The use of game design and mechanics to enhance education is called gamification. Teachers want to engage their students in learning, so they look to student interest inventories, which gather information about what students do. Inevitably, the majority of students state that they like to play games.
Some games are easy to implement in the classroom, and many teachers gamify education by creating Jeopardy-like games to teach classroom content. Others use games like Bingo to keep their students engaged while learning. Some teachers even use an educational version of Minecraft to incorporate technology as an education game.
Gamify Education Throughout the Day
Games are everywhere in our lives. We get game pieces for purchasing coffee at the gas station. We earn badges for every oil change. We even play games when we buy coupons for restaurants. Games attract people’s attention, so it makes good sense to use games more often in education.
One way to gamify education is by using a point structure for everything in a student’s day. Students gain or lose points through assignments, classroom duties and behavior. At the end of each quarter, teachers tally the points and assign grades based on each student’s score. Another strategy is to use badges to diversify learning throughout the quarter. Students must accomplish certain learning tasks in order to earn badges.
Using Technology to Gamify Education
There are a few features specific to video games that make them so engaging. Teachers would be wise to use those same features in order to ensure that learning is engaging.
- Kid created: allow students to design part of the game so they understand how it works. This creates buy-in and helps students understand how to win or lose.
- Chances to win: let students have more than one chance before they lose. In real video games, players often get two or three lives so they can improve without starting over every time.
- Instant feedback: provide instant feedback during the game. This helps students adjust and learn. This can be one of the toughest elements for a teacher to incorporate into education games, but it is critical to success.
- Visible progress: show progress in real time so students know how far they have come and how far they have to go. This is an excellent lesson in setting and achieving goals.
- Use technology: incorporate educational technology into parts of the game. Students might develop a game or accomplish an activity using devices they are familiar with.
Using Virtual Games to Help Struggling Learners
For some students, the first community they belong to is their school. When schools introduce moderate competition in the classroom, learners work hard to reach higher expectations. Some schools gamify education by introducing technology every child can access at school and most can access at home.
At one school in Boston, students start using a program called First in Math when they are in kindergarten. The program is school-based. Students log in and practice foundational math skills. When a student earns points, so does the school. In this way, learning becomes about building community and school pride. Students do not feel as much pressure, and they develop a sense of loyalty.
Most people have an innate sense about how games work, and they want to play a part in winning. Education games become a win-win situation wherein students can learn and compete in a healthy manner.
Simulation Games Create Experiences
Not everyone comes to school with the same set of experiences, but they must all take the same standardized tests that ask questions about presumably common experiences. If a child has never been to the zoo, he or she may not understand why the animals are in cages. If a child has never been to a concert, he or she might not understand why people sit in an audience or need listening skills. When teachers introduce games like SimCityEDU, wherein players take on the roles of community members and help solve real-world problems, they can have experiences virtually that will help them keep up with their peers. In this way teachers can gamify education to develop learning, social connections and shared experiences.