4 Effective Ways to Gamify Virtual Learning
What a year 2020 has turned out to be! Some teachers have gone back to the classroom in person, while others have returned to a virtual classroom. Either way, we are facing the uncertainty of what education looks like during a pandemic. We try, as we always do, to engage our students in learning material, but distance in the classroom and virtually has made it much more challenging this school year. However, finding creative solutions to challenging situations is part of what makes a great teacher—not to mention one of the many aspects of teaching that draw us to the profession.
Gamification is a great way to help engage our students and create—or maintain—some excitement for learning. If you’re familiar with mobile apps, particularly those in the areas of education, fitness, or self-improvement, then you’re likely already familiar with the concept of gamification—even if you’ve never used the word. Gamification is exactly what it sounds like: adding aspects of gaming—especially video gaming—to an otherwise non-game activity. While you can dive in the gamified deep end with a platform like Classcraft, you might be looking for just one item to improve student engagement. Here are a few suggestions to help you dip your toes into the world of gamified learning.
Escape rooms have become popular in person, but now digital versions have found their way into the realm of education. At Teachers Pay Teachers, you can find escape rooms for just about any subject. The concept behind escape rooms is still the same as in person. Students complete academic tasks to reach the end and “escape”.
I use one in my class over sentence types. Students have to identify types of sentences and correct punctuation. They collect letters along the way and solve a riddle at the end. It takes what some of my students think is boring—like imperative and declarative sentences—and adds some fun and a challenge so that they may not even realize they’ve learned something along the way. The great thing about escape rooms is that they can be done via a learning management system (LMS) like Schoology or printed and done in person.
When students achieve mastery, we get so excited for them. Awarding them badges for mastery can be fun for them (and us!). Most LMS, including Schoology, have native badges that allow you to give students custom badges throughout the year. Canva makes it easy to create some badges as well as other materials for class. Digital badges are an excellent and fun reward for virtual learning in particular, and they may even be an added feature in your LMS. They are also a great way to communicate with parents. You can send out an email to both parents and students to celebrate their mastery of different units and classroom material.
The title “gamification” would be a complete misnomer without games themselves. There are many digital games to play with students to preview, teach, and review content. Kahoot is a great website for educational games. You can use it to select your topic and ask students multiple-choice questions. When played, students earn points for answering questions correctly and quickly. There is even a podium at the end that acknowledges the top three students with honorable mentions of students who placed fourth and fifth. Students can even play it on their own as a review for tests and quizzes.
Quizlet is another great gaming website, especially for vocabulary. Teachers set up lists and definitions or some type of question with an answer. Students can sort through the lists like flashcards or play games like a matching game or Gravity, a game where students have to protect the planet from asteroids.
Another fun way to include some gamification in your classroom is to add or create quests for your students. WebQuests have been used for about as long as students have had access to their own devices. A WebQuest is a list of websites that students can visit and gain information to complete an overall task. I assign my students a WebQuest with background information before we read The Odyssey. This assignment takes them to several different websites to give them background information about Greek mythology and author information. A Google search for the topic and WebQuest can bring up many free resources that can even include a culminating task.
Another great resource for creating your own quests is Nearpod. Students can not only complete these with the teacher as a lesson but also at their own pace. This resource allows the teacher to create interactive presentations for students to follow along with and learn from. They can be created over any number of topics. I’ve created one over Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet where my students get to see an interactive version of the Globe Theater. Nearpod has even helped with eLearning lessons where I can ask them questions and have them draw their answers.
Hopefully your school year is starting off well despite the inherent challenges, and hopefully some of these tools can make virtual learning more fun for you and your students.