In nearly ten years of teaching, I have done a variety of things. I have taught Special Education, General Ed High School English, and even middle school Technology Education. Every year I try new things. I look for a chance to engage my students and myself in a way that is different than the year before. I’ve tried a lot of things, but nothing had had the dramatic impact on my way of teaching and my classroom climate that Gamification has had.
I have never considered myself a teacher who struggled with classroom management, but every teacher deals with behavior issues on some scale, and that is normal. I was always looking for a way to encourage students to actively participate in class and behave in an appropriate manner. One day, a friend told me about a new game she was playing with her students. She was playing Classcraft, and seeing some pretty cool things. I decided that, as a person who already loves video games, this could be just the ticket.
The difference was almost immediate. The students were taking a lot of the burden of behavior off of me and regulating each other. Each student was on a team of 3-5, and their behavior directly impacted their teammates. Teammates don't like negative impacts. At first I was worried that there might be some backlash when a student caused damage to the team, but instead there was something amazing. Teammates were happy to help each other, but they were also taking the student aside and encouraging them to follow the rules in the future!
There are times when being a teacher is one of the hardest jobs I can imagine, and then there are times like this when I remember why I do this job. One of those moments was watching middle schoolers coach their peers in a positive and uplifting way. There really is nothing like it.
In addition to the behavior aspects of the game, we went on learning quests together and students could test their knowledge against bosses like Drakans and Raptals. Boss battles are a great way to gamify review, like when we played "Jeopardy" in school, except WAY COOLER! Students get the chance to battle individually or as a team. They also get the chance to protect and heal one another. This is a great way to get the kids actively participating in a knowledge review in addition to working on their interpersonal skills!
I have been teaching for nearly 10 years, and nothing revolutionized student behavior and engagement that gamifying my class did. I no longer heard things like “is this for a grade?” and “what happens to my grade if I don’t do this?” It helped me create an atmosphere where I was only grading the things that really needed to be graded and not feeling like everything had to be worth points just to get them to do it. They also would come to me begging for opportunities to earn more experience points so they could level up and get the newest gear or a new pet.
While I found Classcraft to be a great tool for my students, I have seen the concept of Gamification used in a variety of ways. I encourage you to look into this education trend and see how it fits for you. Take your students on epic learning adventures instead of just doing units. Battle a Dragos together where everyone wins or loses as a group instead of busting out that Jeopardy Powerpoint you’ve had for the last decade. Take a chance on something new this year!
Written by Arcadia Parson. Arcadia is an Instructional Technology Specialist in Virginia Beach, VA.