Friday, October 10, 2014

What is Gamification?

        First and foremost you're probably asking yourself "what is gamification?" According to Educause's Things You Should Know About Gamification, "Gamification is the application of game elements in non-gaming situations, often to motivate or influence behavior". It is used to create an engaging dynamic. It generally engages students because they're given game like prizes. It gives motivation to reach certain accomplishments. I also gives teachers a way to track accomplishments and points. Using games to learn keeps students engaged and stimulated and gives them the chance to work at their own pace and achieve their individual goals.

Tom Chatfield presents an interesting rationale in a TED talk titled 7 Ways Games Reward the BrainGames reward your brain with experience bars that measure progress, multiple long and short-term aims, rewarding effort, feedback, and have an element of uncertainty. Using games is engaging and this is because, effort is rewarded although the reward before hand is uncertain. 

At one point he discusses the neurotransmitter associated with learning, dopamine. This is a chemical released by the brain that is associated with reward seeking behavior and makes people feel good. They have found ways to track the dopamine levels in the brain while gaming, which has given them the opportunity to predict learning and enhanced engagement when learning is taking place at an enhanced level. This has given them the chance to find moments when someone is most likely to remember and when someone has confidence. It shows how "game-playing and reward structures make people braver, make them more willing to take risks, more willing to take on difficulty, harder to discourage."  Gaming makes students confident and gives them opportunity to collaborate. Both of these are very important qualities students should have in everyday life and in the working world.

Now that we know what gamification is and how it effects our brain, here are some ways that you can incorporate games in your classroom for your students. Digital Play shares 10 Gaming Genres To Adapt In Class and they are: point and click, escape the room, arcade, puzzle, strategy, adventure, casual, massively multiplayer online role playing games, alternate reality, and virtual worlds.
A few of my favorites I could see myself using the classroom are:
  • Escape the Room - Language can be used by getting a student to write about a walk through that we do as a class or they do on their own. If you're not familiar with them you can check a few out here
  • Arcade - Games like these can give students the chance practice language skills at a quick pace.
  • Puzzle Games - These could come in handy when testing a students ability to understand word or language patterns. You could create an activity to a virtual word sort.
Overall, using games in your classroom shows how effective it is for student engagement and the benefits it has on a learners brain.

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