Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

4 Ways to Bring Gamification Into Your Classroom

4 Ways to Bring Gamification Into Your Classroom

By Matthew Baggetta

“It is games that give us something to do when there is nothing to do. We thus call games ‘pastimes’ and regard them as trifling fillers of the interstices of our lives. But they are much more important than that. They are clues to the future. And their serious cultivation now is perhaps our only salvation.” — Bernard Suits, The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia

If there’s any doubt in your mind about whether or not playing games enhances learning, think again. Gaming tacitly develops players’—students’—learning skills without feeling like a bore or a chore because it’s what most students know and love in their personal lives.

This teaching technique uses familiar game design and mechanics to enhance non-game activities, which encourages the use of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

You likely see this approach used in a variety of your every day settings: completing a Subway punch card or receiving badges on Foursquare are forms of gamification. Now educators are using this relatively simple technique to make an impact on learning, increasing engagement and excitement with learning.

“This teaching technique uses familiar game design and mechanics to enhance non-game activities, which encourages the use of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.”

So why isn’t gamification already a part of your classroom? Get started with these simple ideas.

1.Use Alternative Grading Systems

Lee Sheldon, a professor at Indiana University, gamified his course by abandoning grades and implementing an “experience points” system. Students’ letter grades were determined by the amount of points they accumulated at the end of the course, in other words, by how much they have accomplished.

Because of the extracurricular interests of the current college-aged generation—games—Professor Sheldon attributes his success to the fact that “elements of the class are couched in terms they understand.”

With this system, students are progressing toward increasing levels of mastery, as one does in games. Each assignment and test feels rewarding, rather than disheartening. These experience points allow educators to align game-like levels with skills that subtly highlight the value of education.

More: Use a tool like Whooo’s Reading, which allows you to grade student reading responses with smiley faces or numbers 1 through 3. It also rewards students for reading with wisdom points. The tool is built for students in grades K through 8, making gamification in a young classroom easy to implement.




2. Award Students With Badges

Awards and badges work as extrinsic motivation for students to complete their work or do a better job. To use this tactic, award students with badges or achievements for completing assignments. This motivator may seem like a regression back to gold star stickers, but it seems to be working for Khan Academy, the educational non-profit that aims to provide free, “world-class” education to everyone.

As students watch instructional videos and complete problem sets, Khan Academy awards them with points and badges to track progress and encourage perseverance. Western Oklahoma State College is implementing this form of gamification in their technology classes, with badges like “Moodle Noob No More” or “Drop It Like It’s Hot” to indicate mastery of Dropbox. As previously noted, it’s important to add value to the badges, like bonus points and skill levels to make them effective in your classroom.

 3. Spark Healthy Competition

Healthy competition is good for a classroom because it pushes students to do better than their peers, which in turn pushes them to do better in general. Celine Petsche, a teaching assistant in the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University, used this tactic by implementing Top Hat’s Tournament module in her class.

Previously using iClicker to quiz her students on the assigned reading, Celine found that using Tournament encourages competition, boosts morale, and gets students excited to demonstrate their understanding of course material.

Celine also found that the tool worked as a great equalizer among students. Introverts were able to demonstrate their knowledge of the material and participate without raising their hands. Most of all, gamifying the review of readings boosted the general energy of the class, something that can be particularly challenging on early mornings. 

More: Use Top Hat’s Tournament module to adopt game mechanics in your classroom. Top Hat’s Tournaments lets your students compete head-to-head to answer questions and review material in a fun and engaging way without realizing they’re even preparing for a test or exam. Professors have found that Tournaments incentivize students intrinsically and extrinsically to learn course material and practice it through play. After all, everyone wants to see his or her name on the leaderboard, right?

“Giving students a voice and understanding their needs will help them feel like they matter and make the material more important to them.”

 4. Encourage Play With Practical, Open-Ended Questions

Use open-ended questions to start discussions in the classroom, both verbally and online. For example, start by turning the lecture or lesson to your students with a feedback poll. Giving students a voice and understanding their needs will help them feel like they matter and make the material more important to them.

Use this gamification idea to reframe schoolwork as schoolplay and you’ll see participation and engagement follow. Developing and delivering lessons with play in mind allows students to directly connect with the teacher or professor, their peers, and the course material. See how one professor at Cornell used paper, scissors and a clever riddle to teach math to people who think they hate it.

Interactive participation in classrooms is now more accessible than ever with gamification, which is impacting traditional teacher-student relationships and roles for the better. Incorporate this reality into your pedagogy and watch the entire teaching-learning dynamic transform.

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