Play to learn: From gamification to gamification

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Written with the participation of Alexandre Chenette, teacher and educational advisor at the RÉCIT National Service, field of personal development.

A joint dossier from Carrefour education and L'École branchée

Play and learning are closely linked, and have always been. No matter what form they take, games, from the simple card game to the most sophisticated video game, are a great way to internalize motivation, stimulate commitment, perseverance and surpass oneself. They carry meaning, develop autonomy, a feeling of competence, promote creativity but also collaboration. They even allow you to learn, develop new skills, acquire knowledge, without even realizing it (or almost!).

No wonder many educators tend to integrate the game into their classroom (even if it is in virtual mode). For ten years, the gamification, also called gamification, has gradually gained popularity in the school world. Basically, it was a question of integrating mainly principles associated with the world of video games in teaching (reward mechanism, quest, etc.). In short, exit the traditional lecture!

Many terms and ways of doing things have been explored, so gamification may have seemed like a very complex experience for some teachers to set up. For others, it will have seemed futile because of the “fun” character associated with the game. Moreover, to move away from the “bad reputation” that the term gamification may have had, the word gamification is increasingly used. no longer employed. This refers more to making learning fun rather than integrating game mechanics into teaching.

In this dossier, we offer you an overview of the world of gamification / gamification and we explain why this practice is accessible to all teachers. Because, there is no need to thoroughly review your teaching practices to bring a playful touch to your class. Sometimes the secret is in the little things that make a difference.


  1. What exactly is gamification?
  2. What does the research say? The impact of gamification on students.
  3. Where to start?
  4. Possible to gamify remotely?
  5. Tools to explore
  6. Good for teachers too?

1- Gamification, what exactly is it

Before diving into the world of gamification, it seems necessary to take a step back. First of all, you should know that this term is not exclusive to the world of education. Loyalty cards, points and rebate systems, does that mean anything to you? These methods are popular with marketers the world over.

It is in fact the use of mechanisms traditionally associated with video games in contexts other than those of gaming (commerce, health, social networks, web platforms, etc.). The gamification promises to increase the engagement and retention of target customers by encouraging them to consume more products and services, which many have often associated with extrinsic motivation. In short, it had nothing to do with the pleasure generally associated with the world of games, but more with the desire to modify behavior, to take specific actions to obtain rewards.

Applied to education, “gamification is the integration into teaching of different postures (rules, roles, actions, etc.) and artefacts (point system, objects used in games, video games, etc.). ) aiming to add a playful touch to a situation that is not necessarily so at the start ”, explains Mikaël Roberge, of the University of Sherbrooke, in a previous file published jointly by École branchée and Carrefour education.

Note that gamification, although often associated with video games, does not have to be technological or digital to be considered as such. Just think about using dice or card games. However, it tends to be more and more so in the current context.

As mentioned in the introduction, gamification could sometimes have bad press in the world of education because of the futility often associated with the world of the game. "It is not because we associate the game with a pass. -time that it is a meaningless activity, quite the contrary; games in general are activities that can be very profitable in a teaching context, ”however indicates Mr. Roberge in the same file cited above.

Yu-Kai Chou, the father of gamification 

Faced with the negative perception and a certain misunderstanding of gamification (not only in the world of education, but also in the fields of marketing and entrepreneurship), the specialist Yu-Kai Chou, key figure of the gamification, now invites you to move away from flashy reward mechanisms (game-centered design), associated with the game world and extrinsic motivation, to focus more on the human by examining in more detail the real motivating factors that are specific to it (human-centered design), and therefore, intrinsic motivation.

Yu-Kai Chou is a Taiwanese entrepreneur, designer, author and consultant who from 2003 was one of the most important pioneers in the industry of what would become the gamification, long before the term was known to the general public. It has contributed to its definition and popularity. It also defines the eight main drivers of human motivation.

“If you ask a player why a game is fun, they won't say it's because there are points. He will say that it is because there is challenge, because it makes him use his creativity, because it makes him more than he was yesterday ”. This is the philosophy of Yu-Kai Chou.

Moreover, the notion of pleasure is a major aspect in any gaming experience, contributing to personal motivation. In the end, we play our favorite game for the game itself and the pleasure it gives us, not for the points and levels we gain, these being only a small and secondary part of experience.  

Alexandre Chenette, from the RÉCIT National Service, field of personal development, extensively studied Yu-Kai Chou's work and adapted them to the world of education by presenting the eight main drivers of human motivation.

