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Gamifying: Can the Buzz of the Business World Wow Educators Too?

by Neil Finney

Student motivation: the holy grail of the public education system. The business world has expanded its ventures in gamifying into entire sub-structures with conferences, job positions, and trend analysis teams. As a means of motivating the company’s workforce, gamifying offers rewards, prizes, prestige and payouts – all in the name of increasing productivity.

 Should our schools travel down this same road?

Gamifying the classroom could add a new interactive dimension to a student’s learning space. In the right context and using a well-conceived structure, teachers could drive the content by enticing students to meet educational goals that earn rewards and “status.”

By attaining badges, positions on a leader board, and even, virtual currencies, students might find themselves hungry to finish that final math unit task – since it’s all they need to take the lead on the math leaderboard – thereby securing 1 hour of online reward time as a prize.

Are you ready to take that first step?

Instead of dusting off those 5-year-old laminated print ads in your filing cabinet, you decide to take a stroll into gamifying your media unit…..

The literacy unit focuses on critical thinking and advertising. “Gamifying it” means that students earn “badges” for correctly identifying the purpose and audience in 3 print, 3 video and 3 online advertisements. Student conferencing would serve as a quiz of sorts, where students approach the guided reading table to brave the lightning round and exercise their media muscles. They will demonstrate knowledge of the curriculum goals; application to a real-world context; and communication using proper vocabulary and terms to express their ideas and insights about advertising and media. The gamification of your lesson could cause them to learn, study and be motivated to succeed during their conference with you.

The ultimate question of whether gamifying is right for you – and your students – has to be about your commitment. If you feel that your students would love an opportunity to climb a virtual ladder of learning success –shown by cartoon badges and their name in a leaderboard – go for it. This kind of new approach to enhancing student interest and motivation will be a major undertaking. It will likely need constant tweaking, ideally, someone else to act as a mentor, and the perseverance to see it through despite the speed-bumps and hiccups you’ll experience.

But, as with all rewarding things, the growing pains will polish that prize.

What themes and “in” topics could you use as the basis of creating badges for your classroom (e.g. angry birds, music bands, etc.)? How might gamifying your lesson allow your “at risk” or “disengaged” students to find improved success?


 During Neilʼs 9 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and now junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.





You may also like these stories:
We've Been Gamifying All Along?!? Adding "Game" to Your Classroom: Can Video Games Enhance Motivation? Are You Gamifying Your Class?
We’ve Been Gamifying All Along? Adding “Game” to Your Classroom: Can Video Games Enhance Motivation? Are You Gamifying Your Class?



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  • Aviva Dunsiger (@avivaloca)

    Neil, this topic intrigues me, and yet I’m torn on it too. I’ve seen a number of teachers write about gamifying the classroom, and I can definitely see how it would engage students. I know that many of my Grade 6 students spend numerous hours discussing video games, and even making badges based on something like Minecraft, would certainly get their attention. I worry about this kind of competition environment for two reasons though:

    1) How do students with Special Needs succeed in this kind of environment? What if they can’t get the correct answer to earn the badge? Do they continue to persevere, or do they give up?

    2) How does a badge environment help teach students about intrinsic motivation? If students don’t receive a badge, will they still work? How do we ensure that they do?

    I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions. They’re currently some of my big struggles.


  • Neil Finney

    Absolutely, Deborah. Besides the “interactive dimension” – what if we added the social networking applications to the learning environment? What if students could tweet, pin, “like” or post their reactions and feelings to accomplishing different feats in the gamified classroom? Students could share their joy, goal setting and “inner voice” with their peers, family members and classmates in real time using the technology as a springboard for conversation. Could this work? What other successes could derive out of this new environment for learning?

  • Deborah

    I definitely think that you are on to something here! What an exciting way for students to learn through Gamification! I think that you have also listed many rewards for students, and not just the coveted position on the ‘Leader Board’. Principles of basic Learning Psychology will tell us that behaviour is strengthened when reinforced ‘immediately’, rather than after a time delay, so I could also see how the whole ‘interactive dimension’ of gamification in itself would also provide that immediate performance feedback that would be quite rewarding as well for the students to continue to succeed!
    Very inspiring indeed!