Try It Tuesday: Gamify Your Classroom

The big buzz in education circles, as well as in corporate training is "gamification"--how can you use the principles of video games to make learning more engaging,  interesting and fun? 

In this week's Try it Tuesday, we're going to explore some ideas for bringing the addictive qualities of video games to your curriculum so that students will WANT to come to class and keep learning.

What Is "Gamification?" 

In learning circles, "gamification" is about adapting the strategies used in video games to keep people playing in your learning environment. These are "encouragement strategies"--specific actions you can take to make the learning experience as engaging as a game.

This article on Designing Your Class Like a Video Game has a great discussion of the basic ideas and how they apply to schools and classrooms. We also highly encourage you to watch the 9-minute video at the top of this post, which does a fantastic job of introducing the concept and discussing its implications for education. 

Now let's look at four specific strategies you can try.

1. Make Progress Visible

In a video game, you can see your progress. You "level up" and have progress bars to show you how you're moving forward. Progress bars can help students set goals and see tangible growth from their efforts. This is something we can incorporate into the classroom as well.

Give students progress bars--or have them make the bars themselves. Assign points to various assignments and activities that when completed can be reflected on their progress bars.

You could even work out different levels--such as Beginner, Apprentice, Master--and associate progress with these levels. This is the thinking in martial arts, for example, with different colored belts associated with different skill levels.

The idea is to help students see that they are making progress, even on the days when it may not feel like they are.

2. Use Badges

One way to visually demonstrate progress is by giving out badges. This is something you can co-create with students, brainstorming ideas for different types of badges that connect to what they'll be learning and then creating those badges to be awarded as students achieve those goals. This article has some good resources for creating badges, if you're interested in this idea.

3. Create Challenges or Quests, Rather than Homework or Projects

Another way to gamify your classroom is by putting assignments in the context of "Challenges" or "Quests" to be achieved. If you're teaching networking, for example, then challenge them to talk to 5 new people and to document those conversations. Each conversation would be reflected on their progress bar and when they met the Challenge, that could "unlock" some new opportunity or privilege. Or have them "crack the code" of the perfect resume.

Not all assignments will lend themselves to this idea, but many could. Get creative and think of ways to make assignments a little more "epic."

4. Build In Choice

Most video games allow for lots of choice. You can pick your character, it's talents, the armor you wear and the weapons you use.

We can apply the same thinking to the classroom. Allow students to choose how they will demonstrate learning or give assignments that allow for different paths to the same objective. Let them get creative. Maybe one group wants to demonstrate their knowledge of the job search process by creating a board game, while the other creates a group presentation or a Jeopardy-type quiz.

Gamification is no replacement for relationships and quality educational content. But it can be a way to experiment with some motivational techniques that keep students engaged while they learn how to tie in to their own internal motivations for the work we are doing with them. 

Let us know how you use gamification in your classroom by dropping us a comment or by sending us your tips through our form

Follow-up Resources and Articles

  • Gamifying Education--this is an excellent resource for making sure that you're not losing the educational component when you gamify. 

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