There's been a lot of talk in education about gamification. The idea is to use game mechanics, dynamics, and frameworks to promote desired behaviors. This concept is broadly used in marketing when companies use games to increase consumerism in the form of participation or purchasing. Think the McDonald's Monopoly game or when your gym offers incentives if you spend more time there.
In education the goals are only slightly different. Teachers certainly use gamification to increase consumption and engagement, but we are also interesting in helping students "learn better" and "care more" about school, goals that lead to increases in consumption and engagement. As a result, gamification in education might be more about process and emotion than the same practices in business.
But enough theory. I'm certainly no expert. You can read some of the research I consulted when I started this piece here.
So yesterday I decided to "gamify" my College Algebra class. We were on a 80 minute block schedule day and the planned lesson was a set of word problems, a task that my students dislike on a good day. The class meets at 8am and my seniors drag in most days clutching a cup of coffee like a life preserver. When I told them we were working on word problems, there was moaning. When I mentioned that they would have to move around, there was more moaning. "Can't we just work in groups?" I ignored them.
The task was simple. They were assigned ten problems and divided into pairs with a single calculator. Every five minutes they moved on to the next problem with a new partner. At the end of the cycle we graded the papers and the student that scored the highest won a prize. Students needed to correct their errors as homework.
By the end of class they were no longer sleepy. I am confident that I had every student on task for the entire period. Every student score a 90% or above. Students could ask for help if needed, but frankly, they asked only one question the entire time. They just figured each problem out, the strong students helping the weaker as needed. There was plenty of laughter and movement, two factors that contribute to a lot of successful games and learning.
I have colleagues all over my school trying out gamification. Some have created elaborate games where students earn individual badges and team points using a Harry Potter model. Others are like me, use simple games to enhance learning of topics that are particularly challenging or to foster an interest in reviewing before a test.
The only question that still needs asking is whether gamification helped students meet any of the goals. Did gaming yesterday's class help my students learn better and/or care more about school and as a result increase consumption of and/or engagement in math. I'm going to ask them today in class, but what do you think?
Does gamification work in your classroom? Can you tell me about ways you have used games to meet your educational goals?