Gamification and motivation

[Republished blog assignment for my CMNS 380 class from Winter, 2012]

Gamification and Motivation

By: Trevor Kavanaugh

The emerging workforce is a gaming workforce. Gaming now surpasses the movie industry for popularity and revenue. People get bored and uninterested in the workplace, but can game for hours on end. Companies are starting to develop systems in the workplace with elements of game thinking and game mechanics. This process is called Gamification. Growing up, games were usually based on simple hand-eye coordination and timing. Pac-man, Asteroids, Super Mario Bros… But the model of gaming has changed and it is starting to be reflected in the workplace. Modern games are socially connected, creatively open, and brimming with multitasking.

An excellent example of Gamification is a program called RedCritter Tracker. This free project management application combines rewards and social connectivity. After a project leader assigns tasks, RedCritter helps motivate staff by rewarding them with badges and points upon completion. There are even badges that can be stolen back and forth between employees in the spirit of jolly competition. For example, a ‘marathon’ badge could be offered to the employee who logged the most hours writing code in the last week. If another employee surpasses the hours, they steal the badge. There are even Facebook-like RedCritter Tracker profile pages for each employee that lets them compare stats, badges, and stories with their colleagues. This also allows them to communicate about their tasks and brings a visual element to the communication.

The company can choose to offer points for each task or badge. The employee can then spend the points on real-life prizes. These tangible rewards paired with the satisfaction of badges and checking tasks off as completed (and sharing it on your RedCritter wall) motivates workers.

The motivation to persevere [in games] is the brain seeking another surge of dopamine – the fuel of intrinsic reinforcement.” (Judy Willis, MD)

Gaming is addictive. Bringing this system of achievement and sharing that achievement with your friends/coworkers can motivate employees and boost productivity in a company. But there are also some down sides to this system:

  1. The points given must match the task size. Otherwise, employees might complain about unfair point distribution. This would be highly dispiriting for staff.
  2. The project leader can observe employees’ work and progress more closely. This may be good for the employer, but it may lead to more pressure and stress for the employee.

For employers, using this method of game thinking and game mechanics can motivate and engage their employees. Systems like this reflect a changing workplace model as we engage an emerging gaming workforce.

References/more info:

Is there such a thing as young and old humour?

age gap

[Republished blog assignment for my CMNS 380 class from Winter, 2012]

Is There Such a Thing as Young and Old Humour?

By: Jacky Kim

So how many times have you been asked a dry “Knock knock” joke? Some may think they’re lame (to be honest that would include me) or childish. Or what about the time your “older” co-worker refers to an idiom or an “old saying” as a joke. Again, I would be the one who would let out that awkward laugh and pretend it’s funny. As a Generation Y, what do I find humorous? Definitely, that hilarious “Laughing Baby” viral video making hits on YouTube! Or that amusing clip on Asian vs. White parents. Now would other generations, especially the older generations, think the same? Of course, there will be some who find it funny, while some would think it’s inappropriate or immature. Does this mean there is a division between different generations on humor? Now personally, (correct me if I’m wrong) I think this is not the case. Just like any other situation, it TOTALLY depends on the person we are talking about, is it not? Generally speaking, we would believe that the older generations would feel uncomfortable with some topics such as racism or sexist jokes. Why do you ask? Well let’s go back in time, way before the inventions of Ipods, Imax movies, and the internet (yes that would include Facebook and Twitter). Life was much tougher for some people, especially women and coloured individuals. They couldn’t vote, apply for certain jobs, or do certain things. These people had to fight for their freedom and rights. Now, let’s come back and think in their mind set. Would they find the Asian vs. White parent video funny? If they did, would they feel that they SHOULDN’T find it funny as they remember it being a sensitive topic and grew up knowing it was inappropriate to make fun of or let alone mention it at all.

Now before you get offended and think I’m too blunt and general about this topic. I AM. Let’s not forget this is a BLOG not a history book. I’m just touching on this topic, and it IS about humor so let’s not get TOO SERIOUS.

cartoon 1

To change things up a bit lets discuss about the younger generations. Humor, is much more crude these days, don’t you agree? From, sexually active cartoon characters on TV, to extremely violent humor, its just over all vulgar. Every trend on the news, whether its a world crisis, or politics, they are all made fun of in the most insensitive way possible. And guess what? Us youngin’s are LOVING it. Well not all of us, but MOST of us. Now why would that be? Well some might say its due to us not actually having to experience the impact of the situation. Do we actually know what it’s like to be stripped away of certain abilities and rights? Not really. So this could be a reason why we deal with such crucial issues so lightly. We also happen to have something called the internet, where we can bash and criticize all we want and get away with it. Racism still exists, but we can now play around with it without the punishment. Social media has played a great role in easing the intensity of serious topics and turning them into humor. Did I mention one of the most successful comedians today, became such a hit for joking about not only his nationality but others as well.

age gap

So to sum things up, the older generations DO have a sense of humor and possibly find crude jokes humorous but express as it being inappropriate due to what they know from the past. While the younger generation, aren’t immaturely or inappropriately humorous but are just joking around with what is considered funny in today’s world.

Now how does this all tie in with the work place?

cartoon 3

In a cross generational workplace, or in any type of workplace, humor plays a big part on stress relief. Laughter, a reaction to humor, releases endorphin that reduce stress as well as creating a sense of wellbeing and making you feel more alert. Now who wouldn’t want that in their work life?

The problem is, it CAN backfire. Humor is PERSONAL so what one person thinks is hilarious, could be offensive to another. So how do we avoid this?


– Before you start joking around, get to know WHO you are communicating with. Whether they are older or younger they are ALL different and have different senses of humor. Don’t assume that a certain someone will appreciate your silly joke just because they are from a younger generation. Also, that “awkward silence” moment might be due to YOUR joke NOT being funny and rather offensive, instead of you thinking that they don’t get it.


-This is referring to both sides. We all must be sensitive when we are SHARING humor as well as when we are RECEIVING humor. By being sensitive, I mean being aware of WHAT and WHOM you’re sharing to, and when receiving being open minded and thinking of WHY and WHOM it’s coming from.


-If you feel strongly offended by certain humor that is being told to you or is being said, clearly state that what they are saying is uncomfortable to you. On the other hand, if someone finds something you meant to be humorous as offensive immediately apologize and explain that your intentions were different.


-Humor is essential in the workplace. Don’t be intimidated to joke around because you are extra concerned for others. Be yourself and just be cautious.

Think before you post

i see you

[Republished blog assignment for my CMNS 380 class from Winter, 2012]

Think Before You Post

By: Daphne Cockerill

It’s time to spiff up my Facebook page if I want to land a great job. Fifty-two percent of Canadian employers do background checks using Facebook to confirm a job candidate’s qualifications. A percentage of employers also are checking social media sites such as “…LinkedIn (39%), followed by personal blogs (25%), MySpace (23%) and Twitter (11%)”.

i see youI began to think about my own information on the internet. Are there drawbacks to having my personal information available online? How do I feel about posting my personal information on the internet? Have I ever posted and wished I could immediately reclaim the words? Do I believe everything I read on the internet?

Emailing your resume to a potential employer may not be enough to defeat your job competition. Job seekers now post their credentials directly online. Employers request pre-taped or live web-based videos as a replacement for traditional face-to-face interviews. Using Skype and a web camera people can video call over the internet for free. Recruitment agencies like Meet the Real Me focus on providing online interview services for companies.

Employers and candidates are happy using digital interviews as it saves both time and money. Job seekers can rerecord videos until they perfect their skills. Employers can replay videos instead of relying on hand notes. One human resources director says video interviews allow, “…people to stand out from paper and you can assess cultural fit and the way that somebody actually comes across on screen in terms of your values.”

Connecting to people in your career field? LinkedIn is used by almost two million Canadians to help them advance in their careers. Generation X professionals go to LinkedIn to connect, exchange, and post job information with past and present coworkers. Recruitment agencies then go to LinkedIn and search for job candidates. “Just remember, if you decide to create a LinkedIn profile, keep your information professional. It’s best to save your personal information for the other social networking websites.”

Young and older generations are also actively engaging in social networking. Recent Generation Y graduates use MySpace to post personal information about themselves in the hopes of being hired. Controversy surrounds MySpace as some believe it exposes young people’s information to criminals. Baby boomers working past retirement telecommute with work using social networking sites. “Thirty-seven percent of Canadians 65 and over have visited Facebook in the past month.

