Should We Gamify Learning?

Gamify

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:

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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:

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11 thoughts on “Should We Gamify Learning?

  1. I really liked the infographic you shared! I am really into the way they can simplify a lot of information and arrange it in a visually appealing (and easily digestible) way. Your ideas on RPGs remind me of something I’ve been thinking about. Kids love them and will spend a lot of time building worlds with them. If I could get back all of the hours that my two sons have put into those types of games, it would probably equal another whole year of education 🙂 One of the ideas that I am playing with for next year is how might games help me boost academic interest from my Young Scholars group K-2 (The Young Scholars model promotes continuous academic growth, K-12, with rigorous courses, differentiation, and acceleration by identifying students from underrepresented gifted populations based on their potential for advanced performance). So far, I use coding, storytelling with Scratch Jr, and LEGO robotics with these kids in the early grades but I have been considering trying some lessons based on Minecraft. It really transcends language restrictions and does not rely on background knowledge. This wiki provides different lessons that might be used with the game in the classroom.
    http://services.minecraftedu.com/wiki/Teaching_with_MinecraftEdu

    Thanks for sharing all of the great resources!

    • I read a lot this week about using Minecraft, and I am super interested in the idea. My current students are obsessed with it–and they have been for the past few years, too. Thanks for the link, I’m going to check it out!

  2. I used the same inforgraphic! It really helped me to make the distinction between games,, game based learning, and gamification. I also really enjoyed looking at Mr. Gonzalez’s blog and the plethora of information and experience he has to share. I feel like I am pretty far off from implementing gamification in the classroom but it seems like a very interesting concept and I am sure it would motivate students more than ever. I am definitely interested in learning more. Thanks for sharing what you found.

    • So weird…I just commented on a few other blogs prior to checking my blog’s comments. I also pointed out we used the same infographic! I like it, haha!

      Mr. Gonzalez’s blog was overwhelming–but he has some great experiences and ideas. It made me feel a little behind the times!

  3. Erin,
    Thanks for including the infographic. It was very helpful! Thanks for also sharing the website Study Ladder, Power My Learning, Raz Kids, and Brain Nook. These are new to me and something that I will add to my “check this out” list! I also appreciate your pros and cons list. I am not sure if gamification is for my class, but again, it is worth a shot, right?

  4. I also think this infographic is extremely helpful to clarify differences in these concepts, (because it truly is confusing!), but not necessarily the name given to the concepts when considering other people’s discussions, because they seem to be used by others interchangeable- if that makes sense!

    Somewhere in Sylvia Martinez’s podcast shared this week, I believe she mentions a teacher who uses WOW with her students. I’m almost positive that this is the same teacher I remember being intrigued by during her presentation at an ISTE conference a number of years ago. I am clueless when it comes to these kind of immersion/virtual world type platforms; tried Second Life once and my avatar wore a see through dress throughout the experience! I do wish I felt more confident with all of this1

    • I can totally see WOW being used in the classroom, especially with older students. It’s addicting and people become really attached to it. If students can feel that strongly about achieving via games–no matter what the platform, it’s important to channel that determination and examine how we can use it to help them learn!

  5. I agree with all of above. Great visual teaching with the info graphic. You have made your teaching very easy to follow and understand, so thanks! I think all three of the categories that you review have potential to improve learning and certaiinly gives students opportunities to explore their own learning style through games or gamificaiton. We should look at the idea of rewards as educators and analyize how much of the reward system we should keep and maybe when to discard the whole badges system. I recently did an Escape the Room with friends which is a great example of a non-digital learning brain game activity. The embedded “reward” was figuring out the next clue so you could move forward. We were a small group of friends and our egos were on the line so we focused completly on figuring out the “problem” in the restricted amount of time. I think this experience is very instructive for thinking about gamification in the classroom and what “rewards” we actually need to build in.

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