  1. Epic sense and vocation
  2. Development and achievement
  3. Creative autonomy and feedback
  4. Ownership and possession
  5. Social influence and connection
  6. Rarity and impatience
  7. Unpredictability and curiosity
  8. Fear of loss and avoidance

These are presented in more detail in an article on the École branchée website: 8 lessons learned from video games to increase motivation and engagement.

Towards gamification

This new way of approaching gamification could smile in the field of education, where the aims are not growth and profit as in the marketing world, but rather the development and acquisition of knowledge and skills among youth.

Indeed, the importance of the “human” (the pedagogue-learner relationship, theteacher effect, sense of self-efficacy, socio-emotional skills, etc.) is crucial for student learning. 
In this perspective, a new terminology tends to appear to describe the fact of making teaching more fun. The term gamification, associated with retention mechanisms and extrinsic motivation, could be replaced by the term gamicization, which would refer more to stimulating intrinsic motivators in students. In their most recent book, Margarida Romero and Eric Sanchez, Learn by playing (2020), discuss this notion. Henceforth, we would be talking about making teaching fun.

Gamification, gamification, serious games….

LUDIFICATION (vf de gamification): Use of mechanisms traditionally associated with video games in contexts other than those of gaming (commerce, health, social networks, web platforms, etc.).

PLAYING : Gamify learning is about making it more enjoyable, fun and engaging by adopting a playful attitude. Rather than focusing on the game's reward mechanics (game-centered design), gamicisation invites us to explore the human motivational factors stimulated by play (human-centered design). 

SERIOUS GAMES (vf de serious games): As their name clearly indicates, it is games but whose main objective is serious, such as learning (alloprof) or solving scientific problems (PHYLO, A clarification from Mikaël Roberge: “Serious game […] should not be synonymous with educational game, because all games have educational potential. […] [And] it is not because we add the term “serious” to “game” that it allows learning. Just as one can learn by playing a commercial video game, it is possible not to learn anything by playing a serious game. "

In addition : 
Using digital games to promote learning: mission possible!, May 25, 2017, the École branchée
Distance education in universities and CEGEPs: the game to facilitate learning, May 15, 2020, The Conversation
Beat the boss, Play learning, presentation by Alexandre Chenette, RÉCIT

2- What does the research say? The Effects of Gamification on Students

Now that we understand a little better what gamicization refers to, let's turn to the positive impact it can have in a classroom. 

It's true that gambling is often associated with increased motivation and engagement in students, but what is it really?

First, let us remember that symbolic play (pretending to…) is at the heart of learning in preschool. This allows in particular "to enrich their oral language, to develop their phonological awareness and to be initiated into written language". Then, the notion of play is gradually lost as the children move from one school level to another. 

However, a number of studies have shown the positive role of play in learning. It is sometimes difficult to relate studies to each other because of the different definitions and the vocabulary they use. On the other hand, constants often come up.

Commitment to the task and motivation to learn are part of this. Play also contributes to the development of specific skills, such as collaboration, problem solving, autonomy, and promotes creativity in young people. 

Generally also, researches confirm that the game allows: 

  • to interact and socialize, whether for the purpose of collaboration or competition (Lenhart, 2008);
  • sensory (images, music, actions, etc.) or emotional stimulation (presence of a narrative framework, interesting characters, etc.) (Tisseron, 2013).

"The best games help capture the attention of players for long periods of time, while providing a feeling of accomplishment and important well-being," remind Alexandre Lillo and Thomas Burelli in their research. This phenomenon is called "the state of flow », According to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a state of maximum concentration very conducive to learning.

In addition, the vast majority of studies on games and learning have looked at the impact of video games in particular, given the large place they occupy in our society and in the daily lives of young people. According to Jane McGonigal, researcher and game designer, the average person will have spent about 10,000 hours playing video games before the age of 21, which roughly equates to the time spent in class from grade five to the end of high school.

In Canada, according to the study Video Game Lovers in Canada - 2020 Essentials, 90 % of 13 to 17 year old adolescents (60 % of adolescent girls) and 82 % of 18 to 34 year old men (58 % of women) consider themselves to be video game players. In Quebec, again according to the same study, the number of adults who play video games is estimated at 57 %, at 37 the average age of players and at 8 hours per week the average time spent playing.

Thus, studies related to the use of video games are increasing in order to better understand the phenomenon and identify the benefits of their integration into education. For example, in Montreal, the Canada Research Chair on Digital Technologies in Education carried out a research project by integrating the game Minecraft in a very structured way in classes of the 3e at the 6e primary year. “The students showed increased motivation towards school, better computer, reading and writing skills, better problem-solving skills, greater creativity and autonomy, and increased collaboration with their classmates. "

Alone, but in a group

Another thing to consider: group games would be a great way to help students develop their individual skills. A study by the American Institute of Research concluded that collective learning meets personal learning needs, since players who experience difficulty are supported by their peers so that they can progress in the game.