Gaining immense popularity is Twitter, an information network where people can share real-time messages (called Tweets). In 2011, Twitter announced, “…it now boasts 100 million active users, half of which tweet to the site on a daily basis.” Twitter helps companies and professionals to create immediate interest and to quickly connect. Twitter demands attention so tweet regularly and be honest about yourself. With no Twitter privacy settings, everyone will have real time access to your information.

Some social media posting tips include:

  • Setting your software’s privacy settings to control who shares in your information.
  • Being wise in what you choose to post.
  • Posting when you are in a positive mood.
  • Using proper grammar and spelling if posting to a business website.
  • Posting information relevant to the job you are applying and not your entire life story.

Remember – think before you post as your potential future employer might be looking.



Millennial generation rule breakers are the new rule makers

kick back at work

[Republished blog assignment for my CMNS 380 class from Winter, 2012]

Millennial Generation Rule Breakers are the New Rule Makers

By: Tammy MacAdams  CMNS 380, 2012

Perhaps you have heard of the Millennial Generation invading the office with their flip flops and their Flicker breaks? The millennial generation are rule breakers in the workplace, but will they soon be the next rule makers?kick back at work

The teenagers and 20-something’s that make up  the millennial generation are rapidly entering the workplace. According to, “By the year 2015, the youngest millennials will be of working age, while the oldest will be entering the prime of their careers, and they currently comprise roughly 35% of the U.S. workforce, but by 2014, are projected to be 47%.” This generation is driven, tech-savvy, relationship-oriented, socially responsible, and they will change how we communicate and do business.

With their tattoos and body piercings the millennial generation have unique ways of self-expression that are not typical of orthodox Ivy Leaguers, but don’t let that fool you. An

article on U.S.A reports, “The most detailed study to date of the 18 to 29-year-old millennial generation finds this group probably will be the most educated in American history.”  With education under their belts, they will be quick to gain experience and fill senior roles. As they take the lead, their desire for real-time information along with their ability to stay connected will result in increased efficiency and collaboration in the workplace. In addition, being wired and connected almost from birth, this generation understands how to manage social media. As more companies embrace social media, the millennials will be playing instrumental roles in taking it to the next level.

When millennials are calling the shots, there will be flexible work environments and shorter work days. Friends and family are important to this generation so staying at a cubicle for eight hours a day won’t work. Millineials understand that work must be done and deadlines need to be met, but you are more likely to find a millennial working on the annual report after hours at Starbucks, than at their desk on a Monday afternoon. Their unorthodox views of working when most are sleeping, or Skyping in instead of driving to meetings may be seen as being unproductive to some, but rest assured millennials will figure how to get as much done in five to six hours as most people do in eight.

With Baby boomers retiring en mass, you may notice an influx of new hire announcements in your inbox, and it is a good bet that many of them are from the millennial generation. It is clear the millennial generation’s loud voice is being heard by decision makers. They will soon gain the experience to move up the corporate ladder and change the workplace for the better.

Gen Mixing: Teaching in a cross-generational classroom

group blog

During the winter 2012 semester I taught a course (CMNS 380) called The Cross-Generational Workplace: Closing the Communication Gapgroup blog

I designed this course to provide students with the skills needed to interact and communicate effectively within a day-to-day workplace environment and build on the potential that a cross-generational workplace can have.

The workplace now has at least four generations of employees. Gone are the long held stereotypes of generational level expertise. Younger people are bringing technologically advanced skills to the workplace; and experienced older people are working well past traditional retirement age to contribute their intellectual capital.

The course turned out even better than I planned. You have to love it when that happens!

The classroom mirrored the cross-generational phenomenon occurring in our workplaces.  There were students from every defined generational group: the Traditionalists, the Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials (also known as Gen Y).

As a class we even had a great debate about how we felt about the new labels being given to the generation just about to enter university.  Depending on what you read you will see this new group of students being called Gen Now, Gen Net, Gen Z, the Internet Gen – and even Gen 911.

It will be interesting to watch which of these labels will stick!

So what is it like teaching a cross-generational class?

I like to think of teaching this course as “gen mixing.” This meant that my teaching and learning strategies needed to be just that :  a mix!

There were print materials, formal lectures, online discussions, visual student lead presentations, creative group collaboration assignments, student lead online presentations and social media engagement.  The course was delivered as a hybrid; some weeks we met face-to-face and sometimes we held the class virtually.

We mixed it up!

