Opinion
Education Opinion

Gamification Can Reinvigorate Teaching and Learning: An Introduction

By Matthew Lynch & Alfred Boyd — October 11, 2016 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When students are engaged and inspired, they excel academically. Regrettably, schools all around the country are facing a student motivation and engagement crisis of epic proportions. Student engagement and motivation are the most important and also difficult aspects of the teaching profession. How do we motivate students who are utterly not interested in their own learning? The answer to that question is gamification.

What is Gamification?

In broad terms, gamification is using the concepts of game design and play to motivate users and boost participation, and engagement. People who gamify attempt to tap into their users’ innate desire for competition, prestige, and partnership. Teachers use game design principles to enhance curriculum materials while helping students learn.

Although this strategy integrates game elements into the classroom, learning remains the end goal. It is meant to supplement -- not replace -- traditional educational methods. Students begin to find they have alternative incentives and motivation to pay attention and participate, focusing less on the negative incentive of bad grades. Gamification may even help students understand real-world applications, by putting the concepts they are learning in context.

Gamification is not a New Concept

Despite the widespread misconceptions and hype about gamification, it is nothing new. You probably already use it in your classroom without even knowing it. Gamification is a name that was given to methods that were implemented in classrooms long ago. I have fond memories of teachers using gamified elements in primary school. One element that I remember my teachers using in their classroom is the smiley faced stickers. I was tremendously overjoyed when I received my completed assignments back, and they had smiley faced stickers on them. I knew that those stickers were the key to special activities and privileges. They were also key in communicating with my parents that I was performing well, which sometimes led to monetary gain for a job well done. Another element that they used were behavior charts. My teachers would reward by giving us gold stars for participating in class, completing homework, behaving properly, having a good attitude, etc.

Businesses Gamify Too

The term gamification was coined by Nick Pelling in 2003, but it did not gain any traction until several years later when businesses began gamifying. Businesses use gamification for similar purposes as teachers. They use them for marketing, retention, and customer engagement. Nike began gamifying in 2006 with the introduction of Nike+, which is an app that was designed to motivate and reward people for practicing a healthy lifestyle. Since implementing gamified concepts, Nike has increased its market share by 14%.

Another business that has had marked gamification success is Starbucks. Starbucks launched My Starbucks Rewards in 2009. My Starbucks Rewards is a mobile loyalty app that offers faster payment and incentives for repeat business. My Starbucks gives users gold stars each time they use the app to pay for a transaction. The users also receive badges which give the users perks, such as free refills for a day.

Gamification and the Learning Disabled

Everyone agrees that education works best when it is tailored to the student. This is especially true for children with at-risk students. These children often have trouble learning in traditional classroom settings, which can cause their performance to lag behind other children in their class. Fortunately, there is a new teaching method that may help these children stay motivated, thereby reducing the achievement gap. It is called gamification, and it applies the rules of game design to the classroom environment.

The goal of any instructional method is to get students to motivate themselves. People learn when they want to learn, and this goes double for children. Kids with learning disabilities need to see their lessons as something they want to do to improve their abilities and be better suited for the outside world. Gamified learning turns each lesson into a journey the kids want to take.

Gamified learning transforms education from something children find boring into something they enjoy via implementation of the key concepts of game design. It is not the solution for every student, but it can give children with learning disabilities the motivation, context, and support they need to improve their performance and narrow the achievement gap between them and their peers. This is especially true when other methods fail, as is the case with most children with learning disabilities.

Gamification can only be used to help children if you understand what it is. It is not merely providing incentives (such as achievements and points) for learning. Rather, Gamified learning is understanding why people play games and turning that information into the core around which you build their education.

What are your thoughts about gamification? Do you think it can reinvigorate teaching and learning?

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP