Melanie Plenda at The Atlantic Education recently described a new trend in American education that shows promise to attract strong student attention and help engage long term memory: Gamification.
The idea of turning learning into games that students play is not new, but some of the research surrounding it is, as is the idea of completely integrating the game model into the entire makeup of the class. One of the biggest proponents of gamification is Lee Sheldon, an associate professor at Renssalear Polytechnic Institute’ Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences Program. When he began as a professor at RPI, he taught in the traditional lecture fashion.
“I got bored very quickly with myself,” he says. “If I was getting bored, you can imagine how the students were feeling. I thought, ‘Well, you dummy, you’re a game designer. Why don’t you make the entire class into a game?’ So I did that and things went really well.”
Another proponent of the gamification model is Joey Lee, a research assistant professor of Technology and Education at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He says, “The goal is to change the student’s mindset to a mastery orientation—to promote motivation, engagement, active learning—and to cultivate 21st century skills like collaboration, problem solving, creativity and systems thinking. Learning looks very different today, so we need to move away from the Industrial Revolution one-size-fits-all model that still plagues much of education.”
Most gamified classrooms, although at this point there is much diversity within gamification, function under a system where students gain experience points (xp), which translate into grades but are more favorable at showing student progress. Another common feature is group problem solving.
Overall, one of the great benefits of the gamification model, if it is done well, is that the “incentives” or “rewards” are built into the system. In other words, what students get for success on one element of the game or one project is the chance to move forward into a new, more challenging aspect of the game, which is also of course the academic content of the class. This way, the real reward is learning, not just badges for completing tasks.
See the article in The Atlantic:
Following is a link to a more scholarly article about gamification (simply click on where it says “view raw”): https://github.com/papers-we-love/papers-we-love/blob/master/gamification/gamification-in-education-what-how-why-bother.pdf