My most popular posts for TheEdublogger (arguably THE most popular posts ;P ) have been centered on the use of games and gaming within the education system. Since I’ve covered a few of the big players in the video game industry, and how they have adapted to support educational methods, I thought I would have a look at ways you can integrate gaming into your classroom WITHOUT the aid of a video game. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce today’s special guest, Gamification.
What is Gamification
Gamification is, granted, a controversial topic. It focuses on using game thinking and game mechanics to turn an otherwise mundane task into something engaging and perhaps even competitive. It involves implementing methods used in the development of games, but applying them to a real world scenario, such as a classroom.
Obviously, the classroom is primarily about learning, but engaging and motivating students can be a challenge. And a bored student is far less likely to take in what the teacher is trying to teach. Perhaps gamifying the classroom might be a way to improve their engagement, productivity and enthusiasm for what the teacher has to say?
Methods of Gamification
The are a huge variety of gamification methods, ranging from the simple to the complex. Each will have varying levels of success, depending on the context and application for each individual. Creative teachers will be able to come up with their own gamification methods that work best with their class and subject matter, and if done carefully, the students will remain focused on the task at hand, rather than the rewards presented by the system.
Most gamification methods offer some kind of reward for specific tasks, or a collection of tasks when performed together or in a specific order. Below are a couple of methods that can be used to gamify the classroom:
In Gaming: Achievements (also referred to by gamers as “chieves”) have always been a part of video and board games, ranging from completing a level and hearing the congratualtory music, to the more complex achievement systems that are implemented into modern games, such as badges awarded for collecting a certain number of items, or exploring a certain percentage of the game world. Game developers have often implemented achievements into their games to reward players for doing something that perhaps not everyone would do, or finding something that not everyone would find. This has led to a culture of “Chieve Hunting”, the act of playing a game with the sole purpose of finding the achievements the game makers have hidden within.
In Education: Actually achievements have been used in schools for a long time already. Some schools offer “Merits” for certain good behaviour, perhaps issuing a stamp or some kind of token for each merit, possibly even extending this system to offer an additional reward when the student receives a certain number of merits.
Taking this concept a little further, it would be possible to implement a “points” system into an individual class. For example, offering points based on the grade achieved for a certain assignment or test (which incidently is also an achievement in itself) could lead to an accumulation of points, that in turn could lead to a reward at the end of the term, perhaps a badge or some other form of visible recognition of their achievement. This leads me into my next method…
In Gaming: Closely linked to achievements, badges are often used in games to “show-off” an achievement. Popular gaming platform Steam has used different types of badges to allow players to demonstrate their achievements on their profile pages, giving them a sense of pride. The majority of the games on their platform have been designed to work alongside their platform to award badges for achievements specific to each game, and the platform itself offers badges based on the actual number of games in your library, and other trackable milestones. It is not unheard of for people who already own a game to re-purchase a game on the Steam platform specifically to allow them to play it again and earn the achievement badges unique to that system. The visual nature of a badge offers additional incentive to reach the achievement, so that it can be proudly displayed on their profile.
In Education: Again, badges have been used as a reward system in schools for some time. In general they have been used to indicate a privilege, such as “Prefect”, “Hall Monitor” or “Head Boy/Girl”, and these are (usually) proudly displayed on the students jacket or uniform. However badges could also be used to celebrate the minutia in the classroom, and it doesn’t have to be an actual badge that can be pinned to clothing, but any visible reward that could be displayed, such as a sticker (again a system already used in some schools) or a printed, perhaps laminated, image of some description that could be pinned to a wall or desk, or even taken home to proudly show their parents. Some schools have used certificates for this purpose, however (in my opinion) a smaller badge could be carried around or displayed proudly, encouraging other students to want to achieve the same reward.
In Gaming: Levels and ranks play a big part in games. They are used subtly in many different ways to give the player a sense of progression, be that through flat levels that need to be completed, or ranks awarded when you reach a certain goal, or perhaps even the use of a research tree or technology tree, or some other progression mechanic, that lead to further features of the game when unlocked. The basic idea behind levels and ranks are usually to gate off certain features or priviledges until you have progressed through the more menial or repetitive tasks of the lower levels. Likewise, the higher level or rank will usually bring with it additional, more challenging, tasks and goals, making the progression to the next level increasingly difficult.
In Education: This is where the idea of gamification can become a bit of a grey area, and, if used, the idea of levels and ranks would have to be carefully planned so as not to make any one student feel superior or inferior to their peers. With that said, when implemented carefully, it would be possible to use a leveling or ranking system in the class room to offer students the opportunity to “unlock” additional privileges, as well as additional responsibilities within the class. This could be integrated with the badge system mentioned above to give students an indication that they reached a certain rank or level. I suspect this system would work better with younger classes, since the risk of perceived superiority would be reduced, and the rewards you can offer younger children are easy to “create” and are more appreciated, but this does not exclude the possibility of implementing such a system with older students… after all, everyone likes a promotion, right?
In Gaming: Right from the days of PacMan in the arcade, leaderboards have been a great incentive for players to play a game over and over again to hone their skills, just so they can see their name on the highscore table, even if it does get wiped at the end of the day when they switch off the machine! The competitive nature of a leaderboard gives players something to play for, and staves off the boredom of playing the same thing repeatedly, as there is a perceived reward at the end of it. Whether it’s video games or team sports, leaderboards and league tables have always been a feature to show one player or team’s progression, and their position or skill relative to the others.
In Education: Again, implemetation of a leaderboard in the classroom would have to be carefully planned, but there is likely less risk of students developing superiority over their peers if the leaderboard is frequently updated, and if everyone has an equal opportunity to progress toward the top of the table. Leaderboards will usually work on a points system, so students will need a way to earn points if they are to progress, and those at the bottom of the table will need sufficient incentive so as not to lose heart and give up trying to climb the table. With that said, a leaderboard could have students paying maticulous detail to their assignments in order to achieve those few extra points that will put them one place higher in the table, or even working together to earn their team more points.
Gamification and Edublogs
Though I don’t necessarily speak for Edublogs as a whole, the Edublogs platform is well suited to gamification.
When it comes to blogging, teachers could use our system to award “points” based on the number of posts, comments or other interactions posted on a student blog (being careful to account for possible cheats!). If setting a homework assignment, or some other kind of task that the students will reply to via their blog, points could also be awarded based on the quality of their submitted response. These points could then be tallied and badge like graphics could be issued to the students for them to display on their own blogs, like a trophy or rank insignia. The Image widget is ideally suited for adding such graphics to the blog sidebar.
As an aside, I’ve been looking into gamification plugins that we might be able to add to Edublogs (or modify to suit Edublogs) to allow this kind of gamification to be easily implemented and tracked with a little more automation. Though I haven’t settled on a recommendation yet, and I can’t guarantee that any recommendation will actually be implemented, I am certainly an advocate for Edublogs gamification, and I intend to push to add something along these lines… even if I have to make it myself! I’m interested to hear peoples’ comments on how gamification could be implemented into Edublogs, and if there are any specific features people would like to see added if we were to add this kind of functionality in the future.
Please feel free to comment below and I’ll see what I can do!
It seems that gamification has been a hot topic over the last few days, so I thoguht it only fair to give some props to some of the other bloggers that have been discussing the subject, as well as to provide links to a few of my information sources:
Big Dreams On Gamification -A Edublogger’s article that just happened to be published the day I started writing this article.
The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning – by Steven Isaacs
Gamification from Wikipedia – because it’s Wikipedia
What is Gamification? – Some info and stats about gamification