In the previous post, Gamification: how can teachers use it?, we described the basic principles of gamification and some of the main elements that teachers can use in the classroom. To create a specific action plan, we need to explore first the similarities between games and the learning experience, and how we can capitalize on them.
How are games similar to the learning experience?
- They are human-centred. Players are at the centre of the game as much as learners are at the centre of the learning process. As games are created with the player in mind, the same way teaching methodologies and lesson plans are constructed for specific learners.
- They are structured and controlled. Games have clear predefined rules and procedures. Learning also follows specific steps on a clearly defined path.
- They have an objective and an outcome. Games always have a set objective (to beat an opponent, to reach a certain mastery level, to collect something etc.) and an outcome (a winner, an accomplishment etc.). In learning, the objectives and outcomes are everywhere to be found, from textbooks to lesson plans, detailing the exact skills the learner is to acquire.
- They give feedback. In a game you always know exactly in what stage you are (beginning, middle, end, winning, losing, etc.). In the learning process you get constant feedback from your teacher (or your LMS) on your progress and grades.
A Gamification Framework
In order to gamify a process, a teacher needs to think like a game designer. Game designers have two things in mind before everything else: a) how to get players playing quickly, and b) how to keep them playing. They achieve that in the four easy steps outlined below. Similarly, teachers can follow the same steps to gamify any learning experience.
- Set goals. This is the learning outcome. What do you want your students to learn? Is it a grammar rule, a mathematical equation, a historical fact? What are the skills you want them to acquire? Is it a writing skill, a calculating skill or something else?
- Define behaviours. This is the desired action. What do you want your students to do? Do you want them to form teams or work individually? Do you want them to compete or collaborate? Furthermore, do you want them to think, explore, analyse, create or present something?
- Specify learners. This is the student description. What is the target age group? What are the learner types (visual, auditory or kinaesthetic)? And what is their level? Do you know what their interests are? How many students will be involved?
- Create activities. This is where you deploy the appropriate gamification tools. Choose tools that will make onboarding as smooth and quick as possible. Create a threshold low enough for everyone to cross. Next, work on progression. Structure scaffolding activities that will challenge but not intimidate, that will engage and not bore, with a rising level of difficulty. Finally, think of mastery states. Define achievements and design rewards. But most of all, don’t forget the fun!
Summin up, the success of your gamification endeavour ultimately depends on achieving this delicate balance between challenges and skills. It is also essential to have clear goals in the first place. And don’t forget the fun.