Gamifying Education: Do We Really Know How to Gamify the Classroom?

Gamification in many parts of education is a sham. Listening to the researchers and experts in this area has convinced me of that. If you're interested in making your classroom more intriguing and powerful, read on. We can do better.

Who Is Shaping The Gamifying Education Conversation?

All of these are YouTube videos that have been recorded over the past week and a half as part of the Open Online Community (called an OOC) focusing on games in education.

This material is being created as Open Education Resources (OERs) which means you have permission to use, remix, and reshare in any way for educational purposes. What I love most about these recordings is that real teachers, researchers, and practioners are in each session discussing gaming.

I have 3 take aways from the learning so far:

#1: The Way We're Doing Many Badges In Education Is A Joke

Are we giving badges for taking up space? I was in sessions in an online conference where attendees were more upset about not having received a badge for the previous session than in listening to the amazing presenter who was sharing.

To me, badges imply having DONE SOMETHING. Give them a badge when they reflect or add to the conversation, for goodness sakes.

Honestly, I could log into a session and go outside and play with Wag the dog and then get a badge for having attended. Doesn't this run contrary to what we're trying to do?

But as we continue through one of the most powerful learning experiences I've ever joined with the Gamifi-ed OOC one thing is clear:

We can't slap points and badges on it and claim we've gamified it. There are many more levels to gamification than that.

There are two different pieces of gamification that I think are the most important to get your hands around.

Game Mechanics to be considered

Game Mechanics should be considered as we discuss gamifying education. See:

#2: Understand Game Mechanics So You Can Gamify Your Classroom

The first is Game Mechanics.  There are 24 of them and they are all important. Take time to go through the Game Mechanics | page and start understanding the things that can make a game. (Hat tip to Raymond Yan  for stressing this point in his session.)

We had an incredible conversation about gaming in school as my students told me that really the “Free Lunch” is cheating in school and adds an element of gaming to school for some kids. (I'm still wrapping my head around that comment.)

The Bartle Test is used in planning and appealing to all players of a game. Are we going to let the semantics of having a "killer" player type keep us from effectively applying gaming in the classroom? See:

The Bartle Test is used in planning and appealing to all players of a game. Are we going to let the semantics of having a “killer” player type keep us from effectively applying gaming in the classroom? See:

#3: Understand Bartle's Taxonomy of Player Types and Design so You can Reach All of Them

Lauren Ferro brought up Bartle's Taxonomy of player types. There are four of them: Achiever, Socializer, Explorer, and Killer. (There are Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology you can take to see which you are.)

Recommended Reading: Bartle's Taxonomy of Player Types (And Why It Doesn't Apply to Everything) – Tuts+ Game Development Article

In Lauren's session we had a bit of a conversation about the term “Killer” player type in that it doesn't really mean someone who kills (a horribly negative connotation for sure) but rather, a person who thrives on combat and building or destroying in the game. They love to pit their skills against others.

So, yesterday as we were talking about this in class, a student came out off the chart on the killer player type and nonexistent on achievement. For this student grades are simply not important and as we discussed the meaning of all of this in just a cursory way (because Bartles is not a diagnostic tool and I'm just learning) it gave me some interesting insights into what makes him tick that I never knew. In fact, it may have been a breakthrough moment.

Connecting to games can help improve learning.

Games, as we're learning in our gamifi-ed work, have so much potential for helping us teach. I've found through this course, that you can gamify, make things fun, and use games to teach. My son just asked me a question about variables and has already learned why spelling things correctly is so important. Games have a place in our toolkit.

We Need To Get Better At Gamification

Gamification and gaming is not a joke. There is some incredible potential here. But gimmicks, adding a count down, and some badges is so missing the point here.

Education and the games we play here should mean something. It should represent REAL achievement and accomplishment. We should level up in legitimate ways that represent real achievement and meaning. We should learn how to use gaming elements to make education and learning more sticky and exciting.

Gamifi-ed has become one of the most transformational experiences in my own learning journey as we wrestle with learning about something that needs more attention. Hope you'll join us. Today we have a panel on gamification in early childhood and the primary years.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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John Dollar February 21, 2014 - 7:20 pm

True “achievements” in literacy are tough for a teacher to dictate because our feedback is rarely as instantaneous as a video game, but creative “badges” in reading and writing are all around us–twitter stats for example! Students could earn a badge for every 20 retweets or favorites they get, or for every 10 comments they generate on a blog post. They could earn a badge for having a comment on the New York Times’ website become an NYT pick or if it receives at least two positive replies.

Couldn’t mastery of “CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing” be demonstrated by posting a comment on that positively contributes to an ongoing discussion there–assessment could be based on the number of upvotes and downvotes received!

Philip Vinogradov February 22, 2014 - 9:22 am

Hey Vicki! I love how you have synthesized the topic. Here is the model I use

coolcatteacher February 22, 2014 - 9:35 am

Thanks, Philip, I will take a look.Vicki Davis

Heather Birch March 28, 2014 - 1:21 pm

For a graduate course assignment, I wrote the wikipedia page for Gamification of learning. I’m interested in your opinion, and if you have ideas for making the page better. Feel free to edit yourself, or pass ideas along to me.

Leigh Zeitz August 19, 2014 - 5:31 am

Thanks for your summary of “take aways” from your day with Gamification. I am going to be gamifying one of my classes this semester and have turned into a sponge on gamification knowledge.

I found an interesting video by Alfie Kohn who is really against using Badges and Gamification in the classroom. It is interesting how he uses Motivational Psychology from the 90s in his argument that compares external and internal motivators. There are many opportunities available today that he is not incorporating in his formula.

What is your take on this?


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