One of the class’s favourite assignments was the course blog.  This was done instead of a formal paper.  What the students appreciated about this assignment is that they got to see each other’s writing, and learn from each other.  And for those students without techno-literate skills – they had the chance to embrace a new communication avenue.

Each student created a blog posting on a topic related to cross-generational communication that interested them. Though the course blog was erased at the conclusion of the course, over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing with you five student blog contributions:

  • Tammy MacAdams, “Millennial Generation Rule Breakers are the New Rule Makers”
  • Daphne Cockerill, “Think Before You Post”
  • Jacky Kim, “Is There Such a Thing as Young and Old Humour?”
  • Trevor Kavanagh, “Gamification and Motivation”
  • Erin Hailstone, “Uniting Generations in the Workplace Using the Appreciative Inquiry Approach”

My thanks to Tammy, Daphne, Jacky, Trevor and Eric for permission to share your insights!

As Carolyn Martin and Bruce Tulgan put it in Managing the generation mix, “The most successful people in the twenty-first century will be true Gen-Mixers, people of all ages who bring to work every day their enthusiasm, flexibility, and voracious desire to learn.” My students in CMNS 380 showed just these traits in making the course a success.


CMNS instructor judged best speech evaluator in BC-wide competition

Big, big prizes!

On May 13, 2012 (which also happened to be Mother’s Day) Samantha Pattridge competed in the Toastmasters International District 21 Evaluation Speech Contest and was awarded first place, making her “the Premier Evaluator in District 21”, representing all of BC.

The contest was the culmination of several levels of competition, beginning at the club level. Samantha is a member of the Rise and Shine Toastmasters club, which meets on campus at UFV (Fridays from 7:20 to 8:20 am in A225). After winning the evaluation contest at the club level, Samantha went on to compete against Abbotsford and Mission clubs in the Area Contest, and then on to the Division Contest to compete against clubs from all over the Lower Mainland.

Samantha was one of ten competitors to duke it out at the province-wide District Contest, which is also the highest level for this particular speech contest. Samantha’s husband and 6-year-old daughter were on hand to see her receive the award, which Samantha considered the “best Mother’s Day present yet”.

If you’re interested in perfecting your oral presentation and speech-making skills, you can benefit from Samantha’s prize-winning evaluation and instuction by signing up for “Oral Communications for the Workplace“, offered this fall at the Clearbrook Library through UFV Continuing Studies.

Congratulations on the award, Samantha!

Big, big prizes!
Judged the best judge

Friendly, relaxed Newfoundland

A few notes from my first full day in St. John’s, Newfoundland at the 29th Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference; scholars that get together to talk about experiences, insights, and innovations in using qualitative research methods.

I couldn’t help but think about the communication practices of Newfoundlanders as I started my morning off at the local Timmy’s, everybody chatty (some more than others) and ready to engage in a conversation at the drop of a hat, to complete strangers. It was a nice feeling just to be in that atmosphere and it set the tone and my mission for the rest of the day – trying to notice what other kinds of communication made up the culture of Newfoundland.

Masking tape and all.

As I walked back to Memorial University and crossed Elizabeth Ave., I was startled when the little guy on the “walk” light told me I had 44 seconds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 28 seconds anywhere in the west. As the day went on, I had other chances to see up to 68 seconds and nothing less than 33. Could this be a symbol of a more relaxed atmosphere?

After a day of research presentations, I decided to figure out the bus system and head downtown for a walk around. What better way to really get a feel for the local community? In all the places where I have ever had the opportunity to ride the bus (San Francisco, Puerto Rico, Vancouver, to name a few) I have never had quite the experience I had today. First the bus driver greeted everybody that got on the bus (many by name), and shouted out to have a great day when they got out at the back. They shouted back thanks every time. I made sure I did when I got off as well. As I sat down a bit back from the driver I noticed a sign that I had never seen on any bus before – a “friendly” note to help make sure that patrons didn’t leave the bus forgetting a possession. More evidence.

It was a great day enjoying the friendliness on the Rock and doing a little qualitative communication research.


Dr. Marcella LaFever (University of New Mexico, 2005) is an Associate Professor in the Communications Department at the University of the Fraser Valley. She specializes in intercultural communication and brings that expertise to various subjects such as communication for workplace, instruction, social media, team and public speaking contexts.

An idea whose time has come for UFV?

