Gamification: Are You Doing It, Yet You Don't Know it?
"Gamified Education" is the concept of utilizing game elements into a non-game environment; such as a classroom. From personal experience playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Chess, Pac-man (obviously dating myself with these examples) and more recently Mine-Craft and Tetris; I'm able to write with certainty that they are exhilarating, strategically thought provoking and addictive. Because of these traits I pondered, "What if a lesson plan contained these attributes?" This can be nothing but beneficial to learning if it does.
After participating in some twitter chats that focused on this concept of "gamified learning" and then doing some research over the past year or so, I've come to a conclusion. Like many things in education, highly effective teaching and quality lesson plan development have remained a constant across the ages. Weaving in new lesson plan elements to the old and keeping pedagogical pace with the ever changing educational landscape are the main components that separate engaged learning from complacency. Twenty-one years of teaching United States History and playing a jeopardy review game before tests got me to ponder this question; "Have I been gamifying my instruction all these years?"
The answer is yes; I've been "gamifying" instruction my entire teaching career. Is 21st century gamification all about using technology or a video games to instruct students in learning? No; it's not all about that. Old school gamification is still gamification. Let me explain.
"Weaving in new lesson plan elements to the old and keeping pedagogical pace with the ever changing educational landscape are the main components that separate engaged learning from complacency."
- Progression - Student success is determined as they progress and earn value measured rewards that have no limits.
- Investment - Individual excitment and commitment to the team leads to increased input and self imposed workloads.
- Cascading Information Theory - Continued learning based upon meeting personal, as well as, group goals.
- No Failure - Try and Try Again. Students keep attempting task/s until they earn their new level or move forward; learning doesn't end it builds upon each previous experience.
Teacher creativity using these four generalized concepts can make gamified learning come alive in every classroom regardless of the level of technology integration. Here's how I've used a game to invigorate learning to prepare for tests.
The competitive team structure of the game is Jeopardies versus Jeopardettes (or boys against girls). Students collaborate in small groups, per team to create questions for the game from their instructional unit materials. Questions are kept separate from one another along with teacher generated questions (that are more closely aligned with those that appear on the assessment). Essentailly there's three stacks of questions that vary level of depth or style from mapping, to identifying historically important people or events.
Participation in the Jeopardy Review Game starts with Buzzers. The buzzers I've used are very inexpensive and incredibly effective -- purchased from Calloway House (click here). Team members alternate who will buzz-in for the group, as well as, from what stack of questions. Rotating questions from the varying generated groups, in addition to allowing a "free-choice" seletion every fourth turn, keeps all parties accountable and things fair. Over the years an unintended positive of this question development structure is that teams started to get together to go over their own Q&A stack to give themselves an advantage. Yes, the students did extra work on their own?
Scoring for this jeopardy game is based upon points. To keep things competitive and to eliminate the possibility of any one team from gaining an insurmountable lead we've employed a "final jeopardy question" at the conclusion of each class period. This question is worth the difference of the two scores. Essentially allowing any team to tie-up the game regardless of the score. This final jeopardy question can be conducted in an assortment of ways whether by small team groups; one-on-one; or randomly choosing participants. I've even gone so far as to use the jeopardy music during this time frame; like on the TV Show.
Try and Try Again. Gamification is based upon the concept that FAIL is only the "First Attempt In Learning."
Student "Buy-in" to the Jeopardy Review Game is overwhelming. Students have come to consider participation as a fundamental part of their 8th grade experience. Discussion about the game filters down from previous students to the upcoming generations. This is due to the how the scoring of the game is managed.
Perhaps the single best attribute to keeping the game lively is the fact the game never ends. Teams inherit the score of previous class periods for that day and school year. The overall score is based upon the victor of each graduating class; for example the current score is Jeopardies 9 years and the Jeopardettes 11 years. Some other features that've been employed is earning badges for accomplishing certain game tasks. I've utilized twitter to tweet out a badge to an individual or a group. Students over the past couple years have really embraced earning these iconic items and with great pride they show them off; even placing them on their twitter pages.
First of all there's no wrong way to enhance student engagement and learning; there's only the lack of trying. As educators we're always attempting to perfect our craft -- therefore to claim this lesson is gamified and this one isn't only creates counter productivity. Simply stated; there is not a right or wrong way to gamify.
What does exist is the level or depth for which you and your students want to embrace gamification. Entire units of instruction or small mini lessons can be gamified. The end goals are all the same of this style of education -- to engage students to the point that they immerse themselves in the content. When students are willing to commit extra time and effort on their own to meet a goals, perfect their work and collaborate with others further beyond expectation proves the success of gamification.
Give gamifying a chance. Start small with a mini lesson like a Jeopardy Review Game or go big with an entire unit of instruction. Be innovative, be imaginative and inspire students to go beyond what is the standard. Trust me; You'll never regret trying this method of teaching.
Sources ~ Further Reading & Research on Gamification.
Michael Matera: The Master of Gamification. Twitter @MrMatera
"How to Gamify your Classroom" by TeachThought 1/6/2014
"Gamifying Education" by Vicki Davis via @CoolCatTeacher 2/21/2014
"Infographic on Gamification" by Knewton 6/1/2012
<a href="http://www.knewton.com/gamification-education/"><img src="http://www.knewton.com/wp-content/uploads/gamification-education.png" alt="Gamification Infographic" title="Gamification Infographic" width="1000" /></a>
<p>Created by <a href="http://www.knewton.com/" alt="Knewton" title="Knewton">Knewton</a> and <a href="http://columnfivemedia.com/">Column Five Media</a></p>
"Reality is Broken" by Jane McGonigal via TedEd 2011
"Gamification in Education: What, When, Why Bother" by Joey J. Lee, phD 2011 via Academic Exchange Quarterly