Gamification: How Can Teachers Use it?

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In the previous post, What is Gamification?, 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.

Gamification and the Learning Experience
Gamification: In order to gamify a process, a teacher needs to think like a game designer.

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

Yu-Kai Chou, gamification author and international keynote speaker, quotes:

‘Just like designing for games, gamification projects can be hit-or-miss based on luck and intuition. That is why a solid framework that is built upon behavioral science is important to maximizing the chances of success.’

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.

  1. 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?
Gamification: how can teachers use it?
And don’t forget the fun.
  1. 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?
  1. 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?
  1. 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!

Conclusion

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.

In this video Justin Gonzalez from IT WORKED talks about how you can successfully gamify your classroom!
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Savas Savides
Education born and bred. I have worked as a teacher for many private language schools, as a test centre administrator, as a teacher trainer, as an educational consultant, and as a publisher. I am an advocate for literacy and a huge proponent of using technology in the classroom. I have a BA in English and an MBA in Marketing. I mostly write about English Language Teaching. I live in sunny Athens.