Explore Purpose-Based Learning and Gamification

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain purpose-based learning and why it matters.
  • Describe what gamification is and how Age of Makers uses it.

Purpose-Based Learning Starts With the Why

The traditional approach to education starts by trying to teach students specific skills, without showing them why they should care about them in the first place. Without context, students lack the intrinsic motivation they need to deeply grasp a topic. The traditional approach focuses on the trees, without ever connecting them to the greater forest. 

Lee Lefever offers an alternative to the traditional approach in his book, “The Art of Explanation”. According to Lefever, understanding can be seen as a balance between the how and the why.

  • The less you understand about a topic at first, the more you need context, the why. Why does this topic matter? How is it connected to the greater picture?
  • As you start to understand the topic better, you can start digging deeper and determining more precisely how it works.

In other words, a purpose-based approach drives deeper understanding and motivation to learn. According to this approach, as you learn a specific topic, your understanding gradually shifts from more why to more how.

Understanding goes from less to more as Why shifts to How

Purpose-based learning flips the traditional education system’s paradigm by starting with the why—the challenges that students and their society/community are facing. Students then choose a specific topic that they want to address. They then start learning new skills to solve the problems that they care about. With purpose-based learning, students have agency in their learning and understand why they’re learning specific information and skills.

The Age of Makers game and its programs are built on the principles of purpose-based learning. That’s why participating students are first introduced to some of the world’s biggest problems, using powerful and simple frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). (To learn more about the SDGs, see the Resources section of this unit.) On top of the purpose-based approach, Age of Makers adds a layer of gamification that works like the cherry on the student’s motivational sundae. This layer keeps them motivated and engaged.

Gamification: The Foundation of the Age of Makers Approach

Gamification is the strategic attempt to motivate and engage users. Gamification provides participants with a sense of challenge, thrill, and accomplishment, similar to what people feel when they play games. It is the application of game-design elements and principles, such as scoring points, appearing on a leaderboard, and earning badges. These ideas might sound familiar because Trailhead also uses gamification. Speaking of which, make sure to complete this module to add this badge to your collection.

Age of Makers pushes gamification even further with these innovative concepts. 

  • Learning Map
  • Quests
  • Ages
  • Journeys

Let’s explore these concepts in more detail.

The Learning Map Opens Up a Whole New World

The internet is packed with great learning apps and ways to learn specific topics. The challenge for students is not a lack of places to learn and skill up independently, but rather the difficulty to connect them all together in a meaningful way.

In the Age of Makers game, the Learning Map solves this challenge by providing a high-level, visual way to see the different topics at hand and how they all relate to each other. There is no set order in which the topics must be tackled. Rather, students choose what they want to do first and gain ownership in their learning.

A Learning Map with regions in Age of Makers

Quests Offer Limitless Learning Opportunities

To build a solution to the challenge that students care about, they skill up by completing quests, which are bite-sized learning adventures—highly curated for each journey.

Quests can take different forms, including:

  • A video with interactive quizzes to assess and strengthen the students' learnings
  • A showcase to inspire the students
  • An online, interactive guide for any websites, such as MakeCode, BandLab, and Tinkercad—unique to Age of Makers

For an educator, the amount of content that the game can leverage is endless. 

An embedded guide of Tinkercad in Age of Makers

Ages Guide Learning Journeys

When a student opens the game for the first time, it’d be very intimidating if the whole learning map appeared—where would they start? That’s why we built the concept of ages. At each age, students only see the part of the map that’s relevant to where they are in the game.

When the game starts, only a few, doable quests are available in a small part of the map. As you complete quests and straighten out your why, you reach new ages, where more of the map becomes visible. The higher the ages, the more you explore the how.

The students’ learnings are also guided within each age. Quests are locked until the prerequisite quests are completed. This approach ensures "mastery-based learning," where students move to the next topic only after they’ve mastered the previous one. To learn more about mastery-based learning, see the Resources section of this unit.

A quest in Age of Makers

Journeys Tell Their Own Story 

Multiple journeys are available in Age of Makers, and more are on the way! Journeys can be seen as adventures that students can take. 

Each journey follows this pedagogic order.

  1. The Challenge. Students find a challenge that they want to solve in their communities. For example, one of the Sustainable Development Goals or a social inequality that they care about.
  2. Independent Learning. On their own, students learn skills relevant to their challenges, such as coding, music, electronics, and artificial intelligence (AI).
  3. Make. Students use the new skills to build a concrete solution to the challenge they are solving.
  4. The Faire. Finally, students showcase their solutions in front of an audience.

Age of Makers’ Pedagogic Journey: 1. The Challenge—students find a challenge that they want to solve in their communities. 2. Independent Learning—on their own, students learn skills relevant to their challenges. 3. Make—students use the new skills to build a concrete solution. 4. The Faire—students showcase their solutions in front of an audience.

Because each journey culminates in a real-life presentation, students learn how to pitch their ideas and develop confidence about their work. They become agents of change for the world around them. Students shift from consumers to creators, learning how to be active citizens and changemakers.

A student from Visitation Valley Middle School showcasing her work to Ebony Beckwith, Salesforce’s Chief Philanthropy Officer


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