What is Gamification and How Can it Revolutionize Your Classroom?

Learn what gamification is and how to incorporate it in the classroom
Contributed By

H. L.

Assistant Principal

What is Gamification and How Can it Revolutionize Your Classroom?

Posted in Evolving Ed | May 29, 2019

Video games are a big deal. A $100 billion big deal, worldwide. The global board game market is projected to equal another $12 billion by 2023. Clearly, we humans love games. Games engage our curiosity and make us feel accomplished as we experiment with different gameplay strategies to reach goals and win. Today, the elements of games and gaming that we love so much are being applied to other industries, and especially education. It's called gamification, and it's an exciting trend.

What is Gamification?

Gamification may be defined as "the use of game design elements in non-game contexts" with an eye toward increasing overall engagement, motivation, and retention among people across different fields.

To be clear, gamification is not gaming. In business, you don't have a gamified environment just by handing out rewards for hitting sales goals. In education, your classroom isn't gamified if you build in time for students to play educational games in the computer lab. Gamification operates in a much different (and deeper) paradigm: engaging people emotionally to intrinsically motivate them.

Gamification in Learning

The Edvocate asserts that gamification, because it addresses different modalities of learning simultaneously, may help the brain process new information as well as improve learner motivation and engagement. For example, let's say you are learning the survival skill of how to build a campfire. You could read about how to build a fire in a book. Someone could tell you how to build a fire. Better yet, you could actually collect tinder, kindling, and logs and physically build the fire.

Gamified, all of these learning styles could be combined as you (or a group) compete to meet a defined objective. Instantly, the learning process becomes more engaging, motivating, and long-lasting (retention). The dopamine fix you get from receiving positive feedback or winning in such a gamified learning environment is real. This is why gamification is such a big deal - it has the potential to improve how we learn.

Gamification in Education

Turning your classroom into a gamified environment is easier than it sounds. The goal of gamification in education is to break through the stagnation of the 20th century model to increase interest and engagement. EdTechReview explained what this might look like:

  • Backwards grading: Instead of starting at 100 and taking points off for mistakes, the gamification of education starts at 0 and encourages students to push ever higher toward their high score.
  • Badges and achievements: Grades fall to the wayside in favor of hitting milestones and earning achievements, as in many video game environments. Gamification in education often comes with these intangible, and motivating, reward systems.
  • Personalization: Individual students can be working on individual subjects/projects simultaneously and set meaningful, personal goals.
  • Point-based workflow: Gamification takes the daily workflow of the classroom and turns it into a competition between students or groups of students.

You may already be using gamification through your existing Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program. As one of 12 identified examples of gamification in education, TeachThought discussed tracking points across multiple classes, allowing a class to "level up" and earn milestone rewards when reaching a certain number of points. This may sound familiar as the concept dovetails nicely with what you may already be doing to encourage positive behavior choices in your school

Your learning management system (LMS) should be set up to welcome gamification initiatives. Use your LMS to turn assignments into missions, to track progress toward class objectives, and to gamify participation by all students.

Gamification Examples

HCI Games cited Duolingo as an example of a gamified learning environment. Duolingo is a language learning program, not a game, but it incorporates game design elements to engage learners. Users are encouraged to use the program every day by setting their own time goal up front, progress toward goals by earning experience and leveling up in the process, as in a game environment, and earning intangible rewards such as badges.

Another example: A middle school science class is preparing to engage in a lab on the basic properties of matter. In this case, the class will investigate the property of conductivity, or how well different objects conduct electricity. Instead of the traditional lab setup and activities, the class role-plays a search for the most conductive object that will turn on an alien spaceship's "prepared to launch" light.

A high school world history class, instead of reading and taking notes on the military plans followed by each combatant in World War I (e.g. The Schlieffen Plan), groups of students role play as the military leadership of each nation and go on a "mission," given a set of information/rules, to develop a rudimentary plan to win the war. Results are then compared with what actually occurred and points earned on the mission go toward the overall class goal for the quarter.

Level Up

Gamification isn't gaming. Gamification is a positively disruptive force that brings gaming elements to different environments, and has the potential to revolutionize traditional teaching and learning in schools. So the next time you are contemplating assigning a traditional worksheet or group project, ask yourself how the work might be gamified to meet this generation of students where they are, increase their engagement and motivation, and create a more active, fun, and meaningful learning environment for them—and you!

Now that we’ve answered the question of what is gamification and how you can incorporate it into your classroom, we want you to share your thoughts on it with us! Let us know how you gamify your classroom on Twitter @Schoology

Join the Conversation