Gamifying education: Inside and outside the classroom
There is an old saying: “the only difference between work and play is that work is something you have to do, and play is something you want to do.”
As educators, if you can blur the lines between work and play, you can see great improvements in student achievement. Gamifying your classroom is certainly a big step in the right direction.
News Flash! Students are playing games everywhere, with everyone, whether on their computer, cell phone, or video game console. In recent years we have seen an explosion in the popularity of casual social games, such as the wildly popular Candy Crush Saga for Facebook, iOS and Android.
These types of games are typically simple to play and designed for players of all ages. Their simplicity is what drives today's youth to spend hours upon hours in trying to master its challenges. While that may not be actual news to you, the task of capturing some of the excitement students have for gaming to support curriculum goals in the classroom remains a challenge.
Previous attempts to market immersive computer games in education have achieved some success, but student's attention spans have shortened considerably in the past five years. So, when looking to gamify the classroom, try taking a hint from the casual social game market: keep it fairly simple.
These games usually have a short learning curve, simple gameplay, unlockable features and some type of social scoring.
These features will not always be obtainable in a classroom setting, but the power of engaging your students with these addictive type games cannot be overstated.
There are a variety of excellent online resources available that use gaming to support various curriculum areas. In my 15 years' experience promoting gaming in the classroom, I found that providing educators with a set of games just wasn't enough. Instead, we focused our development towards creating game "templates", where educators input their own curriculum content into an interactive individual or group-based game.
Many games combine the irresistible elements of the ever-popular social and mobile games with educational classroom content, providing you another tool for teachers' arsenals with which they can engage students and get them excited about the content being taught.
Classroom games allow for engagement of students not found in traditional lecture formats and foster healthy competition, ultimately driving students to achieve more. We have seen this first hand from many of the schools and teachers we work with, such as Johnston County Schools in North Carolina. "Adding standards to socially acceptable and competitive games encourages learners to learn more than traditional lectures through a disguised learning environment," says Diana Freeman, Executive Director of Library and Media Services.
Encouraging game play outside of the classroom, where an increasing amount of "learning" takes place, has proven quite successful for Greg Sloan, a High School English teacher from Township High School District 211 in Illinois. "As I create more and more review games for my students, I have moved away from playing the games during class time and instead, provide a URL link to play online.
My students can then access the game from any internet connected device, where they can play on their own time and as many times as they want. Scores are tracked and reported, and overall participation continues to skyrocket."
By tracking student game play, we have seen some staggering statistics. On average, when a student is given a game created by their teacher though our system, the game is played 4.2 times. What we gather from this data is that students will continue to play the game, until they achieve a particular score.
To support this theory, we also note that students that achieve a 95% or greater during their first attempt playing a game, only play each game an average of 1.3 times. Students want to be challenged and more importantly, will play a game repeatedly until they reach their own pre-determined goal.
Just imagine your students trying to play educational games at home the way they attempt to play casual social games at school. I have heard from teachers all over the world how their student's participation levels and test scores have increased after introducing game based learning into the classroom. Ultimately, students want to learn where they want it, when they want it, and in a format that keeps their attention.
Michael is Founder and President of the Teacher Gaming Network.
Nesta's games in education blog series seeks to encourage a wider discussion. To share your thoughts please comment below or tweet using #gamelearning