Gamification is a term that is used to describe the use of game design techniques (mechanics) to solve problems, engage audiences and motivate people. The idea primarily uses technology to improve productivity and engage workers and customers. Think of Facebook and all the ‘carrots’ they try to offer users to stay at certain sites. Corporations also use gamification to encourage and engage employees. Use of merit ‘badges’, credits and other encouragements to make what might be a disinteresting job more interesting.
The idea of gamification is creeping into the classroom.
Today, students are expected to pay attention and learn in an environment that is completely foreign to them. In their personal time they are active participants with the information they consume; whether it be video games or working on their Facebook profile, students spend their free time contributing to, and feeling engaged by, a larger system. Yet in the classroom setting, the majority of teachers will still expect students to sit there and listen attentively, occasionally answering a question after quietly raising their hand. Is it any wonder that students don’t feel engaged by their classwork?
Gamification principles are quickly being incorporated by the private sector to increase customer loyalty and engagement, but can the same tools be used by teachers to increase a student’s involvement with their work?
Gamification, if handled properly, could be what we need to make our classrooms more supportive of creativity while still teaching traditional academics. There are three considerations that must first be taken into account: motivation, administration, and budget.
One Grade 3 teacher has introduced the Nintendo DS into his classroom.
Ananth Pai, a teacher who is transforming the way our children learn, is here to talk about how he went from a globetrotting exec to elementary school teacher extraordinaire! He asks us all, with urgency in his voice to “Become a drug pusher in schools—we need it.” He laughs. What he means is that we need dopamine in our classrooms.The chemical that signals “fun.”
He learned that 7 out of 10 3rd graders are not proficient in math when they graduate to the 4th grade. They are not reading at all, much less at a third grade level. And he learned that if they cannot do things by the end of the 3rd grade, the decline will begin in earnest from there.
Mr. Pai changed the system. He heard about something called the Nintendo DS from his 6thgrade daughter. He had no idea what gamification was. But nonetheless he brought technology into the classroom, through games on Nintendo DS’s and computers, he let his students play – math games, reading games and other games. Scores rose, reading levels went up exponentially. Gamification, he says, will save education.
Personally, I think Mr. Pai has not introduced gamification into the classroom but rather just a form of technology with which the students can relate. It is the lowest form of gamification – if it is gamification.
Also, the mere introduction of badges and points are nothing new in education. The people at innovationgames.com have a better idea of what is needed.
The “Gamification” movement continues to gain speed. And while I appreciate some of the careful thinking and discussions, the entire movement is at risk of getting it more wrong than right. Quite frankly, badges and points are, well, missing the point. Gamification should not be based on simplistic, Pavlovian responses to stimulus. Click on a button. Get points. Brush your teeth. Get points. No cavities? Wow. I get a sticker. If that’s the best that game designers can do, the world is going backward, not forward, and I don’t want any part of the Gamification movement.
At The Innovation Games® Company, we think that serious games are more about actual problem solving than racking up points and badges. To realize this vision, effective serious game designers need to create collaborative interaction models that naturally motivate high levels of engagement and participation. The key word is naturally. Not artificially induced and potentially farcical behavior, but games in which the “play” produces a result.
I am in the process of starting a consulting company that will offer professional development services for teachers. My goals are to introduce board games into the classroom and introduce basic ideas of game design. This information will be passed on to teachers via one on one meetings or through day workshops. I am also considering delving into gamification in the classroom.
However, I think it is more than just providing rewards. Imagine an elementary classroom where for 30 minutes each day the are allowed to choose to go to a work station. The students would have role cards: artist, scientist, writer etc… and would be allowed to use the roles to go to a workstation during allotted time. The workstations would represent the roles. The artist role card would allow the student to go to the art workstation, the scientist to the science station etc… There could be 5 roles and three would be picked each day. There would have to be some way of the teacher monitoring and ‘controlling’ the frequency of visits to any particular station. The visits would be tracked and as a certain number of visits to a station are recorded the student levels up. While this is a simplistic form of gamification, I believe the teacher’s imagination is the only thing that could restrict this new method. Of course, sometimes imaginations need to be prompted and that is where I would enter.
Be interested in any comments.