One might think that personalized learning (to meet the needs of a particular student) should be individualized (offer him a playful learning situation specially designed for him). However, the researchers found that "students who experienced more collaboration experienced greater growth in their personal learning." Thus, the strength of the group would help uplift each player individually.

In addition:
- Hamlen, KR (2013). Understanding children's choices and cognition in video game play: A synthesis of three studies. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 221(2), 107-114.
- Lenhart, A., Kahne, J., Middaugh, E., Rankin M., A. Evans, C. and Vitak, J. (2008). Teens, video games and civics: Teens gaming experiences are diverse and include significant social interaction and civic engagement. Online : Accessed January 15, 2020.
- Tisseron, S. and Khayat, D. (2013), Preliminary validation study of a questionnaire evaluating the type of interaction in video games. Childhood and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, 61, p. 81–92
- Granic, I., Lobel, A. and Engels RC (2013). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66-78
- Tardif N. (1992). In Interdisciplinarity: a way of the future. Conference proceedings. Sherbrooke.
- " Minecraft can help with learning and problem-solving - yes, yes in school! », April 24, 2019, The Conversation
- " Distance education in universities and CEGEPs: the game to facilitate learning », May 15, 2020, The Conversation
- " Working in a group might be the best way to help kids meet individual goals, study says », September 24, 2019, The Hechinger Report
Video Game Lovers in Canada - 2020 Essentials, Canadian Entertainment Software Association, 2020
- " Survey on video games in a pandemic: a real outlet for young and old », November 17, 2020, Le Journal de Montréal
Hours spent on playing video games per week in Canada 2020, November 19, 2020, Alexander Kunst

A practice that is growing in popularity

Without necessarily speaking of enthusiasm, there is definitely a growing interest in gamification on the part of teachers. “I would say there has been more curiosity for 2-3 years. Teachers want to know more about ways to bring more playful elements to their teaching. They are aware that there can be benefits for their students. They want to vary their approaches and gamification is one of them, ”says Mathieu Beauséjour, teacher in the social world at Collège St-Sacrement. 

For 4 years, he has been responsible for the feedback and evaluation of the productions of learners who follow the CADRE21 gamification training. He is also the only one to have reached the highest level (#4 Innovator) of this self-training, which also includes elements of gamification, like the whole of the CADRE21 offer. We will come back to this in the next section of this dossier.

Samuel Bernard, teacher of 6e year at the Saint-Albert-le-Grand school in Quebec, has completely gamified his class for two years. Concretely, this means that he added a narrative framework to all of his planning for the year. Students create their character (avatar) at the start of the school year, then they access courses, complete quests, etc. The vocabulary has been adapted accordingly; there is no review, but battles and teams are guilds, for example. The activities are not necessarily digital, physical game boards also offer special challenges for students.

"I offer a playful universe to my students, even if, in the end, they see the same subject as the other students of 6e year, ”he says. He agrees that it took him many hours of adaptation to achieve this result. He was mainly inspired by the work of Scott Hebert, an Albertan teacher who has become the benchmark in the field. Because, in the world of classroom play, there are still few references and turnkey resources. Teachers who get started are pioneers. 

Samuel Bernard could have contented himself with adding a playful touch to his teaching, but he went for "the total". Nevertheless, he recognizes that the majority of teachers will start more modestly. In order to support his colleagues, he is currently participating in the update of the Ludification training of CADRE21.

3- Where to start?

Gamification challenges you as a teacher, but you ask yourself: How can I gamify my class, my teaching, my students' learning? Know that there is no one way of doing things that is unique. And it is quite possible that you are already doing this by using different strategies. 

Here are the 5 tips from Alexandre Chenette, which we also found in the words of Mathieu Beauséjour and Samuel Bernard:

1. Playing games is not starting over

Gamification should not be seen as a mountain or extra work. Yes, you have to take the time to stop and add a little more to your teaching, but it is especially not a question of starting from scratch. Gamification does not involve creating games for the class, but rather adopting a playful attitude. 

“It is entirely possible to make adjustments to the activities that are already being used in order to make them more fun and engaging for the students. "

Samuel bernard

“It is possible to start integrating concepts related to play in certain activities (quest, challenge, notion of time and scoring system). The important thing is to put the students into action. "

- Mathieu Beauséjour

2. Learning always comes first

Gamification should never be to the detriment of learning but, on the contrary, serve to improve it. Learning is the main thing, fun makes everything more enjoyable for everyone.

