Teacher’s Guide to Gamification
Many would consider ‘gaming’ a barrier to progress, with bleary-eyed students struggling to focus after a late night battling fictional characters with their online gaming friends, most of whom they will never meet. But gamification is buzzword in education, and it has been claimed that it will revolutionise student engagement and attainment. So what exactly is it?
Gamification [n]: the use of game design elements in non-game contexts.
The basic premise of gamification in education is relatively simple – students would much rather play than work, so make work more like play.
You might think there’s little value in comparing hours spent on video games to what you’re trying to achieve in your classroom, but when you look a bit deeper you find that there are lots of elements within games that can have positive applications in a learning environment.
- Learning by doing: Games help us retain skills and knowledge by applying them. This is much more effective than reading, listening, or watching someone else.
- Opportunity to try again: In games, we don’t just get one chance to win a level, or get past that particularly difficult nemesis, we are allowed to fail and try again. On each new attempt, we apply new skills and improve.
- Developing considered risk taking: As a result of being allowed to fail, game players have confidence to try new things and take considered risks.
- Staying motivated with short-term goals and instant feedback: By introducing key milestones like unlocking new environments or collecting useful objects and skills, games keep players motivated. The instant feedback of scores and progress also persuade us to keep trying.
- Problem solving: A key part of game play is looking objectively at a situation and figuring out how to succeed.
- Autonomy: It’s not common to find someone playing a game constantly asking parents, teachers or even peers for help. Gamers are much more used to progressing under their own steam.
So how do you apply gamification in your classroom? There are a few key points to consider before you start.
Find out what works
Firstly, define which game elements engage your particular set of students. Would they respond better to a story-based approach, working their way through a scenario with a clear narrative, or should you try setting small challenges more like levels in a platform game, with a time limit? You might find that different parts of the curriculum need alternative approaches.
Decide how you will reward progress
In the same way that you need to define what engages your students, you also need to know what motivates them. Do they respond to peer recognition, is a sense of achievement enough or should you operate a points system?
Do it for the right reasons
Don’t undertake gamification just because it’s the hot new thing – only do it if you are sure it will support and enhance your core teaching and learning.
Education gamification doesn’t have to be based in technology, but if that’s the route you choose to take then there are plenty of tools out there to get you started. Here’s a few examples:
A simple online system which replaces traditional reward stickers with virtual versions.
Highlight positive aspects of a student’s work or behaviour, and share information securely with parents.
Set missions containing questions on a specific subject, rewarded by special currency which students can spend on customising their personal avatars.
A more in-depth learning platform offering quests with various rewards, allowing students to ‘level up’ as they learn.
Adds an immersive gamification layer to an existing curriculum, allowing teachers to reward good work and achievements, and penalise negative behaviour.
Tapping into the power of gaming has to be a win-win for teachers and students alike. Maybe, in the future, the bleary-eyed students sat in front of you will have spent the night mastering trigonometry, not battling goblins.
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