University of Nevade Late StartWhile waiting for my double-shot latté at Café Bibo this morning, at the south end of the University of Nevada, Reno campus, a flyer caught my eye. It asked if I “had a _ in my spring schedule?” The _ was a hole punched in the card. Intrigued, I turned it over and found a promotion for signing up for “late-start, weekend” classes.

In the Communications Department we have often toyed with the idea of adding Saturday classes and as far as I can tell we are all for the idea. The thing that gets in our way of course, is that we are maxed out on the number of sections we can offer and they are all full, so why would we need to? The idea of adding a late-start section to our offerings would not necessarily change that situation but perhaps it would add a valuable option and my guess is that it would fill up. Why? Because with students scrambling in the first two weeks to sort out their schedules, playing leap-frog to try to get into courses they need, having a class (or many classes across campus) that start a few weeks into the term would take off some of the pressure on both students and instructors.

What do you think?


Dr. Marcella LaFever (University of New Mexico, 2005) is an Associate Professor in the Communications Department at the University of the Fraser Valley. She specializes in intercultural communication and brings that expertise to various subjects such as communication for workplace, instruction, social media, team and public speaking contexts.


The future of public communication of science and technology

All in the name of science

All in the name of scienceDoes science communication have a place in the university? I briefly interrupted my search for the best gelato in Florence to contemplate this question during a session at the 2012 Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference. While Bruce Lewenstein from Cornell University, Suzanne de Cheveigne from CNRS in France, and Brian Trench from Dublin City University didn’t reach agreement on this topic, the lively discussion prompted me to consider my own position as a science communication researcher, practitioner, and teacher at UFV.

When I consider the environmental problems facing us in the Fraser Valley – including declining salmon populations, water availability, and a proposed expansion of a pipeline pumping tar sands oil through our region – I realize that science communicators are in positions to influence how people respond to health concerns, our environment, technology uptake and careers in science.

Brian Trench argued that the public communication of science and technology belongs at the university because it is already part of undergraduate and postgraduate programs, including Dublin City University’s Masters of Science Communication Program. Trench speculated on whether science communication will survive as a distinct field; its interdisciplinary nature makes it unique but also vulnerable without a key discipline to support it.

I found myself nodding in response to Suzanne de Cheveigne’s comments that knowledge only comes with specialization. Science communication researchers use tools from a wide variety of disciplines: communication studies, sociology, history, psychology, and philosophy. It is important for researchers to know and use these tools well, gaining expertise that only comes from in-depth study into each area.

Bruce Lewenstein argued that science communication doesn’t necessarily belong at the university but in institutions that work between the intersection of science and the public, such as San Francisco’s Exploratorium. Science communication has traditionally been an importer of ideas from other disciplines rather than an exporter, but its focus on the boundary between theory and practice in engaging publics makes it unique.

I saw evidence of this combining of theory and practice everywhere at the conference, with researchers, journalists, policymakers, and practitioners for science museums contemplating new science communication work from a range of perspectives including values, aesthetics, notions of the sublime, ethics of science communication, and the constitution of publics. So, while establishing academic credibility may be important (I met a new crop of researchers with PhDs in Science Communication), for me science communication’s real value remains in its goal to make science accessible to everyone.

This emphasis on accessibility means considering science communication’s place not just at the university but in all levels of government, in the press, within secondary education and informal education institutions, and so on.

Filled with new enthusiasm and insights into the role of science communication in society, I can return to my other quest for superlative gelat0. Already I can report that if you are ever in Florence, you owe it to yourself to visit Grom, but I’ll keep you posted about any other great locations my search uncovers.

CMNS degree survey results and draw prize winners

In February the Office of Institutional Research released an online survey to find out if there was interest among UFV students in a Communications degree.

We’re very grateful to the large numbers of respondents who took the opportunity to share their thoughts. In all we had over 600 responses to the survey, with over a third indicating they would be “Interested” or “Very interested” in pursuing a degree in Communications. With that enthusiastic support we’ll continue developing the full degree proposal.

We had offered as enticement the chance to win UFV Bookstore gift certificates for survey respondents, and here are the lucky winners:

$50 certificate – Janelle Harder

$25 certificate – Robin Anderson

$25 certificate – Cindy Cooper

Congratulations to the lucky winners, and thanks again to everyone who took part in the CMNS survey.