Gameful Learning 101: Book 1

How to Bring Joy back to Learning By Making Your Classroom Gameful

This first volume is meant to be a quick and easy introduction to meaningful gamification.

It is a relatively short book, ~200 pages, and it includes a veritable treasure trove of strategies you can implement in any class. These strategies have been tested in multiple classes both big and small under a variety of conditions. And just in case you worry that these strategies are yet another bandwagon to jump on that won't actually work in your own classroom, you will see that they are grounded in solid educational theory that has withstood the test of time.

This book does NOT try and fill in all of the theoretical underpinnings of these ideas, but it DOES break new ground in giving you new ways to look at teaching that can dislodge some of the old traditions that have been holding us back.

Note that this book is a work in progress and things may be added (or deleted) as the book takes shape.


  1. Who This Book is For
  2. What This Book Covers
  3. How This Book is Structured
  4. What You Can Get Out of this Book
  5. What You Need to Use This Book
  6. Conventions

Chapter 1. Mise-en-scène

Mise-en-scène is a term used in drama and film that refers to the setting of the scene. This chapter sets the stage for the issues addressed in this book. The book represents the culmination of over 40 years of teaching, learning, questioning, and experimenting. This chapter looks at the kinds of things that often get in the way of learning for our students – most of which don’t actually have much to do with the thing we want them to learn.

We begin with a fictional diary entry made by a more-or-less typical student, and then examine this student’s very bad day to begin to unpack the kinds of challenges that students often have to face.

  • Why Are We Here?
  • Why Do Students Do Poorly?
    • Laziness
    • Stress
      • External vs Internal vs Local Stressors
    • Confusion About Requirements
    • Studied the Wrong Stuff
    • Students Have Lives
    • Students Are Human
    • Group Work
  • A Last Word on Our Challenge

Chapter 2. Class Perfection

After highlighting those things that get in the way of learning in the first chapter, this chapter paints a picture of what a perfect course might look like, and the kinds of reactions such an environment may prompt. MOST of the elements that are described are ones I have actually implemented in the classroom, and the comments from students are paraphrased comments from actual students. Describe a perfect classroom environment – mine. 😊

  • What's Perfect About It?
  • Reigeluth's New Paradigm
  • A Last Word

Chapter 3. What’s Stopping Us?

This chapter starts to unpack what’s different between the first scene and the second. We proceed point by point – describing the issue, the solution and what kinds of things get in the way. Many of the “objections” are ones I have heard at various conferences, summits, and faculty meetings.

  • What Stops Students?
  • What Stops Instructors?

Chapter 4. Enter: Gamification

Finally, we get to the heart of the matter. We start by introducing the term, what many (most?) people think about when they hear gamification, and then explaining what gamification ACTUALLY is/should be. We connect the dots between what is needed as we have outlined it in the previous chapter, and how gamification fits the bill. We do that by drawing on Reigeluth’s (a modern giant in educational theory) new paradigm and reframing gamification within that context.

  • What is Gamification, Really?
  • Good vs Bad Gamification
  • Why Gamification is Useful In Learning
  • Revisiting Reigeluth’s Paradigm

Chapter 5. Starting Small

Most of us have neither the time, nor the support to go whole hog. This chapter explains how you can start small and still implement aspects of my gamified classroom.

Chapter 6. The Whole Hog

This chapter describes how you can go about re-designing a whole class, so that it is gamified.

  • Always Start at the End
  • Gamification is NOT PBL and Narratives

Supplementary Materials

Quest List

This a list of assignments/tests/projects/etc. that have been described in terms borrowed from multi-player games. While there is nothing magical about these terms, I have found that using quests instead of “learning tasks” has several advantages:

  1. It breaks us out of our usual mindset and allows us to consider the work our students do in a new light. In the end it really doesn't matter if you use the quest names or not. What matters is what your students do to demonstrate competence.
  2. It places the focus for assessment squarely in the arena of what students can DO as opposed to what they can memorize and repeat, and that's a good thing.


This glossary contains all of the words defined in the book, as well as others that expand on concepts and terms used in the book. It contains all the new and unusual terms used in the book. This volume is NOT written for academics 1), so it is written largely in plain language. Any terms that may be unfamiliar or used in a new context in this book will be found here.


Even though this book is meant to be a practical resource for ANYONE, rather than a textbook or “scholarly” work, it is still important to support arguments with the work of other experts. In the era of “fake news”, being able to back up claims with real research and scholarship is more important than ever.

although they could certainly benefit