“Always keep in mind your educational intention. It is not a question of making a game in order to make a game. "

Mathieu Beausejour

“I find it easier for students to develop skills like collaboration, risk taking and decision making through playful activities. And it has nothing to do with whether or not technological tools are used. "

Samuel bernard

3. There are different types of players / learners

While the majority of young people (and not so young) like to gamble, there are different types of players who do not seek the same gaming experiences (see Bartle's typology). Likewise, there are different types of learners. It is therefore essential to think of various games and approaches.

“Gamification is like the rest. If we do the same thing over and over again, it can become redundant for the students. It takes some diversity. Some activities will be very simple, such as a quiz, while others might have students complete a challenge in a video game. "

Mathieu Beausejour

“Gamification of my class allows me to reach more students who like school less at the base or who have certain learning difficulties. Finally, I notice that it is all the students who participate more. "

Samuel bernard

4. Pay attention to the ratio of time invested and educational value

Your time is immensely valuable, and gaming shouldn't take up all of your free time. For example, you shouldn't spend an entire weekend creating an activity that will only take 20 minutes to complete in class.

“I admit that it's easy to get carried away and spend a lot more time than expected on a project. I experienced it personally. Pay close attention to time and go back to your original teaching intention. "

Mathieu Beausejour

“Personally, I spent a lot of time setting up the playful world of my class. It's a choice I made. Even I would recommend going step by step, playing one activity at a time. "

Samuel bernard

5. Have fun

Make sure you find fun on your own when creating fun learning activities. And ask yourself if you would have fun doing the activities. If the answer is no, maybe it is better to change the concept. Pleasure and passion are contagious.

“The big difference in my class with gamification is that we have a lot more fun. There is an energy that is felt. I feel the motivation of my students. "

Samuel bernard

4- Possible to play remotely?

Will the new reality of hybrid or distance education give an additional impetus towards gamicisation? Maintaining student motivation and engagement has always been the biggest challenge in distance education, long before online education. Gamification can therefore be all the more interesting in an online context, while it reduces the dichotomy between pleasure and work, by making learning more enjoyable and stimulating. 

“Having to switch to distance education meant that some teachers looked for new ways to keep in touch with their students and engage them more in their learning. It is clear that the current situation is not conducive to reinventing the wheel, but it may be the time to try new things. The context allows, all the same, to give oneself a certain leeway to experiment, ”argues Mathieu Beauséjour.

“Gamification lends itself well to distance education. Plus, it's nice to know that what works remotely will also work in the classroom. So, it may be worthwhile to develop new educational activities with online tools. They can be used in class in future years, ”adds Samuel Bernard. 

Among his favorite apps for gaming online education, he notes Kahoot, Genially, Quizzlet and Gimkit. For his part, Mathieu places in his top 3 Genially, Minecraft and Scratch.

A platform like for example is ideal for creating scenarios, quests, interactive learning activities, easily shareable and searchable by students online. Gamicization also goes wonderfully well with a flipped classroom approach.

The beauty of gaming is that while it doesn't require a screen, it can be experienced both online and in person.

In addition :
Student work by Mathieu Beauséjour who made the programming of a game in his history class. Programming with Scratch was taught in a course in the Robotics Program.

5- Tools to explore

There are several ways to gamify your class or teaching. From a simple quiz to programming a mini video game, the possibilities are numerous and remain accessible to both curious teachers and experts in scriptwriting activities.

Here is an overview of contexts and related applications.

In its thematic guide, The educational use of video games, Carrefour education also has many applications.

Creation games : Platforms allowing players to create their own games or virtual environments (e.g .: Minecraft, Roblox, CoSpaces, Unity).

Escape games: Games where you have to find clues and answer puzzles to be able to escape and complete a scenario (e.g .:Genially, BreakoutEdu).

Exploration games: Immersive games in which players are free to explore a place or an era (e.g .: Discovery Tour).

Programming games: Applications allowing students to tame code or code their own game (e.g .: Scratch, MakeCode Arcade)

Quiz games: Games to answer questions interactively (e.g .: Wooclap, AgoraQuiz, Kahoot, Quiz, Socrative, Gimkit).

Serious games and educational games: Video games with serious intent, such as learning or solving scientific problems (e.g .: Alloprof, PHYLO,

Role play game : Games to create different characters and / or interactive scenarios (e.g .:Constellation of the bear, RPG Maker, Twine).

