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Arriving in Philadelphia felt like visiting an old friend. I attended grad school in the city and looked forward to spending the next four days on streets I knew. I joke that downtown Philly is the one city area where I can't get lost.


Driving into the downtown area, I was excited to find out what ISTE would be like this year and to learn what kind of gamification a conference centered around the power of technology would provide.

 

After I picked up my badge from ISTE Central and dropped off my tickets for the yearly prize drawings, I finally downloaded the mobile app and checked out the mobile game.

 

This year ISTE has two main games running. One is the kind of game I've discussed before--the expo hall card. The other, the mobile game, is more interesting.

 

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The mobile game, which requires participants have the app, relies on codes and some actions. Conference participants collect codes by attending sessions, connecting with other participants, going on a tour, and entering certain drawings. Points also accumulate when participants take feedback surveys after a session or engage in back channel communication, such as by posting "in the stream." The stream is a messaging system embedded in each session's information page in the app.


Each of these actions are authentic and interesting ways to participate in the conference. Engaging in the back channel during the keynote (Soledad O'Brien who did an excellent job, by the way) enhanced my experience. I enjoyed learning what my peers found compelling. Also, by adding an incentive to the surveys, the game ensures that more presenters get feedback.


However, the game isn't a complete success. Besides some of the badges being difficult to earn (I have yet to figure out how to make my tweets count for points), the game is only accessible to those with smart phones. Anyone without is locked out of play. The no-smart-phone population might be small, but that doesn't mean they should be locked out of playing. When we design games and gamification, we should always think through access issues like this.


If you're here at ISTE and playing the game, please share your thoughts in the comments!