Gamification: Yes or No?
If you can answer “Yes!” to more than 3 and a half of these questions, then you might want to consider gamifying some of your content. These are in no particular order.
1. Do you have more than 4 students in your classes?
Like most of the games you grew up playing, there was always a suggested minimum number of players. The same is true of gamifying your educational content. The absolute minimum number of students I recommend is four, and then with smaller classes up to 10 or so, I would suggest only adding game elements to some of the things I am doing in class.
2. Are you an organized, experienced and/or (very) energetic professional?
Without a doubt, you, as the leader or ‘game master’, will need to be really well organized when it comes to classroom administration. The very essence of gaming requires that feedback be immediate, or ‘near real-time’. The feedback can be oral or written, but most importantly for the participants, the points they earn need to be added to the scoring system almost right away. As for your level of experience. Only you can judge whether or not you are ready. I don’t recommend teaching in this manner for first or second year teachers, unless they have experienced mentors by their side. Still, increased student engagement is a worthwhile goal, so if you are a younger teacher, do try some of the activities found elsewhere on this site and see for yourself if they work.
3. Are your administrators ‘on board’?
Before implementing your game plan you should ask yourself, “What are the bosses going to say?” Will they support you 100%? Right now, before reading any further, answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. If you said ‘Yes’, great! If you said ‘No’, then you have a problem. My advice would be to make a smaller stab at gamifying your content, maybe parts here and there and slowly build it into your classroom culture. See ‘Administrators’, below.
4. Are you technologically savvy?
No, the ability to code, make webpages, program is not important to gamification. Yes, you have to show that you can handle the same technology that you will require your students to use. In some cases you might have to be the expert in the room. Substitution: Do you have a really good IT person to help you?
5. Are your students technologically savvy?
We tend to give students too much credit. Just having a smartphone (which is a good start, by the way) is not enough. Do they know the basics about using email, cloud-based systems like Google Drive, or how to simply install an app and use the internet from their smartphone? With all that to consider, it’s also important to know whether your school is technologically savvy.
6. Can you relinquish control over your class?
Can you stop lecturing? Can you stop explaining? Can you give up being in the center? Can you conduct your class from any seat in the room, or from anywhere on your campus? Can you go at least one class without speaking at all? If you can do this, you’re almost ready. If you aren’t sure you can give up complete control yet, then my advice is to try it first. Leaving the learning to the students and keeping your mouth shut isn’t for the faint of heart.
7. Are you creative?
Creativity (and I am paraphrasing Sir Kenneth Robinson here) has been unlearned by students in our current educational systems. I don’t believe creativity can be taught, so much as invited back into the classroom. Can you put up with things that are less than your idea of perfect? Are you capable of seeing a student’s potential ideas? What about your own ideas? Can you turn a rule dispute into a new learning opportunity? Do you have the ability to take a classic problem from your field and turn it into a fun and challenging question that has ‘real world’ value to the student? I believe everyone is creative, but it’s up to you. If you think you can, you should. If you are sure you can’t do it, then gamification probably isn’t for you.
8. Are you willing to chuck grammar or structure instruction?
Gamification means fun and student-centered activities that encourage production. Discreet grammar points, punctuation, etc, which have traditionally been the focus of a class, should be taught in a flipped manner, that is outside of class, as homework and reviewed briefly in class. If you can save your class time for actual production, where you, the teacher, can have the most impact, then you may be ready to gamify your class.
I am sorry we are having this conversation, mainly because you find yourself in the unenviable position of trying to drag your school into the modern era. Never fear, there are ways. The best way I know how to get things going your way may be to implement some of the things you are learning here in a slow, deliberate manner. The key to gamifying your subject is not the game or the game parts. Those are really secondary. Gamifying your teaching structure should, if it’s done correctly, dramatically increase your student engagement. Just by doing that little bit you might actually draw the positive attention of your students, parents, and, finally the administrators. Remember! Take it one step at a time.