Gaming vs grading: please explain!

Over the time, there’s been a fair bit of airtime on Twitter as to the evils of grading. I’m not sure exactly what the arguments were against grading, but just that it was no longer the thing to do.

As a student whose entire secondary schooling (apart from year 12) was based purely on a pass/fail assessment, I can say that the lack of grading resulted in a lack of motivation for me to do my best.

For the first few terms in year 7, I carried on with my primary school ethos to do my best as I loved learning. But seeing other students, who rarely did any work and any they scratched together to hand in was pretty awful, get the same grade as me who’d spent lots of time and effort to do my very best was pretty soul destroying.

So from then on I did the minimal; just enough to get a pass. I was ill prepared for HSC where exams, grades and marks were all that mattered. The same went for university. However, the system of grades at year 12 and Uni meant that my philosophy changed back to trying my very best.

Anyway, apparently my views are anachronistic and certainly unfashionable. But what I want to know is how does gaming for learning, where games give players instant feedback, scores, access to levels, access to resources and even leaderboards be good and even desirable for people who are against grading? Don’t get me wrong, I have used gaming for learning to great success and believe that in fact, the instant feedback, scores, etc. are one of the things that motivates people to play. Why else do so many businesses now try to incorporate gamification? Badges, leader boards, mayors in FourSquare anyone?

I am not a fan of class rankings (which to me = gaming leaderboards) as students will never collaborate if they are ranked against each other. (Rather like how teachers will stop collaborating with each other if performance pay is introduced. A group does the work but only one get rewarded.) However, I do see that grades = scores are a motivation. Game players are always trying for a better score, motivated to improve. How is that different from grading?

So I’d like someone who is against grading but for gaming to explain to me why one is bad and unacceptable and one is good and desirable.

Learning to let go

We all know that one of the features of the connected world is the ability to collaborate on projects. Colleagues near and far can now contribute as much and as deeply as those who sit next to you in the staffroom. Collaborating with people you’ve never met requires a certain level of trust.

A control freak like me is often challenged by this idea. Working with people in close proximity easily enables trust via familiarity and responsibility. Working with those you’ve never met, will never meet and those whose identities you’re not really sure of can be scary.

But recently I took the plunge. I’d been promoting the Pottermore wiki I’d developed to assist people navigate their way through the J.K. Rowling Pottermore website. I’d ask people to help me build it. But the crisis point came when two people asked for membership. I didn’t know them. But I took the plunge that they’d only want to join to help collaborate and build the wiki rather than to delete pages or hack the site. I supposed that I could always undo the changes if they were disastrous, but didn’t really want to even contemplate that.


Two months on, all is well. The wiki is still there and in fact it seems that nothing has been added by my two new collaborators. Which is a shame. I was looking forward to seeing their contributions. Oh well, maybe they’re just really busy.