What is Gamification?
Leveling, power-ups, leaderboards, badges, and guilds are the vernacular of the gaming industry, but not of the classroom, right? Well, not so fast. More and more teachers are using gamification techniques in their classrooms. When you first hear about gamification in the classroom, you might instantly envision students playing video games while at school, however Gabe Zichermann, an author and public speaker about gamification, defined gamification in his 2011 Ted Talk as, “the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage audiences and solve problems.” Game mechanics like leaderboards and badges are becoming more prevalent in classrooms, but it’s more than that. Gamification centers around giving students more opportunities to take risks, create, and explore in ways that are meaningful to them. Many adults understand why students enjoy video games, but why are teachers now joining the ranks?
Why Teachers are Exploring Gamification
If you ask any teacher in the trenches, they will tell you that students are not the same as they were 20 years ago. Children are now part of a generation that some have dubbed, “Generation G” due to their affinity for playing games featured online or on various platforms. This new generation is affecting culture and society — and its influence is making it’s way into the classroom. However, now that gamification strategies are being implemented in the workplace by companies, it’s not so far fetched. One reason that teachers are embracing this new strategy in the classroom is students are getting harder and harder to motivate in the classroom. The book “Blended – Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools” cites a report that declares nearly half of students who drop out of school do so because they are bored. This study illustrates how student motivation is becoming a bigger problem in American schools. It’s not all about what’s bright and shiny though. Many teachers see benefits from gamification strategies in developing student focus, creativity, effort, and resilience in the classroom. With these reasons and more, teachers are taking a closer look at employing gamification strategies in the classroom.
Myths About Gamification
Perhaps adults and educators fear what they do not understand, however many misconceptions still remain about implementing gamification strategies in the classroom. In his book, “Explore like a Pirate,” Michael Matera discusses several myths that people believe about gamification. For instance, some critics assert that gamification does not allow for adequate rigor and relevance for students. Matera argues that the creativity, flexibility, and open-ended aspect of gamification strategies allows students to more readily think “outside the box” and thus create deeper learning experiences. Matera goes on to state that any teacher can implement gamification strategies in their classrooms regardless of personal gaming experience, curricular area that is taught, or lack of technology resources. Whether you are for or against gamification in the classroom, one thing is for sure — gaming continues to be a common connection point for students with their world.
Gamification: Where to Start?
For those teachers that are sold on implementing gamification strategies in their classrooms, the first question is where to begin. Some teachers may use gamification software like GameCraft or Classcraft to facilitate game mechanics and game thinking into the classroom, however it’s not necessary. Some teachers may choose to focus on implementing strategies like providing students badges for accomplishing academic tasks instead of providing a grade. Other teachers may choose to provide points for the completion of academic tasks that they can cash in for privileges within the classroom. Leaderboards can create a healthy competition or teachers may opt to just allow students the ability to create personal goals and then track them in a fun and visual way. No matter what strategy you choose to implement, if you end up making the classroom a more fun and engaging environment for your students, you will have accomplished one of the reasons that gamification is on the rise in today’s classrooms. Game on!