Ok, full disclosure… at the outset of this class I was a strong skeptic when it came to the gamification of learning. While I’m not implementing Minecraft into my math classes, (sorry @everclyr) I am much closer to the idea.
While it was my intention to do my review of Socrative, Kahoot!, Popplet and Beanpod, the restrictions of the installation of software onto school computers, and the process of applying for (and paying for) applications limited my exposure to Popplet, and completely eliminated any interaction with Beanod. The result is that I spent more time working with Socrative and Kahoot!. This was both unfortunate and seruptitious at the same time. One door closes and another opens…kinda like choose your own adventure.
Having two apps to work with instead of one meant that I had more time to think about their value, and the reason for that value in the classroom. Why were these tools effective in engaging students? Were the effects lasting and meaningful, or were they simply a distraction?
The Real World’s Not a Game
Well, simply put… thats baloney. We are all colecting and leveling up everyday. Acquiring new toys, extra points and achievement levels. Even if you dont believe that life is a challenge, we are all trying to beat, we need only look forward to see what might be in the future. Watch the following video to have a look at what the future might be for our students…(or us if we’re lucky enough to see it happen.
Ok so the ending is a bit weird… but is it really unlikely? The fact is that navigating digital environments is not simply limited to the field of entertainment any longer. Gamification is quickly gaining traction not only in education but also the field of professional development.
From badges (seriously you should check these out…they are apparently a pretty big thing) to videos everyone seems to be hoping on the Reading Railroad to gamification (ok that was a bit cheesy)… guess I missed the boarding call (that was even worse)? I guess the real world is a lot more like a game than I thought?
But, Teaching is a Serious Endeavour
Maybe that’s part of the problem? I guess I have to admit that the obese alien running down a poorly constructed intergalactic hallway doesn’t constitute a math game (this exists btw…find it here… at your own risk). However if we look at this from an academic perspective the basis for this approach makes sense, kids like to play, kids don’t like work, make work more like play, get more work done. Its kind of like when your mom hid your medicine in jello…your mom did that too right…right?
Even more academic than that is the work of Karl Kapp. Kapp has much to say about they way we teach and why it may benefit from the introduction of a game based approach. I wont belabor the point as it is well summarized by Kapp himself in this YouTube video (it even starts with a Minecraft Lego commercial):
The idea of gamification as it relates to content vs structure was very interesting to me as it really does, and has, applied to education for a long time. Long before technology ever played a role in the classroom as a learning tool, I remember chasing stickers on a poster to earn rewards in the classroom. The math was the same as it would have been without the stickers…but those stickers, oh those stickers changed everything. Kapp refers to this as structural gamification (4:50 in the video). Structural gamification is the ‘gateway’ step in moving towards a truly gamified approach to teaching. Most educators are already doing this even if it does not involve technology.
Content gamification transforms the actual content (6:25 in the video) to reflect elements of gaming. A classic version of this in most schools is The Real Game. However, even role playing in health may be considered a gamified version of content. Of course a great example of this can be seen in the Hour of Code. Hour of code (believe me you nor your class will stop at one) requires students to think logically, spatially, and at times cooperatively to achieve goals. In the process they learn the basics of what code is and how it plays a role in their daily lives. The result is students gain a skill, a valuable skill, while playing a game. No wasted time here.
The Big Boss
Of course just like every game there is always a big boss to defeat at the end before victory can be claimed, and gamification in education is no different.
There is money in education…lots of money. Knowing this, it seems like there are exists an army of programmers and developers creating software that claims to be educational. Unfortunately the tools that keep the kids quiet are not always the ones that are best for learning…remember our obese alien?
It falls then, to the teacher to analyse the tool to determine its value as a learning opportunity, or medium. Just as every book does not fit every child, every tech tool does not fit every environment… just because it says its educational doesn’t mean it is so. There always seems to be some new ‘more interactive’ tech tool that will allow your students: “greater success and increased outcomes”. Better graphics and more show and glow doesn’t not equal a cure all for the classroom blues. There are many ways to make education fun that involve the fusion of apps, or even simply the suggestion that math is taking place in a candy factory, and each correct answer is a repair to the magic candy machine…
So get out there and try something to ‘gamify’ your practice, and level up in the eyes of your students. Try a Kahoot!, a Socrative space race or a scavenger hunt for ideas hidden around the school …or just get some stickers. We all have to move off of START sooner or later.