The gamification of education

‘Gamification’ integrates elements of game mechanics – for example, point scoring – with non-game areas of activity, typically to motivate participation and encourage engagement. Its place in the classroom is long established; however, technology is reinvigorating it – we explore

Gamification is not simply the concept of points or rewards through the completion of tasks. “Gamification has been maturing for several years now and most of the respected leaders in the industry have been trying to dispel this concept for some time now,” Andrzej Marczewski, freelance gamification consultant at Gamified.uk, explains. Rather, in an education context, gamification refers to the application of elements of game mechanics to boost motivation and participation in the learning process.

As edtech has rapidly advanced, the software being developed for classroom use has adopted elements of gamification. “This is unsurprising because, when you think about it, video games and mobile applications – which children frequently use in their space time on their devices at home – have long used elements of gamification to encourage engagement with a subject,” Carl Sheen, head of training and product development at Genee World, says.

Gamification in the classroom

Andrzej divides gamification into two distinct types – extrinsic rewards and intrinsic motivation – the latter, he says, supports true engagement. “Intrinsic motivation is a drive that comes from within, not from external (extrinsic) sources such as rewards,” he explains, and identifies four key motivational drivers: relatedness, autonomy, mastery, purpose – or RAMP.

It’s important that the right pieces of technology are found for each individual classroom – so the benefits of gamification can be reaped

One example of these is the ability for students to monitor their own progression. “Gamification can provide regular feedback which allows students to monitor their progression and gives them instant gratification,” Carl says. If they’re used to immediate feedback through the games they play in their personal life, adopting this in education can only be a benefit, he adds.

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As a practice gamification has, traditionally, been considered time-consuming for teachers to include in their lesson plans; however, technology has eased this as the tools have become increasingly inclusive of gamification elements. “With the right technology, teachers can find software and devices that aid the process of creating lesson plans with elements of gamification automatically included,” Carl says.

The right technology

When considering introducing gamification technology there are many free programs available that provide a cost-effective means of trying and testing the software. For teachers who may not be familiar with using elements of gamification in the classroom Carl emphasises the importance of conducting research into recommended products and the available training associated with implementing these in the classroom.

“One thing to note about free introductions and research is that the knowledge shared by experts may not be tailored specifically to the education environment,” Carl cautions, so you’ll need to check that the benefits can be transferred to classroom learning before trialling. “With so much out there, it’s important that the right pieces of technology are found for each individual classroom – so the full benefits of gamification can be realised,” Carl advises.

So, the question is: is it time to press play in your classroom?

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