For my fourth blog post I decided to reflect on game-based learning, or what some might call “Gamifying” your classroom. This post is based on my own experience using game-based learning, as well as the information I obtained from reading the blog post in Edutopia called “Gamifying Your Class to Meet the Needs of All Learners” written by John McCarthy. We have a habit of being competitive, thinking we can top someone else’s achievements. It is through this extrinsic motivation that games make the process of learning more entertaining and engaging. By providing opportunities for students to engage in game-based learning, we captivate them where they learn best. Why teach a child through lecture, when they can’t sit through five minutes of commercials? Is that the most effective teaching methodology? We must do more! Gamifying your classroom provides teachers the chance to do just that. With the proliferation of such diverse web 2.0 tools like ClassDojo and Classcraft, gamification possibilities are substantially improved.
Gamification has the ability to help every student in your classroom. With ELL students, these tools may have a motivating effect that might drive them to develop their language skills. More importantly, however, is many of these tools are used collaboratively, engaging students in authentic language learning. They are communicating to each other, writing goals, developing plans and sharing successes. These tools have the potential to lead to collaboration embracing all those involved.
In McCarthy’s post “Gamifying Your Class to Meet the Needs of All Learners”, he mentions six of his favorite mechanics for building engagement and learning. I am going to focus on two of the mechanics, you can check out the rest in his post. The two mechanics I have experience with are “Experience Points and Leveling Up” and “Achievements and Badges”. Both of these methods utilize the idea of students gaining or losing points for something, such as behavior, grade, or completed work. Students receive a set of criteria, which they earn points for achieving or completing. Many popular games today, like Clash of Clans and Pokemon Go, award points, and with each point, you get closer to the next level. When you meet a benchmark, you “level up”, and usually receive a set of rewards. Teachers can easily create this in their classroom and many times do, without ever realizing they are “gamifying” the classroom. Teachers who make use of stick charts are doing just that! Along with the level up approach, comes the achievements and badges. Badges are an outstanding way of awarding physical (or digital) proof of completion. This, again, is a commonly used strategy in many programs. Many teachers take part in online webinars and programs where badges are offered, and they can display them in their classroom or on their email signatures. These methods are inexpensive, yet effective ways to motivate students.
Two examples of programs built around gamification and awarding a value system are ClassDojo and Classcraft. Classcraft blends elements of World of Warcraft, collaboration and goal setting. Students work in teams to gain points, which can be awarded for whatever the teacher desires. They can, as they accrue more points, level up and challenge others. This system strives around the aspect of teamwork, and really pushes students to work together to complete goals. ClassDojo does this to a lesser extent, but can easily be modified by the teacher to be the basis of some stimulating gamification. ClassDojo is a great tool to collect the data needed in engaging and entertaining ways, one would need to make a great gamification project. With ClassDojo a teacher can enter all of their students into the system, they can then create criteria for being awarded or taken away points. With a fun and engaging interface students find this tool an entertaining way to manage behavior.
Regardless of how motivated you are to implement these methods into your own classroom, any form of gamification can go along way in improving student engagement, collaboration and success in the classroom. Start off small, and you will see results that will take your class to the next level! Set a goal now of trying to implement some form of gamification, if you do, go ahead and display this badge with pride!
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McCarthy, J. (2016). Gamifying Your Class to Meet the Needs of All Learners.