I was asked by the local department of education to do a workshop on gamification and game-based learning. I find it quite an irony that anybody will ask a maths teacher about bring play into the classroom since maths classes aren’t known to be fun.
Children love to play games, whether it is outside, make-believe or on their computers/tablets. In general, children do not love to be in class.
Gamification is looking at why they love games, in this case specifically computer games and attempting to introduce that into your classroom.
Kids can play for hours
- Very little instructions
- Level up
- Learn from your mistakes
- Numerous attempts
- Awards / New lives
- Choose your own route
There are two ways that you can approach bringing play into your classroom. On the one hand, you can gamify your classroom, on the other hand, you can incorporate educational games into your classroom. Having access to technology or even teaching in a 1-to-1 set-up is not a requirement for either. But technology has brought new opportunities to both options.
Let’s start by looking at the gamification of your classroom. Every classroom, every school has a culture. And gamifying your class means adding some elements that make gaming successful to your class.
Duolingo is the ultimate example of gamifying the learning process. I think schools should make it compulsory for all teachers to spend 10 minutes a day on Duolingo, not just because being multilingual is good for all of us, but to experience the process of learning. There are so many little tricks that anybody can apply in their classroom. And once you experience it yourself, you realize how important it is in learning.
Here are just a few of these tricks:
- Set goals – we always want kids to be intrinsically motivated. But sometimes I need that notification on my phone to remind me that I will lose my 5-day streak if I don’t do my 10 minutes of practice for the day.
- Positive reinforcement – the focus is on what you get correct, not on what you do not know.
- Multiple lives/re-do a topic – you can do a topic as many times as you like, the focus is on mastering it.
- Choose your own route, own pace – yes there is a certain order to learning, but within that process, there is lots of scope for making decisions. I love the fact that I can choose which topic I want to focus on each day.
- Testing out – if learning is about mastering a topic and you have mastered a specific topic, why do you need to sit through all the sessions. Duolingo gives you the option to test out of a section if you feel that you have already mastered it.
- Rewards – learning is a reward in itself, but sometimes a little extra reward does not go amiss. With each section you complete you earn Lingots, these Lingots can then be used to buy things for your avatar or interesting other sessions, or a challenge.
But gamifying your classroom is a macro project, that involves changing the way you look at learning and even assessment. For most teachers bringing play into their classroom involves using existing games. Teachers have been doing this long before the addition of technology to our classes, but technology adds a whole new variety to it.
One way of adding games is to look for pre-created educational games. There are millions of these games online, some are very good and others not so much. In a previous post, I wrote about how Learning can be fun, but not all fun is learning and how to go about judging games.
The Blood-typing game, created by the Nobel-organization is an example of a game that is both fun but also educational.
Marbleslides on Desmos is another example of adding a fun element and immediate feedback as well as active learning to your lesson.
Another way to add play to your classroom that teachers have been using for years is board games, quizzes and treasure hunts. Technology makes it possible to add these games much quicker and more effective and may I say a lot more fun.
There are multiple sites that use this principle and are available for free. My personal favourite is Kahoot. It is easy to use, lots of fun and there are millions of Kahoots created by teachers already.
I have written quite a few posts about using Kahoot! in your class:
- Planning games into your lesson
- The risk of Kahoot! fatigue
- Introducing a new topic, using Kahoot!
- Clearing up misconceptions using Kahoot!
- How important is having fun?
- Doing Kahoot! without technology.