Classroom gamification: conquering the world?

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The rise of gamification is bound to have an impact on education as well. There are quite a few people thinking on and working hard towards making the classroom a more stimulating environment; as is evident also by the gEducation vertical workshop day at the Gamification World Congress in Barcelona. Still, gamifying education is a slow process, with a number of hurdles yet to be overcome. So today, I'd like to take a birds eye view and point towards what I think will be the main catalyst for change in this process.

Development of ideas

Classroom gamification is, in all fairness, still in its infancy. There are a lot of experiments going on, both by individual teachers as well as by larger organizations, and some results are definitely promising. However, we haven’t yet arrived at a clear set of best practices. In this, gamification is hindered by the broadness of concept and scope, unlike for instance ‘flipping the classroom,’ which has a very well defined central concept and value proposition. This broadness of concept also makes the life of researchers studying the effectiveness of different didactical approaches difficult. Still, I think we are on the right track in finding out what works and doesn’t work in the classroom when using gamification. It is mostly a matter of time and effort by front-runners in the education community.

Development of teachers

While in the public perception teachers are sometimes depicted as stale and unwilling to change, I find that for most teachers this is just not true. Still, the development of teachers in the area of gamification is at this point one of the main bottlenecks to implementation of a wide use of gamification practices in the classroom. For even the most driven of teachers, there are only a finite number of things they can spend time on. I am a fierce proponent of these practices, but in busy times I tend to revert to ‘standard’ teaching. Classroom gamification, however worthwhile, is hard, and it is time consuming.

Development of tools and materials

And this brings us to one of the main solutions of the previous bottleneck - the catalyst that will make use of gamification in education much more widespread – applying gamification practices in the classroom should be made easier. One great example is the online quiz app Kahoot, which makes both designing and using a classroom quiz a breeze. Once introduced to my school, rate of adoption was high, to both the students and teachers delight.

In this development the publishers of school materials could play a large role by making materials incorporating the principles of gamification. However, I would like to make the case that rather than ready-made classroom materials, tools and templates that the teachers can implement and adjust to their teaching style will be the main catalysts for change.

Fortunately there is quite a bit of effort put into this path by teachers, designers and programmers. This makes me optimistic for the future of students everywhere.