Kids love games. That’s nothing new. Whether they’re running around in the backyard or playing on a gaming console, it’s not surprise teachers are turning the classroom lessons into a series of learning games.
It’s called ‘gamification’ and it’s becoming more popular in education every day. Different to play-based learning, educators are taking the elements of games, such as leader boards, competing with others, rules and quests to make the learning environment feel more like a game. While some parents may not understand idea of school being filled with games, to many kids it is nothing more than ‘just learning’.
Queensland University of Technology Associate Professor Daniel Johnson has been researching how games and gamification can be used to motivate and engage people and he says there’s been a steady increase in gamification in education over the past few years.
“It’s being applied in education with varying degrees of success,” Daniel says. “One of the challenges with gamification for education is that it has become quite clear if you slap gamification on a desired learning outcome it won’t work. The learning and the gamification needs to be integrated to make sure learners are really engaging in the learning.”
The use of gamification in education can be seen across the board from Prep classrooms right up to universities where these strategies are being used to engage students in authentic learning experiences. In many cases these experiences mirror tasks from the real world.
Gamification in primary schools
To understand the use of gamification in primary school classrooms, haven spoke with Manly State School principal Clayton Carnes who believes gamification is all about engaging the children of the 21st century.
“Gamification improves the engagement in learning,” Clayton says. “We have seen improvement in students’ willingness to participate in the learning as well as in their literacy results.”
While the use of gamification continues to spread, Clayton says it does not necessarily mean it is on a computer. In fact, he says there are a lot of ways that teachers are creating lessons using gamification that don’t need a computer at all. The use of leader boards, quests and collectable badges for the completion of different tasks are all tactics used by teachers to make the learning experience align more closely with the design of a game.
“It’s around creating engaging experiences and letting the kids make risk-free mistakes – just like in a game,” Clayton says. “As a learner in a gamified lesson you can have a go and you won’t be penalised for making a mistake.”
Where does traditional teaching fit in?
While many people think digital technologies and gamified learning removes the teacher from the equation, it actually demands a more creative output from them. Teachers have to spend the time designing creative and engaging learning experiences for the class and students that use traditional and digital learning tools to help kids reach their learning goals. The teacher must also ensure these lessons are aligned with the curriculum and build on what the child already knows. Like all learning strategies, they also need to consistently check the learning and compare it with the curriculum so the gamification has purpose and is actually helping kids learn.
Another major benefit beyond engagement is the ability to differentiate the learning for particular students without magnifying these differences to the whole class. This leads to a more inclusive learning environment for kids at all levels.
“Gamification is just one strategy we use,” Clayton says. “It certainly doesn’t replace traditional teaching as there are many aspects of explicit teaching that we use in particular areas. Gamification is just another strategy available to our schools in the 21st century that should be used where it is appropriate.”
How to gamify at home
You can take the idea of gamification into the home and reap the same benefits as teachers.
- Turn chores into games
- Create a chore leaderboard with different weekly quests for each kid
- Generate competition – who can clean their room faster?
- Allocate prizes and celebrate successes
- Use digital technology to help your kids if they’re struggling with homework – there’s a lot of free tools online for learning
Words // Nicholas Grech