Deliberate Fun Chapter Excerpt -- Case Study: Sententia Gamification’s Learner Personas

by Jonathan Peters, PhD and Monica Cornetti

Sententia Gamification offers three levels of certification for the gamification of learning. Level 1 introduces learners to 30-step, trademarked process for gamifying a learning program. Level 2 fleshes out the process and guides learners through actually gamifying a program. And Level 3 is a full-on design mastermind that takes place once a year (currently).

Meet Irene

Irene was our first learner persona.  She is an mid-career Instructional Designer. Just looking at her, you may have seen  someone like her at a Learning and Development company. She may have look like someone working in your department. It is likely that you and she would have a wonderful professional conversation. It may even be that when people see Irene, they think of you.

What’s interesting about the creation of Irene was the name we assigned her. As Irene “came to life,” Monica decided to name her Irene because the persona, at that stage...

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Wake Up to a Back-to-School Sleep Challenge

Uncategorized Aug 14, 2019

by Monica Cornetti
CEO, Sententia Gamification

Favorite memories of summer?  Top of the list for me was a not-so-strict-bedtime schedule. We’d ride our bikes till dusk, play kick-the-can in the backyard with only the back-porch light and the moon to guide our way, home-made Kool-Aid popsicles, and empty sauce jars to catch fireflies. Some of best summer activities were those done at night!

And all too quickly, we began the 2-week countdown till back-to-school, and an 8:30 p.m. bedtime.

Life repeats itself this week as my youngest son texts me in an almost panic writing, “I’ve got to get Giuseppe on a sleep schedule – he starts kindergarten next week!” So with a quick internet search, I discover that the best way to prepare kids for a back-to-school sleep schedule is by beginning early — 10 days to two weeks early, to be exact. Realizing that we’ve blown that deadline, I read on and am relieved to learn that if you don’t have that...

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Family, Fireworks, and Fun

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

Visualize this:  It’s the Fourth of July in the United States. You are at a park awaiting the setting sun and the fireworks. You are sitting on a blanket and have a picnic next to you waiting to be consumed. And let’s assume the weather is delightful (not the heat-wave most experience in reality).    

Are you there alone? If not, who is with you?    

For many people, this celebration involves the family—specifically, their children. They can’t understand why you would be at a park, watching fireworks, without your children running around.    

And then there are those for whom the bands of brats, roaming around the park, making noise and messes is a distraction from a perfectly good evening and a celebration of independence.    

In his landmark study, Steven Reiss, PhD, noted, among other things, that people have different...

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Power as a Key Motivator for Play

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In the first-ever empirically-based taxonomy of human needs and desires (how’s that for an opening line), Steven Reiss, PhD identified 16 Core Desires that we all have. These Core Desires motivate us to do certain things in life to satisfy them. What makes us different from each other is the emphasis we place on each one of the Core Desires.    

For instance, Power (the desire to exert one’s will) is an important motivator because the more power we have, the more resources we have, and by extension, the more likely our children will survive and pass along our genes to future generations.    

So while we all have a desire for Power, some of us want more power than others (think politicians vs. your company’s receptionist of 24 years).    

From an evolutionary perspective, whether packs or tribes, animals tend to self-organize in a hierarchy....

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Every Profession that Designs Experiences For Others Uses Personas... Except Learning and Development

Pretty much every profession that designs experiences for other people uses personas… except the learning and development community. Game designers, app designers, web page designers all rely on personas to determine what will appeal to their target audiences and what things they should avoid. But for some reason, instructional designers skip this stage. They simply build a program around the course material without consideration of their “customers.”

Personas came from the marketing world a few decades ago. Marketers realized that focusing on whole populations wasn’t effective. They needed actual personas who are so complete you feel like they are your friend. Once you have their picture in front of you, you can create marketing copy that feels like you are talking directly to a single person instead of broadcasting to an entire population.

Whenever we speak about learner personas at conferences, we get push back. People say things like, “You...

