16 July 2013

The Gamification Revolution I Hope For

Selections from Wikipedia (emphasis added):
  • Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in a non-game context to engage users and solve problems.
  • Gamification techniques strive to leverage people's natural desires for competition, achievement, status, self-expression, altruism, and closure.
  • A core gamification strategy is rewards for players who accomplish desired tasks. Types of rewards include pointsachievement badges or levels, the filling of a progress bar, and providing the user with virtual currency.
  • Competition is another element of games that can be used in gamification. Making the rewards for accomplishing tasks visible to other players or providing leader boards are ways of encouraging players to compete.
  • Another approach to gamification is to make existing tasks feel more like games. Some techniques used in this approach include adding meaningful choice, onboarding with a tutorial, increasing challenge, and adding narrative.
Now you're all experts on some of the main ideas behind gamification. Thanks, Wikipedia.

How Gamification Can Revolutionize School

  1. The Holy Grail of education is student engagement. It goes under multiple names, such as intrinsic motivation or a desire to learn, but whatever we call it, we want students to be actively pursuing their own learning. We want them interested in the subject matter. According to the very definition that Wikipedia provides, gamification can create that.
  2. Secondary to the Holy Grail (we could call it the Ark of the Covenant if we want to stick to religious/Indiana Jones references) is accurate measurement of student learning. This is the backend of education, where the teachers administrators, and Arne's lurk. Frankly, the current practice of doling out letter grades and standardized test scores is perhaps slightly better than rubbish. Gamification can do that, too.

If you believe me so far, then we're agreed: gamification can revolutionize school. If you need more convincing, read on.

Engagement: Experience Points (XP)

Most teachers probably already use points as a measurement of student learning, but there's a key difference: so far it's used as a measure of performance. Within a gamification framework, points become a measure of progress.

In school, with every assignment and quiz, you get points as a part of a fraction. Such grades are basically telling you how you didn't measure up in your attempt. In gamification, points are points and simply add up.

In the school of the future, XP can be earned beyond just academic settings. Students will earn XP by participating in extracurriculars, by being good citizens, by showing up to class on time, and so on. Grade-wide and class-wide leaderboards would privately inform students where they stand, and quietly motivate them to earn more points.

Engagement+Assessment: Level Up

As a student amasses XP both in general as well as in specific classes and units, she then levels up in the corresponding category. It's a big motivation boost to see your level increase, and it's also a way for staff to get a rough gauge of how students are progressing. Leveling up could also come with a coin bonus.

Engagement+Assessment: Achievements

Achievements, in this school, would be awarded specifically for behaviors. In essence, they'd be a sort of replacement for the citizenship grade, but purely positive reinforcement. For example, if you show up to class on time, five days straight, there's an achievement for that. Zero missing assignments at the start of the month, helpful comments in every active discussion board, helping other students complete their assignments, and so on.

Achievements would also come with coin or XP bonuses so they're not completely fruitless.

Engagement: Currency (Coins)

To add yet another layer of motivation, we'll add coins to the mix. Students can spend their coins either at the school store to buy apparel and memorabilia, or they can spend it in class on hall passes, treats, or special privileges.

Engagement: Random Bonuses

You've already seen how leveling up and achievements can earn you coins and/or XP, but the system could be set up to give out random bonuses. For example, you go to the volleyball game and scan your card (or check in via smart phone), and the system randomly selects five students to receive a coin or XP bonus. These random bonuses could be linked to attending other school events, being on time to first period, checking out a book from the library, and so on. It would be huge for increasing student participation in whatever you wanted.

Engagement+Assessment: Badges

This is probably where the biggest switch would happen: badges would replace letter grades. Whereas achievements measure citizenship, badges measure academics and learning. Better than letter grades, badges don't measure performance in an entire class. Like XP, they don't measure performance at all, but rather progress.

If you're a slow learner, you're not given an F because you only completed one unit; you're given a badge to demonstrate the fact that you completed that unit, and currently you're working on the next unit. You're not forced to move with the rest of the class.

Better still, these badges and units are organized into trees. By completing one unit and earning the badge, you unlock two more, and you can choose your own path. In the end, most students will have completed a lot of the same units, but in very different orders, and for very different purposes.

When you turn 18, you apply to colleges not with a grade transcript and a test score, but with a collection of badges that demonstrates exactly what you've accomplished so far. No more packets to complete for graduation. You just have to pick up where you left off and earn the badges just like everyone else.

Engagement+Assessment: Teachers

No matter how awesome the gamified system is, it still comes down to teachers who create equally engaging work and who do their best to help students along the path. Gamification can work here, too. Attend meetings? XP. Consistently take roll at the beginning of class and report it? Achievements. Complete professional development? Level up.

Students and their parents can be in on giving XP to teachers, too. If a parent emails a teacher and the teacher responds in a timely and helpful manner, the parent can click something that says, "Yes, Mr. Spano responded quickly." At the end of a class or rotation, students could take surveys to evaluate their teachers, which turns into XP and coins. Teachers wouldn't be motivated by fear, but by positive reinforcement.

Now all I can do is hope, expect, and wait. (In Spanish, they're the same thing. Esperar.)

1 comment:

  1. Nice, I am leaning more to the EXPECTing side of things. I think that this is going to be a very interesting space to watch develop in the next decade or so.