Updating Education: Gamification in the Classroom
Re-Thinking Role Play
Imagine a productive classroom environment. Students pour over their books, write down astute observations and compute figures. They speak only when appropriate and follow the lead of a respected authoritarian. In the wake of books and feature films about innovative master educators such as Ron Clark and the Freedom Writers' founder Erin Gruwell, this image may seem outdated. Nonetheless, it continues to surface within the minds of even the most inspired and creative educators and student teachers.
The reason for hanging on to old imagery of conventional classrooms may be grounded in the idea that the key to effectively using innovation centers on the personality of each individual teacher. For example, neither Gruwell nor Clark followed an existing instructional model. Instead, they created new roles for themselves based on their unique personal insight and experience. Alternatively, gamification provides a new structure, which allows any teacher to try out new roles while their students do the same.
Gamification for Growth
Gamification is the application of game-like structures to other environments. Key elements of gamification are the introduction of a quest, the presence of a system for completing the quest, and the introduction of challenges that inspire players to analyze and utilize the system to achieve the quest with increasing innovation and efficiency. Games also integrate plot lines through which characters develop. Research shows that incorporating gamification into a classroom environment has cognitive, social and emotional benefits.
Levels of Learning
The cognitive benefits stem from the use of problem-solving activities to fuel action. Whether students are engaged in a learning game or are completing text-based assignments at their desks, teachers can use gamification to set up a system through which all assignments build upon each other in multiple tiers. This approach mirrors the process of working through levels in games. It also motivates students to complete their work and trains their brains to retain information. Since assignments are tasks that contribute to the completion of a quest, students are less likely to race through their work. They will instead know that the successful completion of one task will lead to additional tasks related to the goal at hand.
Presenting learning tasks via a series of levels is also important for helping emotional development. This is largely because gamers recognize that levels become increasingly more difficult and that it is normal to fail multiple times before progressing to the next level. Research shows that gaming in a classroom helps remove the stigma typically associated with academic and personal failure. This new-found freedom to fail allows authentic learning, in both school and life, to occur.
Creating avatars, which are essentially virtual alter egos, within the world of gaming gives players a chance to build an identity outside themselves. Students who are free to create new identities within their academic classrooms may also find that doing so helps them socially. Instead of feeling trapped within stereotypes assigned by cliques within school culture or created inadvertently by the teachers themselves, students engaged in classroom gamification have an opportunity to re-invent themselves and to exercise skill sets and attributes they ordinarily would ignore.
Working with Gamification
Students in all grade and subject levels benefit from gamification. Likewise, gamification may be implemented in a variety of ways. To get a feel for how gamification can benefit your classroom, check out these two examples of gamification at work.
Ben Bertoli's ClassRealm
Sixth-grade teacher Ben Bertoli used gamification as the inspiration behind a customizable classroom management system. His system applies to all subject areas and allows students and parents to plan their own side-quests. In addition to using ClassRealm with his students, Bertoli launched a Kickstarter project to help make ClassRealm a platform available for widespread use.
Complete with an adventurous soundtrack and interactive graphics that call to mind epic post-apocalyptic quests, this site demonstrates how one teacher is using gamification to inspire his students to explore literature. The site is accessible from home and can also be broadcast on an overhead projector or smart board within the classroom. The site provides background regarding the existence of Academica, a fantasy land where students go to enhance their minds. The tone set by the site is designed to integrate with the atmosphere of the classroom itself. It uses story-telling to place students within a multi-layered online universe within which they must contribute information they learn at school.
About the Author: Chad Fisher is an education enthusiast with a passion for building education and career-oriented websites to help people learn more about careers that interest them. Lately his desire has been helping people start a career in Civil Engineering. Learn more about Engineering at CivilEngineeringCareers.org.