It’s 10 o’clock at night and I am marching around the house to get 150 more steps. Why? To reach 10,000 steps so my Fitbit vibrates and shoots digital fireworks. It seems silly when you think about it, but I do it because 10,000 steps is my daily goal. I earn badges on my Fitbit app and for every 1,000 steps, I get a point from my health insurance provider to use toward prizes. My daily fitness regimen has been gamified. However, it is not against my will. I relish at the opportunity to reach achievement levels and share data with my online Fitbit community. I look for ways to walk more, climb stairs, and increase my heartrate. I am getting healthy. Who cares if I earn incentives in the process? I do!
Gamification is the application of typical elements of game playing (rules of play, point scoring, and competition) to other areas of activity, specifically to engage users in problem solving (Wikipedia). Gamification is working for health insurance companies; restaurants (earn a free Starbucks drink after a certain number of stars from purchases); social media sites (expand your LinkedIn profile to bring the “completion bar” up to 100%); and the sports industry (Nike users compete against each other in the daily amount of physical activity for special rewards). If gamification motivates people during their everyday lives, just think about what it can do for students during project-based learning (PBL).
I was inspired to learn more about gamification in education after learning about a unique assessment method used by a group of teachers in Finland. These teaches designed a system where students earn points when accomplishing certain tasks and exhibiting specific skills. Students use these points to “buy” badges that they can redeem when they choose. Examples of badges include conducting personal research, teaching the class, giving a demonstration, or extra time in the makerspace. This use of gamification motivates students to perform learning objectives as best they can.
Gamification has become a popular tactic to encourage specific behaviors and increase engagement. When teachers gamify learning, students are given a greater sense of agency. They are now an actor with a very important role. Their actions are what will lead them to desired outcomes. However, outcomes are not what need to be gamified—the process does.
Think about how you can integrate some of these gamification examples during PBL to motivate, build rapport, and make learning fun.
Gamifying your classroom and integrating learning games might seem too good to be true. With anything new and let’s say it, fun for the classroom, there will always be skepticism. The critics of gamification argue that relying on games can be detrimental to intrinsic motivation. Receiving a badge for a job well done is meaningless without an understanding of what specific skills this badge rewards (Top Hat). Gamification and game-based learning are not meant to replace instruction. They are meant to enhance it. When preparing to apply gamification in education, follow the five important steps in the chart below.
Just as I take the stairs more often and park farther away from the store’s entrance to get extra steps, your students will give more effort when you gamify learning. Gamification has tremendous potential in the education space, and it will likely look different from one classroom to the next. Design learning experiences that address your students’ needs and interests. Ask them what they find appealing about playing games. From there, you will know what steps to take to enrich students’ day-to-day learning.
Okay Teacher One, are you ready? Game on!
Learn more about gamification in education from this comprehensive infographic!