Allow me to school you on Gamification: Theory and Applications in the Liberal Arts

Posted: 2014/04/07 by Punkonomics (@dearbalak) in Announcements, Links/Articles/Video
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
April 9, 2:00pm – 3:00pm

As zoologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and many educators know, playing games is at the heart of learning. Teachers have long used rhetorical games like debates or mind games such as Socratic elenchus to encourage critical thinking. But what about video and computer games? While readily accepted as play, games are increasingly being viewed as a teaching tool. What role might they play in fostering critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and complex decision-making skills in the liberal arts? (Times EDT)

Held online via desktop videoconferencing.

Ten years ago, Beni Balak, associate professor of economics at Rollins College, began using computer games in his classes. As a long-time computer gamer turned professor, he had observed that many of the best practices in pedagogical research were adopted by the electronic game industry. Today, the electronic game industry leads the entertainment sector economy with $70+ billion in annual sales, influencing the economy, culture, and learning. While some teachers remain skeptical about the value of video and computer games in education, over the past decade, a body of theoretical and applied pedagogical work on the use of games as teaching tools has emerged. Gamification in higher education generally refers to video and computer games and involves two related, but distinct approaches: using games as teaching tools and structuring entire courses as games.

In this seminar, Balak will identify the principles he employed and the specific structures of the courses he has gamified both using games (i.e., Civilization and World of Warcraft) as well as, more recently, gamifying the curriculum. Beyond the fundamental changes he made to the syllabi and the grading structure, he is beta-testing a learning management system (LMS) specifically designed for this purpose. Join us for this seminar and learn about his progress developing a gamified course structure, how it engages students and accelerates learning, as well as the difficulties he has encountered as he continues to explore the potential of games in the liberal arts.

Recommended Resources

Please review and explore these resources to prepare for active engagement with your fellow seminar participants.

Further Reading
  • Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillian.
  • Gee, J. P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillian.
  • Sheldon, L. (2012). The multiplayer classroom: Designing coursework as a game. Boston, MA: Centage Learning.
  • Marczewski, A. (2013). Gamification: A simple introduction & a bit more.
Seminar Leader

Benjamin Balak is associate professor of economics at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He specializes in the history, methodology, and rhetoric of economics, and in comparative economic systems and cultures. He has presented in numerous conferences, published several journal articles and book chapters, written a book on the rhetoric of economics, and taught a wide variety of interdisciplinary and economics courses. His recent work is increasingly focused on the teaching of economics which he regards as highly problematic and adversely affecting the current economic conversation: Real-world economic literacy is singularly important for having functioning democracies at a time of epochal economic change. He has spent more than nine years experimenting with technologically-enhanced pedagogy to breathe life into the teaching of economics and to place it in historical perspective. A self-identified computer geek and gamer since the late 70s, he has been using computer games to teach economics and is researching the topic with the help of students. He earned his B.A. in international economics from the American University of Paris (France), continued his graduate work at the University of Kent at Canterbury (UK) and earned a Ph.D. in economics from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Event Hashtag

Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on Twitter via this event’s hashtag: #nitle.


Those interested in technologically-enhanced pedagogy, curricular design, and digital games and culture should attend this seminar. Attendance by institutional teams is encouraged; individuals are also welcome to participate.

Please register online by Monday, April 7, 2014. Participation in NITLE Shared Academics is open to all active member institutions of the NITLE Network as a benefit of membership and as space allows. No additional registration fee applies.


For more information about this event, please contact Georgianne Hewett at

NITLE Shared Academics logoNITLE Shared AcademicsTM models a new approach to liberal education – made possible through strategic collaboration, driven by shared knowledge, and supported by emerging technologies. Campuses learn how inter-institutional academic exchange works by actively participating in it, building the knowledge and experience to re-architect liberal education.

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