Benefits and challenges of gamification
When executed right, educational games and gamified classrooms can achieve a lot
Gamification is not new to journalism training or news/media literacy education.
Coupled with incentives like points/scores, badges, and leaderboards, games could potentially make it easier for educators to naturally motivate students to be more proactive in their pursuit of knowledge.
Gamification can take a variety of forms. It can be offered online or offline. It can be guided or self-paced. It can be part of lectures, take-home assignments, or extracurricular activities.
When executed in a fun, engaging manner, educational games and gamified classrooms can achieve a lot.
Over the years, we have seen many gamification attempts (and tried some) in our field (news literacy, fact-checking, misinformation, social media usage, etc.). Here is a list of some notable ones, some of which we also mentioned in our past newsletters.
La Sala de Escape [Escape Room] by Chequeado (Argentina)
Cranky Uncle by John Cook (Australia)
Libertas Veritas: Freedom and Truth by Deakin University (Australia)
Troll Factory by Yleisradio Oy [Finnish Broadcasting Company] (Finland)
To Share or Not by SmartNews (Japan)
Are You Yang Bijak? by Malaysia Information Literacy Education (Malaysia)
CheckTalk by Community Media Foundation (South Korea)
Last week, in our monthly ANNIE Connect online meeting, three guest speakers from Japan’s Classroom Adventure — Noa Horiguchi, Hinata Furukata, and Zentaro Imai — demonstrated Ray’s Blog, an immersive mystery game designed to teach fact-checking skills.
Recap: Ray’s Blog
Unlike most web-based games in this field, Ray’s Blog is most effective in a face-to-face setup with at least one facilitator in the classroom.
To solve the mystery, players need to form a group of at least three or four because they need to go back and forth between multiple browser windows and apps such as X (formally Twitter), YouTube, and Google Maps for smooth gameplay.
The game starts with an intriguing intro video, followed by a physical handout — a mysterious envelope containing a cryptic letter from Ray with the message, ‘Come Find Me’, a name list, and a photograph with a QR code in the back that leads to his blog.
To find out who Ray is, players must read the blog entries carefully, find clues, and interact with another character, Zito, through a chat app. They need to employ verification tools and fact-checking skills to solve puzzles along the way.
You can watch the entire demo in the following video:
The use of interactive chat makes it easier to keep the learners engaged. The game encourages attention to detail and careful research, naturally making them recognise what skills they need (and are lacking).
It is great to see that the game does not reward speed while the emphasis is kept on checking the validity of claims and accuracy of information (we have seen many educators misguidedly use a speed competition to gamify their fact-checking class in the past).
This game works well offline, but in its current format, it is rather hard to implement effectively online because handling multiple browser tabs and/or apps on a mobile device (or even on a desktop) may not be easy for one person. Virtually working in a group may help, but it is still not easy to share multiple screens and switch between them regularly.
Ray’s Blog is a well-rounded teaching material to introduce basic fact-checking skills, and we highly recommend it. If you’re interested in trying it out in your class or have any questions, feel free to contact Classroom Adventure at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No teaching material is perfect. We all know it is hard, if not impossible, to develop a pedagogy, let alone a game, that is universally effective.
Some of us like competition; others don’t bother about winning all that much. Some like shooting games; others prefer puzzles. Some can spend hours building a virtual city; others get bored after playing the same game for 10 minutes.
After all, people (learners) have different tastes and interests. Ray’s Blog will surely work great for some, but perhaps not all. In this sense, the selection of news stories and topics included in the game also makes a difference.
It was originally created for students in Japan, and it shows even in the English version.
For example, although the ageing society (the first news story in the game) may be an important issue and discussed frequently in some developed nations, it is not a familiar problem for students in many other countries in the world — half of the world’s population is under 30 after all, according to the UN.
Football (soccer) is universally popular (another news item to be checked in the game), but even so, not every student cares about the sport.
Yes, an imaginary school teacher tweeting about an unannounced pop quiz may be a common interest for students (another scenario in the game), but this limits the scope of real-life fact-checking that the game is trying to encourage.
It is something to keep in mind if you’re an educator who is interested in using Ray’s Blog in class. You may want to tell your students that it is hard to verify information in the areas you’re not familiar, so they should take time to investigate all aspects.