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Gamification in the Classroom

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!

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Gaming in the Classroom

five happy students looking at ipad together in a classroomAs technology becomes a more integral part of the classroom, teachers are finding gaming to be a fun way of improving student achievement.

According to Forbes, gaming has been shown to increase metacognitive skills. Metacognition is basically being aware of your thinking. Many games created for the classroom have metacognitive skills built into them. As student’s metacognitive skills improve so does their academic skills. Research has shown that students who played educational games as part of their average school day had a deeper knowledge of the curriculum. Students also become more productive and self-reliant.

Gaming encourages repetition using sight, sound, and touch, which improves memory of a skill as the brain makes connections during the process.

Gaming also motivates students to want to learn. It makes learning more fun and engaging and improves collaboration skills. It is not just for younger students, gaming is revolutionizing the higher education classroom as well.

Elementary Gaming

  • Diffission. Diffission is a math game aligned with Common Core. Students earn the title of ‘Diffusionist’ by dissolving and slicing through blocks as they learn about fractions. It records student’s progression so teachers can note student’s problem areas. Teachers can assess students as they progress through the game. The company, Filament Learning, who created this game, will also design games customized specifically to the needs of your school or district.
  • Timez Attack. Timez Attack is an engaging game that teaches students to master multiplication. It has built-in assessment and fluency skills to make sure students quickly recognize the answer to problems. Imagine Learning, owner of Timez Attack, offers many other viable gaming options for the classroom.

Middle School Gaming

  • Classcraft. Classcraft is a fantasy themed classroom management tool. Its main goal is to encourage teamwork and collaboration through role playing. Classcraft is set up by the teacher and is meant to be used the entire year. All characters have different strengths and weaknesses so that the only way students can be successful at this game is to work together. Teachers can set up the game to fit their classroom style and needs. Students can earn or lose points based on behavior in the classroom. For example, a teacher may make coming late to class worth a 10 point deduction or answering a question in class worth a 30 point addition. Teachers can also build quizzes and review for tests as part of the game in the form of Boss Battles. Classcraft is designed for students from grades 4-12.
  • Citizen Science. Citizen Science is a free, online game that encourages problem solving and critical thinking in science. Students have to figure out how to save a lake that is being polluted, encouraging the growth of algae. Students have to apply their knowledge of ecology to solve real world issues. The game is based off of a lake in Wisconsin.

High School Gaming

  • iCivics. iCivics offers free, online games to teach students to be civic minded. Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to create students who were better informed civically. The goal is for students to become active citizens who participate in the democratic process. Besides the online gaming, iCivics provides teachers with creative and free resources to use as curriculum along with the games.

Higher Ed Gaming

  • Foldit. Foldit was created by the University of Washington so anyone could have input in their research on protein folding. With over 200,000 players online, gamers are not just about having fun, but are actually making advances in biochemistry. People can compete individually or on teams. Players get the opportunity to create new proteins which could prevent or treat diseases.
  • Toolwire. Toolwire has writing games which prepare students for career success. Colleges like Broward College in Miami have been successful using this simulation in their English Composition classes. The programs have the students take on the role of a junior staff writer. As people work to develop content for the virtual broadcast, they learn paragraph construction, grammar, revision, and citation skills. The success of the virtual newscast is dependent on the person’s performance, which is assessed by the game.

Games can be a fun way to learn simple or complex skills. They can provide students with problems to solve and goals to achieve. They can be created to assess students using specific and measureable objectives. Gaming brings technology to a new level in the classroom and makes learning more active and engaging.