There's a story about a teacher who was encouraging her students to read more. One of the students promptly responded that he wasn’t interested in reading and wouldn’t need it for his future.
“Why is that?” she asked.
“I’m just going to play video games,” he replied nonchalantly.
Though we all hope our children and students aspire to do more than level up in Minecraft, perhaps the view of this outspoken student holds some important insight. Today more than ever, even the youngest children spend much of their time on electronic devices. They play games on TVs, watch videos on cell phones, and amuse themselves by drawing on tablets.
But what if we could bring their fascination with technology and games into the classroom? What if we could use electronic devices and the attributes of games to turn their excitement toward something more worthwhile – a high quality education?
Gamification – It's Not Gaming
Gamification /ɡāmifəˈkāSHən/ noun: the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to another area
When we talk about gamified instruction, we're not imagining a world where students will play games all day. It's about incorporating general elements from games (of all kinds, not just video games) into the curriculum in an effort to excite and motivate students. There are still too many blank faces and dry lectures out there – if you can convey the same amount of information in a way that gets kids excited about learning, why not give it a shot?
One key element of gamification is the carrot on the stick. Students become captivated by the challenge of pushing to beat the next level or reach their next goal. Anybody who's ever worked in education knows how hard it can be sometimes to unlock passion and drive, much of which will carry a student well beyond high school graduation. Just think how different your conversations about attendance and engagement would be if students were as committed to learning as they are to their smart phone apps and gaming consoles!
Here are a few elements of gamification that look eerily similar to some of the key points your principals might lay out in one-on-one conversations with teachers:
Positive Reinforcement: Games typically involve a lot of positive reinforcement, and that’s an important factor in gamified education. When positive reinforcement (such as earning points or reaching a new level) plays a greater role in the feedback a student receives than negative responses and punishments (such as failed grades with no opportunities to try again), students are more likely to stay motivated and continue striving for success.
Self-Motivation: “You should get back to your game after dinner, kiddo. Don’t forget how close you are to unlocking the invisibility potion.” That reminder never happens. Parents don’t have to encourage their kids to play games – the motivation is intrinsic. When students can see firsthand the results of their actions (for instance, earning points toward a new car or gadget), they will be much more likely to motivate themselves to reach their next goal. The same applies to learning in the classroom. The simple truth is, when learning is self-driven, there’s a greater chance students will maintain a positive attitude about it.
Opportunities to Try Again: When a child fails in a game, he or she can always try again another day. Kids learn from their mistakes and are anxious to prove themselves when they’ve done something wrong. That principle is often exemplified in gamified classrooms, where teachers allow students to try again until they are happy with their results – or until time runs out at the end of the semester.
Concrete Feedback: When playing a game, kids often know immediately if they made a mistake. Their turn, or in some cases their virtual life, is over. That concrete, immediate feedback is crucial to any kind of learning. It helps students learn better than reading and reviewing notes does. Classroom activities that give students useful, instantaneous feedback will help them master material faster and understand where and how they can correct their mistakes.
Recurring Skills: Games typically increase in difficulty as players progress. The key, however, is that these later levels often require players to perform skills that were a challenge early on. The best gamified classes will help students maintain mastery of material by requiring them to continue using skills already learned as they move ahead to new levels and topics.
Getting Started with Gamification
Here are some ways to incorporate gamification into your instructional approach:
Grading: Set up a system where students earn points throughout the semester for every activity that familiarizes them with the material. As they do, their “experience level” goes up.
Rewards: Entice students with badges, points, tokens, leaderboards, and bonuses. We bet even your high school kids will enjoy and be motivated by them!
Competition: There are people on both sides of the competitive fence. Those in favor would argue that you can trigger your students’ competitive sides by setting up a class-wide or inter-class competition. If you don’t want to pit your students against one another, encourage them to work together to reach school- or district-level milestones (like an 85% average on mid-year tests, or a trophy for the graduating class that shows the greatest improvement year over year).
Homework: Gamification doesn’t need to stop when the bell rings. Teachers should be encouraged to turn a traditional homework assignment into a scavenger hunt or give rewards to students who can fill out the most correct answers by the following day.
Feedback: Use online resources that provide students with instantaneous feedback on their performances. When we play games, we're used to seeing not only whether we've passed or failed, but also how close to our target we are and what we need to do to get there. Why shouldn't learning be the same way?
Syllabi: Put all course learning objectives under a single umbrella. Gamification is a great way for teachers to synthesize diverse learning objectives and help students see the big picture of what they are learning.
It's a rapidly changing world and you are in a position where you have to evolve quickly to keep up with the different nuances of every generation that walks through your hallways. The application of game concepts to education is not a new trend, but there are now more ways than ever to leverage those benefits for the good of your students.
To learn even more about the gamification of education, check out this awesome infographic from Knewton!
Stay Organized: Student Management Suite
If you’re looking for an online classroom management system to keep your gamified courses in order, check out our Student Management Suite or contact us today!
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