J. Simões1, R. Redondo2, A. Vilas2

1Instituto Superior Politécnico Gaya (PORTUGAL)
2University of Vigo (SPAIN)
Student disengagement is a global world problem in most of the developed countries. Some studies point to 20% to 25% of students in 28 OECD countries classified as having low participation and/or a low sense of belonging. The disengagement problem crosses all education levels. Boredom and apathy in class have been pointed as primary reasons that many students do not become engaged in school learning. Motivation and engagement are critical issues for the completion of a task or encouragement of a specific behavior, therefore, also critical issues for students’ success.

Students today live in a world where the rapid evolution and spread of digital technology is a historical singularity that underlies the radical transformation of our society. A vast majority of students are technology consumers and are familiar with the language of video games that they play on computers, smartphones or tablet computers.

In the education sector, games are used for a long time, a trend known as Game-Based Learning. But this approach has some implementation issues in schools that reduce their impact.

Gamification, a way to make non-game contexts look like games, emerged as a new trend at the beginning of the second decade of this century. Gamification seeks to get people change their behaviors in order to be more loyal to a brand or to a service, to be more motivated to perform a task that they were not willing to do or to improve their habits regarding a healthier life or a more sustainable society.

Education has been pointed as one of the main fields where this trend can make a contribution. Gamification can be seen as an alternate approach to Game-Based Learning by applying the power of games without using full-fledged games. Gamification has the potential to improve students motivation and engagement.

Gamification is a concept in the crossroads of games, technology and psychology. A psychology theory known as flow has been widely cited in gamification studies. In contexts related to human behavior and computers, flow has also been studied in human–computer interaction, video games, instant messaging, mobile technologies, web sites in general, and game-based learning. Flow theory has its historical roots in positive psychology and can be described as “the holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement”. Flow occurs when one is totally involved in the task at hand. Flow has also been related to learning and academic achievement.

This paper describes a controlled experiment were flow, as a psychological state, was used as a measurement of engagement with a Social Learning Environment in a primary education context. Flow was measured by using a questionnaire based on the Dispositional Flow Scale-2 (DFS-2). The DFS-2 assesses the general tendency to experience flow characteristics within a particular setting. The experiment tested the hypothesis that a gamified version of a SLE causes a more user engagement than a non-gamified version. The paper presents a detailed description of the experiment followed by an explanation of how the experiment was run and how the results were processed. The paper ends with a discussion of the obtained empirical results and offers interpretations and conclusions based on those findings.