Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blog Book Tour: Karl Kapp's "Gamification of Learning and Instruction"

Blog book tour stop 3: I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of Karl Kapp’s new book, “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction” (Pfeiffer) (also see the book's Facebook Pagejust in time for a long plane ride. What a delight! In an age when there’s so much confusion about this in the field, Kapp offers a timely, common-sense view of realities and possibilities.  Among my own frustrations are those in L&D (and, ahem, marketing) who are swept away on tides of badges and points without really understanding the instrinsic motivation and factors critical to successful, meaningful gamification.  (More about that? Take a look at the incredibly popular new game Draw Something, in which the only "rule" is an implicit one and successful play requires collaboration, not competition. Fifty million downloads within 50 days of release. And there isn’t even a winner, ever. )

Kapp pitches the book at just the right level, making material relevant for more experienced gamers as well as for those to whom all this would be rather new.  Several chapters offer basics about game elements and play, while others offer reviews of theory and research regarding games for learning, player types and patterns, and snapshots of ways games can support workplace performance of particular types of tasks. Chapters open with  questions, which provides a nice advance organizer for the information to come.

The author has called in some big guns in terms of expertise, with Alicia Sanchez providing a chapter-length case study from Defense Acquisition University, and a chapter on virtual reality games from expert Koreen Olbrish.   I love that Chapter 11 is written by high school senior Nathan Kapp, the author’s son, who  brings a particularly relevant perspective as  he “has been playing video games his whole life."

This is an excellent resource for those seeking to make sense of the gamification craze and apply gamification principles to create better learning experiences. 


Karl Kapp said...

Jane, Thanks for being a stop on the tour and glad I could provide you some plane reading. You hit on my favorite chapter. So, of course I like it because he is my son, but I also like it because it reinforces or verifies the research.

What Nate writes about in the chapter, thinking outside the box, pattern recognition doing transactions online are all elements of gamification that are "backed" by research quoted earlier in the book. Nate didn't read the earlier stuff, he just came to the same conclusions because that's what game elements do, they lead to that kind of thinking.

It has been fascinating to see him make the link between the activities he performs in games and this thinking process.

I think the lessons he learned and continues to learn from games can be applied by learning and development professionals as we strive to create engaging and meaningful instruction to promote learning and ground the content within the context in which it needs to be applied.

Thanks again for being an early stop on the tour and I look forward to your next book!

Bearman said...

Definitely put this on my to read list...but $50...woo.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to buy the book and read it, based on your post Jane, and because I think Karl both knows and cares about the subtle trickly distinctions most others can't or won't see around this topic.

BUT... two things about this are disturbing:

1. His insistence on using the word "gamification" (including urging others to "take back the word"). Nearly every game scholar and professional game designer (real games, not just Zynga game-like things) is adamantly opposed to the word for many reasons including how misleading it is by including the word "game". It has also been applied SO broadly that it has lost all meaning and once *any* word lands on the Gartner Hype Cycle, it is too difficult to talk about with any meaningful context.
But most of all, it breaks my heart that he gets people I respect, like you, to then be quotable for having said useful, positive things about gamification.

2. More concerning for me is that I still think Karl has a few holes in his understanding of the deeper issues. In his opening blog post about this blog-tour, for example, he suggests that people visit each post and that if you leave a comment on EACH ONE you will be entered in a contest. This is a textbook example of incentivizing that which should never, ever, ever be extrinsically rewarded. To incentivize commenting in this pure if/then way in one fell swoop renders every comment (including mine) less meaningful.

The sad part about the comment-for-points (a "chance to win" is no different from points in that it is an externally-regulated extrinsic reinforcer) is that the science suggests the negative effects happen below the level of conscious processing so that even if WE believe it has no negative effect, our legacy brains perceive it differently.

So, he lost his credibility with me by resorting to the lowest form of gamification in promoting this book, and again, it breaks my heart a little to see blogs by people I respect involved in a LEAVE a COMMENT for POSSIBLE WIN scheme.
-- Kathy Sierra

Anonymous said...

I just re-read his blog post about the tour and it was actually worse than I posted in my previous comment. It is not "visit each blog and leave a comment for a chance to win something..." but rather, you MUST leave a comment on EACH post in order to get the whitepaper
Withholding information where the price to get it is a comment -- wow. Just wow.

For a community that prides itself on evidence-based decisions, this approach ignores a large body of evidence and uses a technique many find offensive and in the same genre as "RT to WIN" or "LIKE to get an INVITE". Only here it's much worse -- because it is withholding a whitepaper... the knowledge we're supposed to encourage sharing, not exploit for social media marketing manipulation.
-- Kathy Sierra (gamification curmudgeon, in case that's not obvious ;)

Jane Bozarth said...

Hmm... Kathy, thanks as always for the comments. It's not unusual for those of us in the community to help support one another's publishing efforts, and blog book tours are fairly common. You and I have had many conversations about issues with 'gamification' and I felt Karl overall did a good job to dispel some of the problem thinking we've seen so much of, and will perhaps help less-experienced practitioners do no harm. I especially liked that he turned to a real end-user expert -- his teenage son-- and gave him an important voice here. The real end users are so often ignored in favor of the opinions of "stakeholders" and other political players in L&D.

About the points issue: Karl asked me to participate and, in advance of a good deal of travel, I asked him to schedule me early in the tour. I opened the schedule, read the book, and set up my post. I admit I didn't read the fine print and wasn't aware of the 'comment game'. I have some reservations about it, now that I know, but I'll stand by the post as it is. As ever, it's always good to hear from you. Rock on!

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for your comments but, I wonder, have you read the book? Do you really understand my approach?

For all your reservations and comments about the book, I certainly hope you have read the book prior to commenting.

Additionally, I am finding that your work seems to be driven, in a large part, by the external motivation of achieving "certification" How is that different from a reward, point, grade or recognition? Same thing you are calling me out for with my small token of a whitepaper. As opposed to creating a cottage industry around one of the most compelling external motivators every created, passing a test.

I find that interesting. You seem to be so adamant about the harm of external motivation yet your test prep books are a monument to the external reward of "certification."

As well as your creation of a "certification" exam which, again, is not for the "love of programming" but for the accomplishment of an external goal.

The test prep books don't teach someone to be a better programmer, they teach them to pass the exam (that's according to your books marketing message)

The sad part about your test prep books (not the ones really focused on learning) is that (a "chance to win" or pass the test) is no different from points in that it is an externally-regulated extrinsic reinforcer.

Also, you are, so far, the only one motivated enough to comment on the blog posts so you are well on your way to "winning" the prize which, is a part-albet small-of the concept of engagement and gamification of which you support through your focus and commitment to the creation and continuation of the external goal of programmer certification.

So thank you for your work in the area of extrinsically motivating people to learn programming.

You are using the same technique of providing a reward (pass the test) if someone performs a task (buy my test prep book).