As far as just using educational apps and games in my classroom, I feel like I already have an arsenal of things I use–and I’ve found meaningful ways to integrate online games for a variety of subject areas. I have six laptops in my classroom (plus my own teacher laptop), so my kids have plenty of times to use games for instructional, assessment, and review purposes. Centers have been the most effective way I’ve incorporated educational games in my room due to the fact that I don’t have a class set of computers or tablets. I use a ton of sites, but some of my favorites are Study Ladder, Power My Learning, Raz Kids, and Brain Nook. A lot of free sites don’t provide spectacular graphics and multi-level games, but my relatively easy-going audience of 8 and 9 year olds appreciate games whenever possible.
With all that being said, I thought it might be a better choice for me this week to delve into a topic I was less familiar with, gamification. I read a ton of teacher blogs, went through and reviewed a lot of sites, and read a lot of opinions about gamifying the classroom. What was particularly interesting to me is that this isn’t just happening in K-12 school settings, the idea is spreading around through higher education and the corporate world. There were a ton of great outlines and infographics (and you know I love a good ol’ infograhpic) about gamification, but I found a great one right at the beginning of my research that proved to be a helpful reminder to me about the differences between game based learning, games, and gamification:
The difference between the three is now very apparent to me, and it made the idea of gamification that much more interesting. I work hard to make learning fun in my classroom. We do project based learning, Fun Friday, Brain gym activites, crafts, centers, online projects and games…the list can go on. Interestingly, I think with some effort (maybe a great deal of effort?), gamification could streamline and provide a way to make learning fun without piecemealing things together. I read through quite a few teacher blogs about gamification and gamifying a classroom, and I read about successes as well as trials and tribulations. One teacher Mr. Gonzalez, seems to have put a lot of time and energy into trying and reviewing gamification in his classroom. He had some great ideas, experiences, and resources on his site that I found interesting. This article also helped me lay out some specific examples of how gamification can be implemented, and it included some problems that might come up. The YouTube interview video posted to this week’s module also gave me some great insight about how teachers actually gamification, like in language class or science class. What I love most about it, is the idea of having students really feel excited and intrinsically motivated to accomplish an academic goal. RPG type games have been favorites of all kinds of people for pretty much all time, so it does seem to make sense to transfer this type of thing to our classrooms. I have never been a gamer, but I can see how important this could be for some types of learners, like my brother. He was a World of Warcraft addict (until his wife made him sell his username!), and I can only imagine the academic benefits that he would have experienced had this been something he experienced in school. I definitely picture this reaching boys…SO WELL. There have been studies (one recently conducted near me by several PhD candidates) that have told us girls often achieve higher GPAs and value academic success more than boys. Maybe something like gamification could really change that. Levels, badges, points, quests, adventures–these are things that appeal to all kinds of learners. The idea really does seem pretty exciting to me.
With all that being said, I discovered there are teachers doing some really REALLY awesome things in the classrooms with gamification. I’m super impressed. The sites I came across that seem user friendly for a beginner might be Classcraft (but I don’t know if this is right for my 3rd graders), ClassDojo, and Rezzly. I thought a list of pros and cons might be a good way for me to review and collect my thoughts about gamification in the classroom: