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Gamification in the Classroom

Jeffrey MacCormack

Does the word  gamification make you cringe? That’s okay. I get it. It sounds like an annoying made-up word. Like  selfie or asap.

It’s hard to talk about gamification because it isn’t like guided reading. When teachers discuss guided reading, they don’t argue about whether they should use it. They just get to the business of how to set up the classroom, when to introduce new ideas and how quickly to refresh reading text. But gamification may evoke responses like: “Look, I’m not here to entertain the students” or “This is education, not edu tainment.

It’s true: gamification is a concept that needs to be defended. We spend too much time shooing video games out the door to turn around now and invite games back in. All I ask is that you give me a few minutes of your time to tell you about gamification and how you can use it in your classroom. To keep you engaged, I propose to give you a level-up for every section you read, and if you keep reading and beat the third level, I’ll reward you with some great gamification resources along the way.

LEVEL 1: The Value of Play

Due in part to the popularity of video games, the use of gamification has blown up in the last 10 years. Programs as diverse as diet regimes, business training and grocery-point programs are using gamification to improve consumer and employee buy-in. It is everywhere, but what is it?

At its more basic level, gamification adds play to non-play activities. I shouldn’t have to tell you how important play is. A recent study of free-ranging brown bears showed that, all other things being equal, bears who played more as cubs survived longer in adulthood. Play is just as important for the students in your classroom as it is for free-ranging brown bear cubs. Adding play to non-play activities increases our motivation to keep at it.

The first level is done! You just levelled up! Great work!

LEVEL 2: The Secret Sauce in Video Games

Let’s talk about video games. I know that educators have a complicated relationship with video games. For every education title that helps, there are thousands of games that distract and detract from learning. And the statistics about video gameplay can be downright scary. Did you know that 97 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds play video games and that, on average, 8-to-14-year-olds play more than an hour per day?

But the popularity of video games should make us wonder: what’s the secret? Researchers have been pondering that question as well.

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