Gamified learning : Platforms integrating video game mechanisms to motivate and facilitate learning or classroom management (e.g .:Duolingo, Brainscape, Classcraft, Classdojo)

6- Good for teachers too?

It is not only young people who are attracted to the game, the competitive spirit and the narrative framework behind the gamification of more serious learning. As we have seen in this dossier, adults are just as sensitive as they are to the playful aspect of an activity. Just remember that the average age of video game enthusiasts is 37 years old.

So, regardless of the age of the learners, it can be relevant and advantageous to divert web-marketing strategies into a didactic strategy that facilitates the acquisition and sharing of knowledge, as indicated by Grégoire Aribaut, educational advisor. at the University of Montreal, during a conference given at REFAD.

Based on this research data, the CADRE21 based part of its professional development training model for teachers on gamification. The organization offers training courses in which learners can cross four levels in each of them (explorer, architect, virtuoso and innovator), they get personalized feedback after each level, in addition to collecting badges that certify the acquisition of knowledge and skills.

“The levels mark the progression in learning and the development of skills by learners; this is an important element in the construction of our self-study courses. In addition, we place great emphasis on personalized feedback, which is always provided by an expert in the subject of the training. It is this feedback that brings greater value to the online training experience, ”says Maxime Pelchat, digital strategist at CADRE21.

What about badges?

Often associated with gamification, the attribution of badges is one of its flagship elements. “The digital badge represents proof of a professional development process. Thus, the badge granted to a learner via the CADRE21 platform contains traces of his reflections and concrete actions in his community. It is therefore by demonstrating its “reflective action” that the badge takes on its full value, ”argues Maxime. 

Nonetheless, “digital badges are now a reality in the portrait of professional development and continuing education for teachers in Canada. In addition to recognizing the skills associated with obtaining them (proofs), a number of hours associated with their acquisition allows everything to be included in a professional development plan. " 

In short, the badge represents recognition for the learner who has completed a training course and who is committed to his learning. This is an element of motivation and additional commitment, which can be displayed in his professional portfolio afterwards, alongside other achievements and certifications.

In addition : 

  • Gamification training, FRAME21
  • Training in connection with educational escape games, FRAME21
  • STORY Campus: Escape games allow you to learn through play. They aim to solve a series of puzzles in real context to open a treasure chest or to meet new challenges. This Campus RÉCIT self-study presents, in addition to traditional games with padlocks and digital games, other options using a variety of equipment.
  • Serious games in a social universe : This Training courses allows you to explore the educational potential of serious social games in high school. During the first module, Marc-André Éthier, professor at the University of Montreal, talks about learning and serious games, including Ubisoft's Origins and Minecraft. What does research say about the use of this technology in schools? The second module presents a concrete example filmed in 1st secondary school to help you understand and visualize how this unfolds. In the next module, you are invited to try out a task with the Origins game. The last module offers tutorials to help you use this game from Ubisoft.
  • Sharing of fun activities: Learning in progress ... is a platform for sharing dynamic and experiential learning activities based on game
  • " Digital badges: value, trust, recognition and credibility », June 2, 2020, The EdCan Network
  • " About badges », July 6, 2020, Sébastien Stasse


The theme of gamification is often associated with video games, with good reason, since it draws a large part of its characteristics from it. Nevertheless, play, in general, has always been an integral part of the learning process in children. We only have to think about the importance of symbolic play in preschool. This dossier aimed to better define gamification in education, the forms it can take and above all to remind people that this practice is accessible to all.

Indeed, let us remember that the fact of playing games does not mean especially to become a creator of games. It is more a question of drawing inspiration from the characteristics of these, such as scenarios, challenges to be overcome, rapid feedback and the recognition of successes in order to promote motivation, the desire to go further. and to surpass oneself. Everything is in the subtlety and the gradual changes that it is possible to make. Above all, it is important to be yourself and to go there according to your level of confidence. There are very intuitive tools to take your first steps.

As an educator, the success of your students remains a priority. What could be better than allowing them to reach it in a pleasant, fun and engaging way? By stimulating their intrinsic motivation, by promoting their engagement in their learning, you have a positive and lasting impact on them.

Distance education provides an additional opportunity to try out new pedagogical approaches. Now is the time to try out different ways of doing things with your students, always focusing on efficiency and simplicity. So this could be your chance to get started.

Will you be among those who will adopt gamicisation? 

In addition 
To read in the École branchée:

To read on Carrefour education:

The educational use of video games
Board games in the classroom: learn, play, create and craft!

Please note! The English translation of this text is automated - Errors (sometimes hilarious!) can creep in! ;)