Let's journey back shall we...
So here I am, sitting in my classroom, watching the kids write a test when I realize I really do not like what I am seeing. It is the same thing, over and over and the kids are robotic. There is no strategy, no outside the box thinking, no teamwork, nothing other than straight regurgitation of fact. Not because they want to but because they have to ... well most of them have to there are of course others who could care less. Nope, this was not for me. Things had to change...
I first heard about Gamification during the 2012-2013 school year when a colleague of mine, David Head, sent me a short YouTube link about someone introducing and explaining the concept of Gamification used in an educational setting. To say it grabbed me from the get go would be an understatement. As an avid gamer, as well as an athlete, growing up, this was an incredible idea. What kid would not like this concept? Turn your class into a virtual game? Earn XP, items, achievements? Turn your classroom content into a story? I was hooked ...
Over the course of the next year I played with the idea. I made notes and designs and read - man did I read. I was shocked to see how much existed out there! Teachers, and businesses alike, were beginning to slowly transition the concepts of Gamification into their classrooms and businesses with great success. One key point here however was that most recommended starting slowly and integrating the ideas in small doses. Sadly that is not how I function. If I was going to do this I was going to jump it with both feet and make it full year. Live and die by the sword right?
So let's talk basic Gamification.
(In future posts I will explain how I took on these different elements, how they worked, and how I used little to no budget to create physical tokens for the game)
What would I need to bring into the classroom to "gamify it" properly? Well, the big one is known as Progress Mechanics and these are what we most commonly associate with video games. Things such as leaderboards, XP (or other types of point systems), achievements, badges, levelling-up, and so on. This, from a students perspective, is the major draw of gamification because it rewards students frequently, at various points and pushes students of all different mindsets - the competitive, the game lovers, the team players, the high achievers, the collectors, etcetera.
The second major component, this being the most controversial to many, is the narrative, or in other words, the story. Most people who argue against gamification have their arguments rooted in the belief that if you do not have a story to play as part of the game you are missing the major component to games; the world the player becomes consumed in. This personally was my favourite portion of gamification as I was able to come up with a fictious world, characters and quests which totally flipped my classroom.
Next, coupled within progress mechanics are rewards and immediate feedback. Teaching for 6 years now, I've quickly come to notice that students are often excited to hand in a major project or get a test out of the way however their level of care quickly drops when the mark takes time to get back to them. Gamification provides the user with a more immediate feedback system. As they complete shorter and quicker missions, quests and challenges they are provided with immediate feedback and quite often a reward (an item, a badge, an achievement, etc...). When this happens students tend to feel more accomplished and motivated. While the feedback is not instantaneous, when even the most difficult to motivate student completes a short quest, receives quick feedback and maybe even earn a reward they are much more motivated to begin an increasingly more difficult task.
Finally, there are other categories such as scaffolding to increasing challenges (which I touched upon above), opportunities for mastery, creation of avatars, a flipped classroom, social connection, group and team building skills and the list goes on.
Gamification is really one of the buzz words in education and hopefully, with some careful planning and flexibility from both sides we can make it work.
Time to get down to work!