academic industries. Basically, Simformer unites the modern education system with a unique, multi-user business-simulation environment with flexible settings for courses and training programs. Educators, instructors and corporate trainers have an opportunity to expand their technology tools, as well as promote their products through Simformer Marketplace.

Image credit: Wikipedia

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