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Gamification in Education

What opportunities could gamification provide to our education system?

Gamification is an approach which has gathered momentum in recent years, particularly in health and productivity to improve everyday processes. Gamification involves using elements of video games to make mundane activities more fun, competitive, and engaging. An example of gamification is the app Zombies, Run! Which turns every day running into an exciting game of escaping zombies, with added zombie sound effects to get you running up to 20% faster! In a world where 93% of children play video games, perhaps the education system could benefit from incorporating some video game elements into everyday teaching.

What elements of gamification could change education?

Everyone knows that video games are addictive, it’s too easy to lose hours playing games, even on smaller games for your smart phone. That’s because the player is extremely motivated to continue playing over and over, often more than they should! The most popular games are designed with human psychology in mind; therefore, elements are carefully picked which make the player engage. These include:

  • Progress mechanics (points/badges/leaderboards)
  • Immediate feedback
  • Narrative and characters
  • Social connection
  • Scaffolded learning with increasing challenges

What benefits could be achieved through gamification?

Applying gamification elements into the classroom dynamic can have a multitude of benefits for the students, such as improving overall engagement and the mood of a class. Of course, depending on the class itself, the benefits may not be consistent. Take a look through some of the potential benefits:

  • More freedom for the student to improve independently, which will give them more ownership of their learning
  • Identity work- where someone needs to modify their identity to be accepted, listened to, and engaged with
  • Freedom to fail without fear of negative repercussions
  • Increase in fun and enjoyment during school time
  • Stronger management of what work is being completed
  • Help students find stronger intrinsic motivators for learning
  • Motivate students with dyslexia

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Application of gamification

There are 3 main ways education can be gamified, these are by changing the language, adjusting the assessment technique or by modifying the structure of the learning environment itself.

  1. Language- by replacing typical words like exam, presentation, and project with game-like terms like “completing a mission”, tasks suddenly become more engaging for students. This is because words have associated characteristics and values, on a sub-conscious level. Therefore, if you assign “homework” for a student, they’ll immediately assume it is going to be boring
  2. Assessment- One way to change typical grading would be to replace it completely with a levelling system which pupils can see their progress immediately. Here, pupils can achieve ‘points’ by completing ‘missions’ and demonstrating their learning, which will lead to them to achieving an overall level. This would likely result in children caring more about their grades, taking more pride in them, and being more competitive with their classmates. Teachers could also reward students with virtual trophies or badges for their efforts,
  3. The Environment- There is a lot of flexibility in changing the structure of a lesson. Here, the role of the pupil, the role of the teachers and the role of the environment can all be modified to include elements that are more ‘gamified’. Pupils can be given a new persona, who they act as while they complete their learning objectives, either on their own or with the opportunity to collaborate.

How effective has gamification proven to be in the past?

Research in 2012 showed that gamification of education can have a great emotional and social impact on students as reward systems and competitive social mechanisms appear to be motivating for them. However, overall scores weren’t impacted by using gamification. This research was completed on university students, meaning it’s difficult to say how successful it could be to a younger audience such as those in a primary school.

What do you think?

Will we one day live in a world where elements of video games are picked up and used across many sections of society? Or do you think that traditional teaching methods will continue to be the preference for the foreseeable future?

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