Gamification has changed my classroom in a ton of ways, but these three reasons are why you NEED to gamify yours as well.
NEED is a strong work, and trust me, I don’t use it lightly. Throughout my seven years in the classroom I have tried many different instructional models and none have had as profound an impact on my students as gamification. There are plenty of other ideas, such as Socratic seminars or Harkness discussions and Project Based Learning that are still a key part of my classroom, but the defining factor is that they are an element of a greater gamified classroom.
So what is gamification? Gamfication is a instructional strategy that provides a game based overlay or structure to the manner in which students interact with content and how they are rewarded for their efforts. Students may or not play games in a gamified classroom, but the key function of gamification is to create an environment that overlays content and dictates actions within the classroom. The creation of your gamified classroom is an incredibly empowering experience; however, lets not get ahead of ourselves. First, let me convince you why you NEED to gamify your class...
Topic #1: Relationships
We all know that the relationships we build with our students have the potential to really influence the success of that student in our class. Gamification creates opportunities for you to interact in a different way. First, I call the children in my class “players” not students. The reason I choose to do this is to break the traditional dynamic of a classroom. I am their guide (or in some instances the villain) through the game, which fits the goal of my position, more than a teacher. Students do not need to wait for me to teach them. I want them to cultivate a sense of curiosity and start to drive that on their own, which they associate with the term “player,” more than student. The simplicity of using different names for individuals in the classroom already changes the feel of my room. By simply identifying with a different title, players are ready to take on any challenge thrown at them.
Now that the traditional paradigm in class has been shifted, the way that players and I interact is much different. In a gamified classroom where students feel capable to drive their own learning, I can interact with them as a collaborator on their quests. They are less likely to wait for instructions from me and seek to forge ahead with their learning. With this shift, I am now able to more freely move about the room and check in with different players on their progress. I am usually able to talk to every player everyday in class, showing players that I value every single one of them.
Gamification has allowed me to cultivate more productive relationships with my students through the shifting of traditional roles in the classroom. To me, a positive relationship with individuals in my classroom will help me assist them in reaching their best potential. Is this achievable without gamification? Sure, but as you find out more, this way is far too much fun to pass up!
Topic #2: Feedback
As with other aspects of the world, high speed is a core expectatation that students have about processes. Feedback is an element of the classroom that if performed in the traditional manner does not meet this expectation. When students need feedback, they expect it quickly. While this may be an inconvenience for the teacher, it is not an unreasonable request. Timely and effective feedback has the potential to help students address mistakes and correct them so that they can make the necessary improvements in their learning. Too much of a gap between the attempt and the feedback and students lose interest in the topic or miss the connection for improvement. The process for feedback depends on the complexity of the task.
For lower depth of knowledge skills such as defining and identification I use automated feedback systems such as Google Forms. Once students are introduced to content, either through a flippped video, lab, or reading; they answer questions and receive immediate feedback on their responses. My forms are structured so that students find out how many questions they answered correctly, but not which questions. The expectation is that they continue to review the information until they earn a 100% on the form. It is also possible to add feedback based on the student’s selected response, but I have not implemented the feature at this time. This addresses the need for timely feedback as students immediately find out their success on the task. By adding feedback based on a student response, I could add a stronger element of individualization.
For higher depth of knowledge questions such as analysis, evaluation, or creation; I use face-to-face feedback sessions or recorded feedback to provide information to students. The face-to-face meetings are the fastest as I can talk to all of my students within a single class period, most commonly used DURING a project. Recorded feedback works well with larger work where timeliness is not as imperative, such as at the conclusion of a project.. My favorite method is discussing ideas live with players. The dynamic conversation allows students to speak openly about their ideas and the conversational attitude allows the players to see that I am invested in their idea and makes the feedback more impactful.
Gamification allows for the culture and structure for players to attempt, receive feedback, and correct in a timely manner. My course is moderately asynchronous, allowing players to take the time they need to master a skill. Through a combination of automated and conversational feedback, players are able to get feedback on their work very quickly, allowing them to iterate and succeed!
Topic #3: Exploration
Gamifying your classroom allows for more exploration as the lines between the experience and grades begins to begin to blur. Regardless of the grading structure of your class, gamification presents the experience of your classroom in a far different way. The focus becomes the game, where learning comes with fun, through student-driven exploration. In a gamified classroom students still complete activities, assignments, and assessements; but engage in game style mechanics that reward all aspects of learning, not just remembering information.
A gamified learning structure awards you the opportunity to maintain a flexible and dynamic learning environment, based on the conditions of the course, where things can be added or removed through the process of game mechanics. To start the game, students are introduced to the basic narrative and rules of the game, but based on how the game progresses, leaders, teams, or alliances; the teacher can introduce new challenges or items to modify the game that provides advantages or disadvantages to the current status. This allows students the opportunity to pivot their strategies or to engage in different tactics to put themselves in a better game advantage. These modifications are applied to the game, but not the academic elements of the class. Therefore you can continually shift the game in order to engage all students in the process, enhancing the opportunity for learning, without creating an advantage or disadvantage for student grades.
With this flexibility, you can also add the following elements:
Each of these elements of gamification provide the opportunity for students to engage in class in a different way. Due to the fact that gamification does not manipulate the content or assignments, those students that thrive in a traditional environment will still be challenged by the work and engaged in the class. In addition, those students that are invested in the game will thrive in ways that they have not before.
Have I convinced you to find out more? To read about the basics of gamification and my classroom, visit my Gamification Page found HERE!