Teaching isn’t a game; neither is learning. Playing games, however, is fun for young and old. With technology advancement, video games have become the norm in most households—adults and children. What if gamification principles can help a student learn better? Does this mean a teacher should bring video games into the classroom? Is that what gamification is and should you, as a teacher, consider adding gamification to your classroom?
What is gamification?
Thinking a video game is gamification is a misconception. Gamification is defined as applying game playing principles and elements, like badges, scoring, and competing, to non-game activities and tasks.
The word “gamification” was coined by Nick Pelling in 2002 while designing interfaces for commercial electronic devices. Before that, since 1908, the Boy Scout rewarded members with badges for accomplishing certain activities, skills or attending special events. In 1973 Charles Coonradt wrote Game of Work addressing the issue of why ten people with a volleyball and a net could achieve teamwork while the same ten people couldn’t work together in a working environment. He concluded that in sports there’s constant feedback of your progress.
Five years later, social video games were birthed.
Gamification, took almost another decade after named before it exploded and started impacting non-gaming environments.
Benefits of Adding Gamification to a Classroom
Is adding gamification to your classroom a benefit or a gimmick?
Gamification brings an element of fun to difficult or boring school subjects. A bored student doesn’t give their best. They do the minimum to pass. Math is one of those subjects that many find math challenging or can’t see the use of it. Gamification raises enthusiasm in bored or uninspired students. Without realizing it, they are practicing their math skills while enjoying themselves. Now they give their best to subjects they used to “hate.”
Kids forever want their parent’s smartphones or tablets to play a game. They start at a young age. The fascination doesn’t leave them as they grow older—many adults become like kids when playing online games. Bringing the gaming element into schoolwork raises enthusiasm in these kids. Used to spending time on improving skills to reach the next level, these kids easily adapt to focusing on improving schoolwork to reach the next gaming level in class.
Aids Cognitive Development
Studies have shown that cognitive development makes students more effective learners. Neuroscience theorists believe gamification improves learner engagement. Adding gamification to teaching content stimulate cognitive skills like planning, thinking, problem-solving, prioritizing and processing material.
Gamification creates a stimulating environment for brain activities that stimulate cognitive development through problem-solving and finding answers to questions. Brain games, aka games designed to improve cognitive development, can improve the rate that students retain and maintain information. Gamification principles have a positive effect on cognitive functions, even if it’s not the main focus for adding gamification to non-game activities.
Teachers, parents, and peers are actively involved in a student’s learning process. Often, it’s easier for strong academic students to achieve autonomy than weaker students. Gaming principles help students, even students who struggle with subjects to achieve autonomy.
Where strong students will learn and do homework assignments on their own, weaker students need help. Sadly, they may rely too much on the teachers, parents, and peers to assist and even expect them to do it all for them.
Gamification shows students that they can accomplish tasks and receive rewards based on their skills and abilities. It inspires them to become autonomous and to build confidence in their learning capabilities. The more feedback and rewards they receive, the more they are inspired to progress and succeed in assignments and tasks.
Have you ‘lost time’ when you are busy, especially if it’s something you’re passionate about? Focused concentration makes the world around you disappear; you forget about eating and even sleeping. Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you how their kids ‘zone out’ when playing games. They don’t hear, see or notice anything outside of the game.
This focused concentration may help students learn better and overcome tough tasks and subjects. According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, there is a delicate balance between a student’s skills and a tough task. Adding gamification principles in the classroom may widen this margin giving a student a better opportunity to improve. The same tough task is no longer an impossible hurdle but becomes a challenge to overcome so that the student can progress and move to the next level.
Keeps Kids Motivated
Feedback and rewards inspire and motivate kids. In the classroom teachers can’t always give the individual student the feedback as often as they would like to. With gamification, there is instant feedback. Rewards like badges and reaching the next level keeps kids motivated.
The rewards are visual confirmation that they have achieved the skill, task or assignment. Kids can boast about their accomplishments by sharing the virtual badges online. It’s a way to throw down the gauntlet to friends and competitors to accomplish the same or improve scores.
Most online games have subtasks, and minor quests to keep players motivated while progressing toward the main outcome of the game. These minor quests and subtasks don’t influence the main outcome, but it is essential in rewarding accomplishments and skills. Players increase effort to improve their abilities that will indirectly help them reach the end goal.
Gamification in the classroom has the same effect. Instead of doing the minimum to pass, students increase their effort in completing minor tasks and steps to reach the goal to receive the reward. Rewards received give them a sense of accomplishment, even for minor tasks, and motivates them to work harder for better grades.
Inspires More Practice
Positive feedback and receiving rewards inspire kids to practice more. The competitive edge urges them to stay ahead and not lose their position. To increase their score, they must improve their skill levels. Hence, their eagerness to practice.
Simple rewards are enough to inspire kids to reach for the next goal post. Teachers know that extra practice will improve a child’s skill, especially in areas that require improvement. It is, however, often almost impossible to motivate a child to practice skills they don’t like. Gamification has the opposite effect. The kids are inspired to practice more because they want to excel in scores and levels. Their focus shifts from “hating” the subject to wanting to improve so that their score improves, they could reach a new level or acquire a sought-after badge.
Failure Isn’t Defeat
Reward systems in gamification teach children that failure isn’t defeat; it’s just another option. If they don’t succeed the first time, then they can try again. People tend to measure their performance and social worth against others’ accomplishment. If adults don’t measure up to their peers, it may cause jealousy, self-doubt, and a sense of failure.
Children compare themselves upwards, to peers who do better than they do. It is a healthy comparison that motivates them to perform better so that they can accomplish the same or better. Gamification motivates this trait in children; not only to be as good as the one they are looking up to but competing with themselves too. The option to repeat and try again replaces fear of failure with a determination to successfully defeat the obstacle.
Have you added gamification to your classroom or are you planning to do so? How do you engage students with gamification?