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What Can We Learn from the Marshmallow Tests for the Gamification of Learning?

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In our efforts to make learning engaging through gamification, we may trip over some unintended consequences. It turns out that there are some advantages to dry, boring lectures. 

It goes back to the famous “Marshmallow Tests” that began in the 1960s. As an aside, the Marshmallow tests didn’t just involve marshmallows. Researchers showed young children a small treat, whatever the child liked. If they liked marshmallows, it was a marshmallow; if they liked something better than marshmallows, then that’s what they were offered. 

The researchers told the children that if they waited and didn’t eat the treat until the researcher returned that the child would get two of the treats. However, at any time, the child could ring a bell and eat the treat, but they wouldn’t get the second treat.  

Some children rang the bell almost immediately; others were able to hold...

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A "Hold-Your-Pee" Game Mechanic?

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Sententia Gamification Chief Motivation Officer

I recently read an article about creating engagement at events in a manner that people put the needs of the group ahead of their own. The author mentioned a bar in College Park, MD, that had an innovative beer special:  beer was $1.50 until someone, um, “relieved themselves.” When someone couldn’t hold it anymore and used the restroom, the beer prices went back to the regular price.

This game mechanic, “hold-your-pee,” probably won’t get included on Sententia Gamification’s list of game mechanics, but like all mechanics, hold-your-pee does appeal to different core motivators differently.

For instance, if someone were highly motivated by Acceptance, they would leave the bar and drive down to the road to use the restroom at a McDonalds instead of letting down the group. This game mechanic would put them under a lot of stress both emotionally and physically.

On the...

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The Dark Side of Oxytocin

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

In several of my articles and webinars, I’ve noted the importance of story in learning programs. Specifically, I mentioned the work of Paul Zak who, with the help of the Department of Defense, has shown that when we hear a character-driven story, even if it is as emotionless as the founding story of your company, we get a nice spike of oxytocin.               

Zak has made a name for himself in the study of oxytocin, being called the “Love Doctor” for his prescription of eight hugs a day. And while love can make the world go ‘round, it turns out it really isn’t as simple as eight hugs, especially during the #metoo era.               

Mammals produce oxytocin in their nervous system and bloodstream. It’s most obvious use is to...

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Raspberries, Learning, and a Dose of Dopamine

by Jonathan Peters, PhD
Chief Motivation Officer, Sententia Gamification

We LOVE dopamine. The release of this neurochemical in our brains rewards us when we do things that are/should be good for us and/or the passage of our DNA to the next generation. We feel pleasure, for instance, when we see a raspberry because our brain knows that when we eat it, the glucose will give us energy (and it will taste good). Soon afterwards, though, the dopamine drops off, and we desire another berry to get that dopamine dose again. We will even walk back to the berry patch and fight with the stickers to get the next raspberry.

But what is even more interesting is that dopamine appears to be involved in learning and memory.

To exert some control over an uncertain life, dopamine rewards us when we discover information about our environment. After all, when we return to the berry patch next month, we’ll only see a tangle of stickers. Our ancestors needed to learn about seasons so that they would...

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Pushing Boundaries Through Play

Play, at least from an evolutionary psychological perspective, isn’t always smiles and unicorns. Watch any group of children playing, and you’ll see them push the boundaries. Boys will typically escalate “rough-and-tumble” play until someone expresses pain. And while girls stereotypically are less physically aggressive, their play often involves psychological components, such as, teasing, gossip, and exclusionary clique-formation. 

While adults typically intervene when boundaries get pushed during play, it’s important to understand that this is vital aspect of play. All mammals engage in this type of play, especially as juveniles. Watch two dogs playing, and the snarling and tugging will continue until one of them yelps. Similarly, a group of children will escalate rough-housing until someone says, “Hey, that hurt,” or a few tears are shed. 

Typically, the play pauses at this point. The hurt and hurter both learn something about...

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