Gamification: Step One

Gamification is everywhere! Channel it!!


I’ve been flirting with gamification in my classroom for the last year or so.  I love the concept of gamification. I’m a gamification advocate. I co-moderate a gamification chat and a gamification blog. Yet, here I was, not quite ready to go all the way in my own classroom. 


Well, part of it was trying to finagle a way to fit gamification into a system that really doesn’t leave much room for anything out of the ordinary. I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around how to fit what I saw as a square peg into a round hole.

I had no idea what gamification was then, not really. 

Then one day, as I sat in a Starbuck’s checking to see how many stars I’d earned and how far I was from achieving the gold level status, I realized Starbucks had gamified. Instantly I saw the world differently. My…

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Talk To Me!


I wasn’t kidding about the crying. Read faster!!!! I want to talk!

Monday night I sat on my couch chugging coffee and counting down the minutes until midnight when Allegiant, the third and final novel in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, would be released. I devoured it. I laughed. I cried. 

And then I wanted to talk about it. In fact I’m about to explode as I wait on all of my friends to finish it so we can talk about it. I popped into classrooms all day long today screaming “What part are you reading?” then jumping up and down with excitement when they told me. I’m sure in a few days we’ll all sit down and debate the writing style and the choices the author made.


Why? Because as human beings desire to talk to each other.

So why do we smother that in the classroom?

In too many classrooms students are not encouraged to embrace the social aspect of who they are. In fact it’s blatantly discouraged. Students crave real conversation with those around them. They want to talk about their homework, the television show they watched last night, and, yes, even books. So do we. Talking to people about these things leads to debate, maybe a changed point of view, and a deeper understanding about the topic. We want to hear that people agree with us, but we also enjoy hearing opinions that are different from ours. “What made you say that?” “What is it about her character that you hate?” We do this with news, music, and anything else we encounter. I even keep a mental log of things that happen throughout my day that I want to tell my husband when I get home.

It’s why Facebook exists. It’s why Twitter exists.

It’s why you’re reading this blog.

 Bonds and connections are forged over tiny things we discover about others while being social. Think about the instant connection you feel with someone who loves your favorite television show.  As a Doctor Who fan I understand this power. I’ve stopped strangers in the mall to comment on their “Save the Daleks” tee and debated which Doctor was the best on an elevator.


The 10th Doctor is the best, just in case you were wondering.


 How can we, as educators, channel this powerful need in our classroom?

Join us for this week’s #levelupED chat about the social fabric of your classroom (9pm EST). Come join the guild and find ways to harness the power of your student’s social natures and the power of gamification to help.

And, you know, talking about things is sort of a human need, so why not do it with your Twitter friends? 

Raid status: Success!

Anyone who has ever tried something new knows that feeling right before that something begins. It’s like sitting at the top of that first big hill on a rollercoaster; you are excited and unsure of what exactly happens next but you hope it’s amazing.

Well, it was!! Our very first #levelupED was a rollicking success!

We were a small, but mighty group this evening and represented a wide variety of gamification experience.

Here are some highlights…

How do you define gamification in your classroom?

Do you think gamification is more using games to teach content or designing game elements in your instruction?

What benefits have you seen/ do you think you would see from gamifying your class?

Is there any good tech out there you are using to help gamify your class?





What challenges have you faced when trying to introduce game play in your class? How did you overcome them?


What is one take away from tonight that you would like to start applying to your classroom?




We also discussed what to call assessments to encourage less fear and more fun with the game for students, the difference between using XP and skill points, and even debated using gamification in place of traditional grades. If there is anything you’d like to see discussed in future #levelupED chats please let us know! And make sure you check out the full chat HERE

See you next week for #levelupED! 9pm EST every Thursday!


How Candy Crush Drives My Teaching

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!!*