Let’s deconstruct this idea of gamifying the classroom. What does it actually mean? Can it work? Will it reach a generation of learners in a novel way or deprive our students of the chance to become intrinsically-motivated to succeed and learn? Intimidated by the gamification of the classroom? You are not alone.
But, the concept of gamifying in our schools is not a new one. In fact, there are many examples of it that I can remember from my own childhood…
I spent many days and nights planning for the series of Cub Scout badges that I was going to earn in order to plaster my gray shirt with all of the great deeds and feats that I was granted by my Cub Scout leaders.
From aged five to fifteen, I struggled and worked and persevered through the ranks of the swimming program which was celebrated through a series of attaining colour badges like red, blue, green and white.
During elementary school, the sports and activities that I spent my time playing and participating gained me “win it” stickers, house points and activity awards.
Right now in some of our schools, fundraising campaigns for selling chocolate bars and other products entice students to “buy in” and perform, through a points system or benchmark prizes for a quantity sold. Many teachers use points to reward house colours, class teams or tribes based on class behavior, task completion, cleanliness and cooperation.
We have been gamifying for children for a while now. So why does it seem so foreign and intimidating to individualize it to each student in the classroom? Software programs such as Class Dojo have brought classroom discipline and student behavior into the web 2.0 world for teachers, who can award or take away points using their smart phone as they patrol the classroom – while students see their running tallies change as the day progresses.
I think that within our classrooms and teaching programs we fear the imbalance and disparity that can come from a system that is based on external rewards and points earned. We can smell the odours of unfairness and avoid its precepts with all our might. We worry…..what if a student doesn’t earn any badges? What if they don’t want to gain points? Well, the truth of it is, some students may not be motivated by any such system – but what if it is THIS system that finally gets through to that student?
What if we celebrate successes in the classroom with animated badges and brightly-coloured point boards? They could be adapted and personalized for students using any number of themes; whether it is video games, bands, television shows or cartoon characters. Sharing the learning through an external reward system doesn’t have to eliminate intrinsic motivation – maybe this can simply be a compliment to it. At any case, whether it is badges, report card marks, teacher stamps or constructive feedback – students will always need external things to motivate, celebrate and eventually graduate from our programs.
THE QUESTION: Should we use gamification in the classroom to motivate students? Share your opinions about this “hot” topic whether you support the idea or not. I’d love to hear how this community feels about it.
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.
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