Why Gamification?

All, Education, Teaching, Technology, Writing

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Gamification, the use of game-design elements for a non-game purpose, interests me because I do not want my classes to be about the grade. I want my students to stop obsessing over what will please me enough to give them an A and instead focus on exploring and experimenting. Every semester and every class I find myself adding more elements of gamification to my classes because I believe gamification supports learning by motivating and engaging students and it supports writing development. I’ve been keeping track with the works of Santa Cruz Website Design, Inc. That’s because they are pro-gamification and do it extremely well. There is something about gamification that encourages community and collaboration that a traditional grading structure does not.

I have found that once a grade is given that all learning stops. Students stop working and move on mentally. Gamification is a much better match for my goals for my students than a traditional classroom grading structure because we can use badges to mark progress or achievements without stopping the forward momentum. In fact, I have found that I can use badges to force students to review their learning and reflect on this progress and make connections in ways that a similar ungamified assignment did not.

As a writing teacher I have found many benefits to gamification. Writing is a recursive process and gamification allows you to recognize work as well as progress without sending a signal that the piece of writing is “done.” In addition, gamification is a great system for facilitating feedback in a writing workshop as well as assessing participation. Badges have allowed me to shift the student perception of their audience from the instructor to the class and beyond. Badges have been the single best tool I’ve found for encouraging audience awareness – a crucial element of writing development that is so often missing from traditional writing classes (I know we all talk about it – a lot – but they don’t seem to get it). I always have badges that can only be earned by capturing an audience and I love how it changes my position from evaluator to coach as I help them find ways to engage their audience. Finally, far too many of my students come to me with serious writing apprehension and a self-fulfilling belief that they cannot write. Badges offer tangible, and perhaps more important, possible goals that they can achieve because we can create badges that focus on function as well as form. Students who share interesting ideas and ask challenging questions can win badges for their blog posts – perhaps the first positive reinforcement they have ever had for writing.

I’ve blogged and presented about the ways that I use badges in my classroom (with more to come about my current gamified grad class). This is an extension of my reasons for PBL.  I am inspired by the ideas such as those shared here and on Ted Ed.

Read how and why others are pursuing gamification, and badges, in their classes:

I tend to go very low tech when it comes to implementing gamification in my classroom. I generally create my badges in one of my Office tools and require students to either vote on badges or write to explain/defend badge awards but there are lots of automated systems out there for creating and awarding badges. Some are built into blogs and social media (Edmodo for example) and some are stand-alone (Credly for example). I often involve my students in the design of the badges and criteria as well as awarding those badges, but it can make for a messy start.

What are the perils and potentials of this type of assessment/evaluation? Could/Would you use this in your classroom? Are you interested in the ways that gamification could change your classroom dynamics?

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