Gamification and Caring for the Planet

Gamification, is playing and playing is learning, AND it also needs a lot of effort for facilitation from the teacher/parent in order to happen etc. Sometimes we offer the tool with no facilitation and I wonder if we have not missed placed our expectations, thinking learning will happen, with no container offered (another word for facilitation). Of course, this is only one perspective and I will follow this one, in the future, another perspective might serve us.

The keyword is caring.

How can we teach with gamification? As I am not directly working with Gamification, and it is an important part of learning, I choose to make it part of all teachers’ programs I offer. This article is to help us start our own process in BEING CURIOUS about gamification and how it can actually work for sustainable learning. Sustainable learning is the learning that is meaningful for both teacher and students, I wrote previously about this idea.

 Here is a simple valuable process image from researcher Daniel Fernandez Galeote, University of Tampere:

“According to Plass, Homer, and Kinzer’s foundations of game-based learning (2015), game design channels cognitive, motivational, affective and social-cultural foundations to create engagement not just with the game, but also with the educational subject. This results in learning outcomes and ideally climate change engagement, including climate change behavioral transfer.”

Design-Based Lesson, from teachers in the course “New Learning Ways and Spaces- What next in Classroom?” October 2021

Here are some tools for teachers’ own process, to accompany any plan for including gamification for sustainable learning in their own class:

  1. Pay attention to your agenda. Being mindful of our own agenda, and how flexible we are with how we get to learning outcomes. Gamification challenges the teacher as “she/he is no longer in control” on how we learn/ the learning paths are to be co-designed as we proceed, teachers and students. The first small step is this, asking ourselves “what is my agenda” and being aware when I “migh push” the process, so it might leads to something I believe “is the right way”. Allowing the process to happen, the effort goes with being curious, aware of how the actual learning is happening. One way to do that is using simple framing, clarifying the steps we follow, and allowing each student to create his/her own learning experience.  As the teacher is no longer the control holder has now the mindset and time to OBSERVE and journal/document in simple format how the learning actually happens. By observing, the teacher can offer further support to students on how they could learn deeper, scaffold their experience with a certain game, see patterns of interest in the class/group and propose further generative dialogue on those topics. Gamification with care for the planet openes the opportunity for how we can communicate science effectively in the class. Thus, our agenda can be fluid, adaptive and supporting a design based process of learning.
  2. Teach with attitudes: Teaching with attitude, meaning I know why I am learning this and what is that I am willing to do with what I learn, putting it to service for the good of many. Introducing and allowing space for students to ponder on their attitudes (pondering is not easy when we were taught to replicate and memorize information, so patience for unlearning is needed). This process is equally valuable for the teacher, as I watch my attitude means I continuously get curios about the subject I am teaching, I might as well with the right attitude include in teaching some of my passions ( for maybe art, dance, music, etc) hence creating wellbeing for me and students. Looking at the attitude with which I use gamification in my class, let’s say hypothetically if I am approaching this with a fixed mindset (it doesn’t work, it is this or that) or exhausted and don t want actually to be challenged by a game, or worried/scared I do not have the “right ICT skills” then learning outcomes from gamification cannot really be deep learning. Watch the attitude might be very well step 1 in this process.
  3. Building the image of the one learning– as I was following the philosophy teacher lesson in Tillu highschool in Vantaa, Finland about 2 years ago, there was journaling as part of the learning assignment (gamification), after each game, students would journal about their state of mind, about the emotions, ideas they got, their internal process of thinking. Allowing time to build proprioception ( David Bohm) will be valuable skill for critical and scientific thinking as well as social-emotional intelligence, being able to actually actively listen to others, respect, and work in diverse cultural contexts/teams.
  4. Make it social learning: in the same observation I mentioned above in some lessons, one student might be playing and other students might be observers, creating a legitimate role of being observer, with the right facilitation. That is not consuming or passive playing if given the tools/ a frame for observing ( a simple journaling form). This is something I would like to see more of in the future and research more. 
  5. “I care about what I know, I know what I learn”: I was so impressed with the gaming logic of the young students with which I was co-designing a game, as a learning practice. The facilitator mentioned that we might spend 90% of the time on finding the group meaningful subject ground, what matters to all of us, something we all cared about, and not hurrying to “how we create the game”. Use gamification to create space for cooperation and find meaningful learning for students. Also, slowing down the pace, not jumping to “the problem-solving mode too quickly”, meaningful dialogue will create deep learning.
  6. Who does the talking does the learning– using games in which students and teachers actually co-create/design-based learning experience as much as possible, that will support critical thinking, computational thinking, and social skills. In my training with teachers we do a small simple practice for this: think of a lesson ( ideally co-teaching, integrated), create a short lesson plan, and activities (keep it simple and short). Then choose 2 “personas” from your class ( 2 students that just come to your mind now) and try (imagine) conducting lesson in your head with these 2 students, based on their personal characteristics what is their experience, shortly journal it, and finally what will you change to the lesson to make it “better” based on these students experience. Who does the gaming/talking/work does the learning, make sure the gamification you choose involves plenty of opportunities for students to “shape” their learning/gaming experience.
  7. Practice role-playing. In my COACHING STEAM and Coaching for challenging learning I asked teachers to play a game ( Quandary) and journal about their experience and emotions ( answers like I wanted to give up, it was hard to come up a lot). Then I ask them to play as if they were one of their students and also play as they were their mom, journal again. Many reported they felt the impulse to continue playing as they were imagining being these other “roles”, and based on the profoundness of their answer their concentration/presence might have been greater. Practice and create a social and cultural context for gaming and gamification, while doing so you invite students to practice compassion, caring for others, observing being curious, and accepting diversity.
  8. Compassionate and empathy walk: Finnish art teacher from highschool, dear friend, said he has now to change the curriculum, all the tools he ahs been using for a long time to teach art, because students don’t want to learn like this art anymore, they worry about the planet. I might not see that this way as a teacher as an older person, who knows why, YET I can practice compassion and empathy “walk” and put myself in the place of the student, teach as with care for a better positive future “ young people have the right to a positive future image”. Gamification helps teachers and students practice empathy and compassion skills with role playing and intelligence of the group practice (WeQ). 

Teachers as active researchers

There are many different tools for teachers’ self-development I briefly mentioned about eight of them, I invite you to choose one tool, that you find most interesting to you and journal about it every day for a couple of weeks/months to see how it works in practice. For more reference and support I will add with this article interviews with Gamification experts and researchers.

Images from the course ” New Learning Ways & Spaces- What Next in Classrooms?”, thanking teachers for their journaling with amazing pictures.



  1. More on Gamification and climate change research
  2. More on Science Communication 
  3. On Systemic thinking, and systemic change related to climate change Karen O’Brian, University of Oslo, 
  4. Quandary, a game supported by Dalai Lama Center for ethics and transformative values T and curriculum 
  5. More on playing for the planet 
  6. More on how to approach Climate Change subject with attention for intergenerational divergences, compassion Quel monde pour demain ?: Dialogue entre générations (French Edition), book by Sandrine Dixson-Declève

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