My name is Faith Howell, one of the moderators of this blog and #levelupED! As we embark on this journey I thought you might need to know a little about why I care about gamificiation and what that term means to me.
It all started with the sentence “You know, you get to create your own character. Choose their hair, clothes…” and with that I was hooked on World of Warcraft. If you would have asked my perky little cheerleader high school self if I was a gamer, I would have adamantly answered “Give me an N! Give me an O! What’s that spell? NO!!!! Yay!!!! Spirit fingers!” I thought I was much too cool to game and wouldn’t have opened my mind to the option in any capacity (unless some hot guy who was popular suggested it). But, my older self opened herself up just a bit…just to create a character, and then just a short quest, until I was all in. I still miss my level 80 gnome frost mage. She kicked butt and was adorable, but she was far more interesting than my real life (which involved lesson plans and working on my master’s degree) so I spent much more time with her, so she had to go. Did you notice what I said there?
“She was far more interesting than my real life.”
How many of your students would say the same? What if your classroom could be as interesting to students as that video game their playing? Would you want them to run to your class like they run to their PS3? Would you want them trying over and over again to complete your work to your satisfaction just like they try over and over again to beat the boss at the end of a level?
What does Candy Crush have that your classroom does not?
In other words, how does gamification (turning something into a game) work?
I chose whether or not to play a video game, and if I’m stuck or frustrated I stop. Sometimes a friend is watching me and cheering me on, or maybe they challenged me to complete a level and I’m trying to step to their challenge and I’ll play a little farther that day. The key here is I make that choice. Choice is something that most of us still haven’t figured out how to implement in a real way in our classrooms. There’s a fear of giving up control and so we hold tight to our power and we worry what it will look like if *insert generic child name here* gives up five minutes in. But allowing students a choice, even in something as small as how to present information to you, may motivate a child. Gamification is a way to add some choice into my classroom and let the students feel as if they chose their destiny (which, by the way, they actually do when it comes to grades, no matter how much they blame us).
Structure for Success
Video games can’t be difficult all the time or no one would play them. Video games tend to start off easy and gradually get more difficult as you progress through them. Quality video games also make sure there’s room for success no matter what level you are on. Take Candy Crush for example. Candy Crush seems so easy at the beginning. You’re flying through levels and feeling awesome, so when you come across a difficult level you feel like you can handle it. You’ve got this! Even if it’s a challenge, even if it takes you days, you keep at it. Eventually you succeed and move on to the next level, which you typically pass quickly (easy, hard, easy). Candy Crush knows you won’t work at your level of frustration forever, so they make sure you feel successful now and again. No one who feels as if they are a constant failure will continue to put forth effort. You have to be reminded that you can do it!
Structure for Motivation
Candy Crush, and other great video games, also find ways to motivate you. Candy Crush will gift you special candies as a reward for completing a level or allow other players to send you gifts of special candies, extra tries, or extra time. Maybe you were hopelessly stuck on a level, but thank goodness for your friend and their gift of a few more moves because now you’ve succeeded! Yay! Competition is also a driving force in video games like Candy Crush. There is something satisfying about seeing your score compared to everyone else on your friend’s list who plays (not everyone who plays, but people you know personally!). And when you pass them by a level and it says “Do you want to write on your friend’s wall and let them know you’ve passed them?” you always want to say “Yes!” because beating someone makes you feel good (don’t roll your eyes at me! It’s true!). Competition is a powerful motivator especially when it’s positive.
To summarize, gamification, to me, is an opportunity to take what draws students to games of all types (video games, sports, board games, apps, etc) and use that information to create a classroom that makes students want to achieve. It incorporates choice, and structures for success and motivation to allow students a say in their education and to feel as if they really do have the power we’re always telling them they have. So join us on our quest to motivate students and make the real world as much fun as the virtual, and make sure you follow us on Twitter @howellywood and @MrDpasion!
*You have now completed the “Who is Faith Howell?” quest. Use the code word “Candy Crush” at any point during our first #levelupED chat and receive a special shout out on Twitter!!*