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"Play" by VinothChandar via Flickr.

We had a sharp and thoughtful conversation this week in class about games and gameification — a word my spellchecker still doesn’t recognize, so that must mean it’s trendy — as the two relate to motivation and transfer in school settings.

I’ll attempt to sketch my gameification soapbox quickly:

• “Games” is not a monolithic category — chess is not World of Warcraft is not Tetris, so let’s be precise when we discuss what games “are” or mean for learners.

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"Green/Blue" by Alexander Steinhof via Flickr

As I read this week about the importance of successful transfer of learning to new realms, I thought about how much of the technology we interact with each day can feel transparent to use but opaque to any deeper understanding.

It’s a paradox, isn’t it? I can search the Internet without understanding the mechanism behind the engine — unless, that is, a server goes down and I get some cryptic error message from the site I’d like to visit.

Environmentalist and writer John Michael Greer has a great passage on transparent technologies, describing how one could look at a slide rule and figure out how it worked and even make new slide rules. The mechanism is clear and replicable. But a calculator — that’s a little machine composed of batteries and solar panels. You can’t look inside a calculator and figure out how it works if you have no idea what a calculator is.

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