Gamification isn’t simply the concept of making things fun – it also has a purpose to motivate people toward reaching specific goals. Gamifying the classroom is a great concept especially for those reluctant students and if done right, everybody has a better learning experience. It’s about using game mechanisms to engage your students and motivate them towards a goal. It’s also about creating a safe place to fail. Before I start any new gamification strategy for students I think about this one question: How can I teach students to FAIL and LEARN FROM THAT FAILURE in a safe place?
To help you get started gamifying your classroom, our education team wanted to offer some ideas that to get started:
- Providing Instant Feedback – Games are excellent ways to learn because you typically take on a problem solving mindset. “Oh, I didn’t pass this level? Why? What can I do differently to progress forward?” may cross your mind. Some games even give you instant feedback by telling you to adjust your speed or angle. They may even use feedback to motivate you forward like, “Good job, keep going!” Providing instant feedback to your students can help them understand how to move forward, but also help them become lifelong learners. By teaching them to use feedback as a tool gives them the tools to take the reigns of their own learning and can also motivate them in the mean time.
- Reward Collaboration – Collaboration can take the weight off of students shoulders a bit and also provide them with alternative perspectives and learning opportunities. Collaboration isn’t easy for some students, so rewarding them for engaging with others can be off-putting. Try emphasizing the benefit that students may have gained from collaborating and form rewards based off of that. Recently I incorporated Creativity, Team Work, Design, and Problem Solver badges for students to choose themselves based off of their own reflections at the end of a lesson I incorporated collaboration.
- Reward Failures – Rewarding failures can bring value in the same way rewarding collaboration does. Rewarding failures doesn’t mean that you give rewards to the students falling behind. Rather, your students are benefiting from failure by gaining insight into what went wrong and how they can improve.
- Provide Students with Choice – Providing students with choice during activities can certainly add some excitement and a “gamey-feel” to the entire experience. I’ve gone as far to build Create Your Own Adventure activities in which students practiced their chemistry skills or even learned about a time in history.
- Visualize Progress – One of the beautiful thing about a game is that you know there’s a certain point it ends and you’re declared a winner. In a game, you always accomplish something and you know what path was going to take you there! I like to think about this when I create experiences for students and include a road map for them to follow and record their own progress. Whether it’s a slide, a worksheet with areas for reflection, some notes on the board, or a virtual tool like the progress notes on STEM Village – students should know where they are and how they got there.
- Use Challenges as Learning Experiences – I’ve written a lot about my love for design challenges, whether it’s an engineering project, a math lesson, or coming up with an idea for the classroom I can think of a way to turn it into a design challenge. Design challenges are also a great tool for framing a lesson before you start it. Try using a short design challenge before you start you next lesson and construct discussion questions that will lead students toward broader concepts or topics relating to your lesson. Ask your students to make observations during the challenge to share so the entire class can learn from them.
- Reward Points – Many teachers have used points to motivate their students towards a goal. One of my best practices for points is to give points to an entire group rather than the individual student. It can single out students who aren’t collecting points as much or can also affect students who are taking the lead. Points should be a collective where your whole class works as a team to achieve something together. One thing I love about the STEM Village app is that you can do class-wide competitions in which your whole class works together to reach a reward you set as a teacher. You can also set individual rewards for each student based on what success looks like for each student.
- Offer Achievement Rewards and Badges – Offering achievement rewards or badges once a student reaches a milestone has been a strategy I’ve grown to love. At first, I was afraid that students may become competitive and jealous, however it turned out to be a non-problem. I saw that students used milestone badges to entice their friends to work harder. I also saw that students carry their achievements with pride (in a polite way) because they worked so hard to build that particular skill.
- Make Students Co-designers – One way thing that has always made my students motivated and engaged – is make them part of the designing process. Ask your students what would motivate them or make their learning experience more exciting or engaging. Try not to get caught up in pleasing all of your students because it won’t happen, but aim to get a deep understanding of what they want and design from there.
- Implement Education Technologies – Educational technologies have come a long way from the SMART Board – and it’s awesome! There are many options online, in the app store, and even at your local retailer. When you’re choosing the right tool for you and your classroom, keep in mind what you want to use it for and what other functionality it has to offer. STEM Village gives you access to curriculum aligned content, curated from the best and most innovative resources available today. You can connect to students and their parents while receiving weekly updates on each student’s progress, what they are struggling in, and what they are excelling at. Students have fun while learning through interactive lessons and exciting virtual experiences. Each skill students learn are paired with games, labs, and quizzes so students can test their own understanding while earning points along the way.
If you want to get your kids or students engaged with STEM education in a fun and effective way, please visit STEM Village to learn more and start a free trial today.
This article was written by Erin Carmody, an experienced educator, consultant, and Content Manager at STEM Village. Erin has been an educator for 8 years in the U.S. (Chaparral Elementary and Woodland Hills Private School) and Canada where Erin acted as an educational consultant and program developer for ACTUA Canada and I-Think Initiative and Design Works at Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Erin created and managed programs for many schools and organizations including Branksome Hall, Branksome Hall Asia, John Polanyi Collegiate Institute, University of Toronto Schools, The Leacock Foundation, TRFCA, Hackergal, STEM Village, and Ledbury Park Elementary.