Happy Monday! I hope your week is off to a great start. For today's Motivaton Monday feature, we're bringing you some information about an exciting new trend in student motivation: gamifying the classroom.
What does this mean, exactly?
In basic terms, gamifying the classroom involves incorporating gaming elements (such as levels, badges, missions, etc.) and language into the classroom. It allows students to earn points for completing regular classroom assignments and activities; gamification elements can also be used to teach particular concepts, regulate student behavior, and encourage cooperation and collaboration among students.
Meet Our Experts
"I first instituted gamification in the classroom [because] I had a lot of adolescent boys who were gaming at home and totally disconnected from school. I felt that this might be a way to engage them in what was happening in the classroom. I hoped it would appeal to their gaming nature."
"Math has traditionally been considered the hardest subject for many people, and motivation was not very high for my students. I often felt I had too much to teach in each school day, so we were constantly pushing through content. As a result, we didn't do too many fun things in math, which I felt fed into the stereotype that math is boring. I wanted to find some way to motivate my students. I wanted to enjoy teaching and have the students enjoy learning."
"I loved the idea of gamifying my middle school class because to me, the course felt very shallow -- it was required for all students, and we taught four different languages in a 9 week class. My first days in the room, my department chair told me it wasn't about them retaining the language, it was about them being exposed to it. I wanted the students to be as engaged in the various languages and cultures as possible and not feel like it was a waste of time jumping from language to language.
How Our Experts Implement Gamification
As part of the gamification story in her classroom, an evil wizard captures the heroes throughout their journey and puts them in peril. To help the heroes escape, students must receive passing scores on academic tasks such as quizzes, tests, and culminating assignments. In another component, each group must find their district's magical sphere. To do so, they complete critical thinking activities with their group such as coded puzzles and riddles. Each group's hero must find its magical sphere; when all five spheres are together, there is enough magic to defeat the dragon and destroy the Well of Spells.
Another element of gamification is earning achievement points (AP). TJ wanted student grades to reflect what they could do academically, so she didn't want to award XP for anything but schoolwork. However, she did want to reward students for good behavior, work ethic, positive attitudes and character, etc. She uses Class Dojo to manage student AP; what she likes about it is that it has an app, so she can carry her phone around the room with her and award points without having to be at the computer. Students can create accounts and log in at home to see their progress, change their avatar, and more.
Her classroom model utilizes a low tech approach. For example, students earn squares to fill the pictures for each task when they pass a mini-quiz, and she has students keep track of their progress on mastery profiles. They earn a badge (sticker) for each quiz or test they pass; this also helps them keep track of which quizzes/tests they can retake for credit.
On her website, students can see an overview of all the different language units. The first unit is "base camp," which she uses to introduce students to missions, how to submit for XP, and also teach strategies for language learning. As they work through their different units, students have a menu of choices for the different missions (assignments) they can complete. Each mission starts with a silly introduction, as well as information about how many players can complete the mission together (alone, with a partner, in a small group) and how many XP they can receive upon completing the mission. Once they accept a mission, they are linked to a Google doc with more specific steps to complete it.
gamification into their 7th grade world languages survey course.
Benefits of Gamifying the Classroom
Anne, who has been using gamification in her classroom for the past four years, has noticed increased engagement for most of her students. In addition to the online components of Classcraft, she also uses physical elements of gamification in her classroom. She feels that all these elements help students feel consistently connected to the gaming narrative, which feeds their motivation.
TJ says, "It helps me remember to celebrate the wins more often." For example, her students are excited when they earn badges (stickers) for passing a mini-quiz for a lesson. By using the physical space of her classroom as the realm of her gamification through her mural walls, they have a daily visual connection to what they have accomplished throughout the year. This keeps their individual and class goals at the forefront of their minds. She has even found that gamification helps some students behave better in class, too!
Like Anne, Ashley also experienced tremendous buy-in from her students. She says, "I have had to make some phone calls to parents about watching their students' computer usage because I was getting things submitted at 1 or 2 in the morning by students who were dying to level up the next day." It also enables her to differentiate for students by allowing them to choose their missions (assignments) based on what they felt comfortable completing. The "go at your own pace" nature of the missions also eliminates every teacher's favorite question, "What do I do now?"
Challenges of Gamifying the Classroom
Because students are not likely to have had experience with a gamified classroom, it is important to be clear about the new structure and expectations from the beginning. When TJ first implemented gamification in her classroom, she jumped in feet-first and changed many things about the way she structured her course. Not only did she change the names of classroom assignments and tasks to sound more game-like, but the whole structure of the class was different than what students were used to. All of these combined components made for a rough transition; as a result, she learned to be more clear in explaining the expectations and outcomes from the beginning.
Explaining to administrators and parents that you are turning your classroom and teaching into a game can seem daunting. For Ashley, worrying about administrative support was a hurdle she had to overcome. She was a first year teacher when she gamified her teaching, and she says she found her principal "super intimidating." She and her co-worker both did extensive research separately and together on the benefits of gamification. When the research was later shared during an EdCamp presentation, her principal was very impressed because its structure and benefits were presented to her in such a positive way. As long as you are clear about the expectations and outcomes, administrators should have no problem getting on board!
Sometimes, keeping up with the physical aspects of gamification can be overwhelming, too. TJ admits that she initially did most of the work maintaining the mural walls, which was overwhelming. Now, she has student assistants take care of the wall for her, which makes less work for her. Students love to be part of the process, so assigning students to these roles is a great way to increase the buy-in!
Finally, like any major change, remember that implementing a new style of teaching and learning will not be perfect. Ashley says that she was constantly tweaking the game, level ups, bonuses, and how students earned points in class. It's a process, so use the bumps in the road as learning opportunities, and use feedback to improve!
Tips for Teachers Interested in Gamification for the Classroom
Additionally, reach out to other teachers who have tried or implemented gamification in their classes. If there are none in your school or district, there are many online (such as this Edmodo group for Gamification). Most of them are happy to help!
If you're intimidated by the idea of starting something new mid-year, remember that the end of the school year is a great time to test a new idea! Students (and teachers) typically struggle with motivation in the final weeks of the year, so trying something new is a great way to keep them involved and engaged. You can also get feedback and suggestions from students to help with the process; they will value being asked for their input and being part of the process. Remember, taking the first step is the hardest part, so if you're interested in gamifying your classroom... just do it!
Recommended Resources for Gamification
Books and Articles:
Tech Integration of Gamification: