The world is quite different now than it was a century ago. We have progressed in nearly every field of life to the extent that our technology has surpassed the imagination of fictional writers. But there is one field that has not changed since its inception – our education system. We have used classes, ranks and degrees in our education system for centuries. We have forced students to study subjects which were neither useful to the outside world nor exciting enough to spark interest in them. Our curriculum is repetitive and remains same for years until someone thinks of revising it.
Students are distracted and unfocused more than ever. It may be because after attending a daylong of boring lectures and with several entertainment options available, their idea of fun is not “learning” anymore. Why our students forget the learned material after giving exams? Why they refresh their Facebook page more often than focusing on their homework? Why have we failed to encourage students to learn beyond their school walls? How can we change this situation in favour of fun and engaging curriculum?
The answer does not lie in dropping out of school but in a fairly new concept i.e. Gamification. This concept has been popular for quite some time now and many research studies have been conducted on the topic.
Gamification means to apply game techniques of rewards, levels, experience (XP) points to a non-game problem using existing content and making it more interactive. If gamification is properly utilized in classrooms, then teachers can increase interactivity and awareness, instil acceptance for a challenge, create a healthy competition, promote voluntary learning and inculcate confidence to learn from failures and mistakes.
However, there exists a misconception about gamification in education. It is often thought that developing interactive mobile applications and deploying them in classrooms will automatically lead to better learning. This technique works but the problem is we cannot make students play the game. Even if we do that, at some point students will learn the tricks, they will get bored and the game levels will become less challenging and easier to play. Additionally, technological resources available in classrooms are not enough to provide each student with mobile device.
The question is how can a teacher apply gamification in an average classroom of an average educational institute without any technological resources? Today, we are going to highlight few activities that teachers can conduct in their classrooms.
Activity 1- Sparking Motivation:
Our grading system is designed for failure. A student who attends class with the aim of securing A+ grade gets demotivated with every mistake made as it brings nothing more than a lower grade. You can not possibly change the grading system but you can change the way you award scores. The trick is to replace marks with experience points (XPs) and grades with levels such that level 1 is equivalent to a low grade and say level 5 is equivalent to a high grade. Students can be assigned levels based on their experience points and as they gain XPs, they are upgraded to next level. This approach of going upward will keep students motivated to move forward. Furthermore, you can also arrange small rewards as a student gains level e.g. no homework for that day.
Activity 2 – Encouraging group work:
You can improve upon the previous activity with group based reward system. A class-wide reward can be arranged if three or more students achieve 500 XPs or the highest level. The rewards can include arranging a class trip or awarding extra points to each student in the class. This will lead students to help each other in improving their grades.
Activity 3 – Linking ideas:
This activity will make students learn beyond their classrooms and arouse curiosity for the world around them. The idea is to assign pair of words from a certain subject and ask them to link the words with smallest possible URLs found on the internet. You can also ask students to give one line description for their links. For example, link Alan Turing and Silicon Valley.
Alan Turing -> He broke the enigma in 2nd World War -> American Allies were advancing aircraft equipment to fight against Hitler in 2nd World War -> Frederick Treman was leading this American Allie group -> He was the founder of Silicon Valley.
Teachers can create similar games to make their classes interactive and fun to attend. However, it is required that they are motivated to embed life time learning in their students because lately, teaching has become more of an occupation than a responsibility.
Gamification can be applied to several other fields apart from education e.g. business, marketing and workplaces. If you want to learn more about the idea, attend Gamification course on Coursera.
The activities in the article were inspired from James Paul Gee on Extra Credits.