Monday, July 8, 2013

What We Really Mean When We Talk About Gamification in Education

For every article I read pointing to gamification as a key part of the future of education, there seems to always be a counterpoint about it being some kind of fad. It is admittedly a buzzword, and it will likely fade out of our vocabulary at some point (as all buzzwords eventually do). What it really means will remain a critical part of successful classrooms.

Gamification is not about making everything into a game, engaging players through fun and competition. At it's heart, when we're talking about gamification, we're really talking about positive feedback and reinforcement. Badges, levels, progress meters--these are all simply ways to say you are on the right track. Keep going. You're almost there.

Done right, there's usually no need for material rewards, just the external psychological motivation we all need sometimes. Finding ways to encourage your students to succeed is at the heart of good teaching.  Gold stars, a "Student of the Week" board, positive phone calls home, showing up at a student's athletic or academic competition... these are the most effective badges we can award our students.

Whether or not you explicitly try to gamify your classroom, the game is being played there every day. It's up to you to find out how to help your students win.