Getting Serious About Games: Part 1- What is it?

I’ve never been one to shy away from trying something new. The thought of failure doesn’t scare me, so when I first began my foray into “gamification”, my ultimate goal was to seek new and exciting ways in which I would ultimately better engage students in my classroom.

So I began foraging for resources and asking questions… What new and exciting things are out there? What are other teachers doing in their classrooms? What are students into that will help me gain their attention in class? I read blogs… numerous blogs, conducted a vast amount of research, read about varying pedagogies, and reached out to a few unsuspecting educators who had begun their own transition to “gamification”. I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but this part of the research- “reaching out to a few unsuspecting educators” scares people, and I’m not sure why…

I will say this though- I would not have been able to make this transition had I not spoken with others, both online and in person. I made it a point to actually reach out to others before me that had already taken the plunge and ask to meet up in the physical sense so that I may better wrack their brains, and actually form a relationship with these individuals. And for better (never for worse) not only did I walk away with a BETTER understanding of what works, why they did it, and what NOT to do, but I also walked away with a professional contact. Some of which I still stay in contact with often. Chris Aviles (aka Teched Up Teacher) has supplied me with a wealth of knowledge on gamification. You can find his blog here.

But back to gamification- which is the reason why you are reading this blog post in the first place. “Gamification” or “Game based learning” (I still haven’t found a title I actually like) is the idea of using game mechanics in the classroom to better engage students in the classroom. They are NOT- I repeat- NOT, making games in the classroom (unless this is a project of some sort), or playing video games. They are not settling scores with eachother in a few rounds of Call of Duty.

This idea of games stems from the idea of motivating students, while finding new ways of incorporating the technology that schools so dearly want us to use daily (and that they are spending millions of dollars on). Which led me to this quote, by one of my all-time favorites:


James Dean makes a great point. You can’t expect students to just… see things the way we see them, learn the material we EXPECT them to know while walking away with the big picture. We need to find new ways of meeting them where they are at or in essence, “reach them on their own grounds”.  What better way than through games?

This idea of games is nothing new. Games are actually present in 97% of children’s, ages 12-17, lives. And if your thinking that this is mostly boys- guess again. 45% of gamers are female, and 350 million people spend a combined 3 billion hours per week playing games globally. A big part of our culture? Absolutely!

And you don’t have to look to far to actually see business taking advantage of this same pedagogy. Verizon started their own model of “gamification” a few years ago with Verizon Rewards. Hotel chains like Marriott incorporates their own model by utilizing game mechanics and a badge system. Heck- even Dunkin Donuts has jumped on the band-wagon and uses this same model in their selling technique. So why can’t school?

Gamification becomes a concoction of the best teaching models: project-based, skill-based, and mastery-learning, while also providing a house for technology, and offering students a more personalized/differentiated learning experience, while meeting students where they are. And it’s fun! And don’t just take my word for it…

Screenshot 2015-11-07 at 1.06.48 PM


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