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Gamification : A Way to Invite Students to Reach their Potential

Written by Grace Brnjac

In a society where there is a constant presence of screens and stimulation, one may think bringing electronic devices into classroom environments would only cause more harm than benefits. With the easy access students have to technology, many of them have found a new outlet to spend their time, as the options for free apps and interactive games is numerous. In conjunction to this, recent trends in education show school boards encouraging technology and technology-based learning in the classroom, as present-day society incorporates it in many contexts. In conjunction with technology, there is also demise in student stimulation and engagement in lessons. Many teachers are now faced with trying to find inventive ways to keep students motivated, while at the same time managing classroom behaviour and instilling tried-and-true educational methodology and practices. Enter gamification – a word designating the incorporation of interactive video game ideas and practices within the classroom.

In their monograph Video Games in the Classroom: Building Skills in Literacy and Numeracy, Drs. Emmanuel Duplàa and Shervin Shirmohammadi explore the idea of incorporating video games in the classroom. Their findings show that many free, online interactive games can help students to stay motivated while learning language and numeracy skills. Their research also showed an increase in student motivation, while “help[ing] them develop their literacy and numeracy skills in imaginary interactive contexts.”[1]

Within these games there are also quests and tasks players can do either as a group, in pairs, or on their own. Furthermore, the organization of these quests, in-game currency, and rewards further enhance the player’s experience, as they are able to control how far and how often they advance. It was these factors that helped form the basis of Le’s Academy’s own student-based alternate-reality game. Our Academy’s MMRRPG (Massive Multiplayer Real-Life Role-Playing Game) was developed to help enhance student engagement and learning, while at the same time helping teachers curve the number of classroom management concerns that could arise. A lot of the rules and game play have origins in MMRPGS such as World of Warcraft (WoW) and Runescape, as these games not only have a stron fanbase, but they also incorporate financial literacy, numeracy, teamwork, reward, and literacy skills.

As students enroll, they automatically start playing as a ‘character’ in our game. Each day they come in they gain experience points (xp), with the chance to earn more if they complete packages, quizzes, projects, or tests from our Academy or their day-time schools. Students even have the chance to earn more xp on sporadic occasions, as decided by each individual teacher.

Right from the get-go, teachers noticed many students became more aware of their chances to gain xp, as they all were vying to reach the ‘high score’ for their divisions. Students who would not regularly get a chance to have their accomplishments recognized due to lower marks are now shining, as they are able to accrue points through participation, packages from the Academy, and going the extra mile to help teachers (in hopes of getting points).

In conclusion, gamification can be a useful resource for teachers to use in their classrooms, as the options for game design and execution are endless (think  Halo 2’s I <3 Bees initiative back in 2004). Teachers can start with a simple framework for the game and experience, then build upon it as much as they choose through the release of update patches – just like game developers do in video games. However, the success of the game is based on how much teachers are willing to invest time-wise to get the game started – if there are too many rules or teacher intervention, the game can fail, while not enough rules, ambiguity or no communication between teachers and students can also bring the game to its demise. Nevertheless, gamification is a great alternative to classroom management or even as an addition to other steps teachers put in place to help make their classrooms a fun and welcoming environment for their students.

[1] To read more about the findings in this Ontario Education monograph, please visit Drs. Emmanuel Duplàa and Shervin Shirmohammadi’s article : http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/WW_Video_Games.pdf

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