The Addicted Gamer’s Guide to Classroom Gamification

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It’s a simple fact: no matter your age, you learn better when you’re having fun.

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60% of surveyed teachers reported they believe using games in the classroom, especially digital learning games, fostered student collaboration as well as improved focus on the tasks at hand.

Ask a child to explain their favorite video game vs. the lesson you just gave on linear equations. Chances are they will be able to tell you all about the video game in great detail but would struggle to go into great detail about the equations. “Classroom gamification” achieves these results by using the core principles from games (typically video games) and applying them to whatever lesson you are attempting to teach.

Lesson gamification is a great way to boost lesson engagement and effectiveness and this guide will show you new ways to make your lessons more fun and game-like.

Turn unit subjects into quests, and lessons into levels

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed played the single player campaign of any video game more than playing the online multiplayer. Playing through a character’s story and contributing to their success really draws me in.

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Recently I just completed the new reboot of Tomb Raider and it would be an understatement to say that I was hooked. The adventure, puzzles, and mystery of exploring a lost island as the heroine, Lara Croft, was more than addicting. I couldn’t put it down.

With every level I completed, the challenges progressively got harder and more exciting. The freedom the game granted me to explore the island and complete side quests kept me involved even beyond the linear storyline. The game kept me hooked with a sense of accomplishment and progression towards a bigger goal. Each puzzle pulled at my problem solving abilities in an exciting way and rewarded my successes.

Classroom gamification works the same way, with lesson units broken up into smaller “levels” added with achievements and rewards for completion. Each “level up” gives a student a sense of accomplishment because they know there are new experiences and rewards to unlock for every obstacle they overcome. It turns a dry unit into a quest that they have to achieve.

Each lesson could have more difficult challenges and assignments, such as more questions or longer prompts, but come with greater rewards for completion. All of these levels and achievements are trackable in software options like Youtopia and Goalbook, which help measure which methods are working and which are not.

Reward success

I always looked forward to completing a level of the story in Tomb Raider, partly for the amazingly detailed cutscenes between levels, and partly for the other rewards that would come with the completion. Whenever I completed a level or difficult tomb puzzle the game rewarded me with experience points to unlock different abilities or weapon capabilities.

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With every chapter or assignment a student completes an award of some sort, such as points or badges, can be given out to use towards unlocking more tangible rewards in the classroom. For instance, students could choose whether to spend their points sooner, on smaller prizes like a piece of candy, or save them for larger prizes such as freedom from a specific assignment.

Establishing real-world value for the points or badges makes them more desirable to students, and allowing them the freedom to choose what they wish to spend them on gives students a greater sense of control. This sense of freedom and control is part of what makes video games so interesting and addictive.

Encourage exploration

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In several stages of Tomb Raider there are secret side tombs for you to explore and solve. Doing so may not be crucial to the story, but the rewards always come in handy later in the game if you choose to take the time to solve them. These rewards encourage further exploration of the island which help you better understand the background to the main story.

The same idea holds true with major lessons in the classroom. When teaching a unit on history, for example, there are the major events and points that should be covered, but also related and ancillary occurrences that give students a solid understand of what happened in our past.
When exploring WWII, it is important to look into the broad precipitating events which led to German aggression and expansion in Europe, but it is also important to understand the individuals that made it happen. Strategy games like Civilization 5 offer extra editions on WWII and allow players to control different sides of the war, make economic and military decisions, and see if they come out victorious.

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Games like these are useful for encouraging deeper exploration into topics. Perhaps in return for extra moves or turns in the game, you can offer a chance to do a profile on a major figure to further understand the motivations and causes of the war. The students benefit in their knowledge of the subject while they gain the learning of extra gameplay.

Institute friendly competition

One thing I love about playing video games in my house is the competitive nature between my roommates and I. We all are trying to best each other’s times, scores, and abilities.

We have our sessions of playing Zombies on Call of Duty to see who can finish with the most kills and the least amount of downs, which can result in some pretty passionate (and loud) gameplay. The bullets fly, the body count rises, and the hoard continues to grow in our struggle to beat each other.

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Competition is healthy for kids in the classroom and should be employed in lessons. Using educational games, such as ones on Smart Kit and Fun Brain, you can create competition between students to see who can complete the game first or who can reach the highest score.

Winning the competition can result in the previously mentioned rewards or even new and unique rewards such as free periods for students. The games themselves can even act as rewards for completing other tasks.

Conclusion

Learning doesn’t have to be simple, boring lectures (an ineffective way to teach, by the way) and dry worksheets. Learning and teaching can be a fun and exciting experience for teacher and student alike with lesson gamification.

Have you tried gamification in your classroom? What gamification tools did you use?  Did you find it to be successful? Why or why not?

Let us know in the comments below!

Looking for School Administration software? Check out Capterra's list of the best School Administration software solutions.

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Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a former Capterra analyst.

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