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What is Gamification? Coming Soon to Your Classroom

Published On: March 24th, 2016·By ·

Have you heard of gamification?

Everyone's buzzing about gamification in the classroom on Twitter. I watch social media closely and it's my job to share some of the hot topics on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other outlets that teachers, principals, students, and parents are contributing.

In essence, gamification is making parts of your classroom run more like a game. The infographic below defines it as “the use of elements of game play in non-game contexts.” Alex Corbitt, an influential teacher on Twitter, posted this infographic that breaks down what might, at first, look like a complicated topic.

There are two main elements of this idea. One idea this learning theory promotes is using a rewards system similar to a game's. This includes rewards such as points, badges, and staying on top of leader boards. The idea behind this is that it provides students extra motivation to succeed. For example, if there is no “leader board” (where the students would get ranked first through last based on various criteria), then there's no extra drive to have the number one slot. Instead, students will do the bare minimum (usually) to achieve a passing grade. Even students that are extra motivated to have good grades may only complete the bare minimum to get that award in many cases. What gamification does is increase what awards are available, giving student incentive to push past even what might qualify as an “A” or other passing grade.

The second main idea in gamifying your classroom is having the classroom itself run more like a game. It encourages teachers to treat lesson plans as a narrative a student must complete, making things feel more like a level in a video game than an endless string of lectures and “busy work.” This establishes clear goals, making it easier for students to understand where the lesson is going rather than wondering why they should pay attention to something that might have no end. Using this strategy, teachers can also set mini-goals or challenges. In games, there are often “side-quests” not required to beat the game necessarily. However, if you want the full 100 percent completed mark by the end or to collect all of the various characters you can use, or weapons and upgrades you can find, then you need to complete the side quests. Applying this to the classroom will encourage students to go beyond what is simply required in order to achieve all the possible ends.


What do you think of gamification? Do you or someone you know use this theory in their classroom? Do you think an understanding of how video games work makes this easier for teachers to grasp? What do you think are the benefits of this? What are some drawbacks?

Tori Pakizer is the Social Media Editor at SimpleK12.com. She writes regularly about the use of educational technology in K-12 classrooms, and specializes in how teachers use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media. You can follow Tori and SimpleK12 on Twitter @SimpleK12. If you have ideas for using social media in schools, please send your information or tip to editor@simplek12.com.

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