Here are 3 benefits to learning gamification.
GUEST COLUMN | by Chris Holoka
In a world constantly shaped and reshaped by advancements in technology, education has had to keep up with students’ changing needs. To encourage better outcomes, today’s teachers are implementing new strategies to engage their students using cutting-edge technology within their classrooms.
One powerful strategy is the gamification of learning. Gamification in education is used to transform traditional learning material into enhanced experiences through the process of incorporating game-like elements into lessons. Leveraging gamification can positively impact student success by driving engagement and collaboration, encouraging self-expression and offering a real-world impact.
‘Leveraging gamification can positively impact student success by driving engagement and collaboration, encouraging self-expression and offering a real-world impact.’
Gamification finds success in education settings when it provides a powerful experience that not only drives student motivation but also facilitates active learning. It’s the best of both worlds: it encourages students to interact more fully with the material in a fun and accessible way, while culminating in willing participation and the achievement of educational benchmarks in the process.
Boosts student engagement
Gamification within the classroom is a great way to get students excited and motivated to learn by making them a part of the learning process and rewarding their achievements. Students who are often bored or unmotivated by traditional classroom activities may find enjoyment in the gamified aspect of learning, which mimics activities they do for fun outside of the classroom.
One way to incorporate gamification is by utilizing a points-based system to keep students on task. Assigning points for completing specific tasks offers a familiar incentive, encouraging students to work hard to achieve more and, when implemented correctly, accurately representing how much effort they’re putting into their assignments. That kind of insight can be challenging to glean and is helpful for teachers when looking at the progression of each student.
Our company implements a star economy system across its products which allows students to earn stars in a variety of ways: reading books, taking quizzes, completing assignments, recording themselves reading, moving up in reading levels, and more. Students earn stars across all of our resources via an immersive student portal. Once earned, students can spend stars to purchase items to customize their Raz Rocket virtual clubhouse and to create a personalized avatar. The star system has also become an integral part of our company’s Donation Challenges which provides an avenue for students to help others by donating their stars. We convert the donated stars into real-world, global impact via a collaboration with UNICEF Kid Power.
Another way we incorporate gamification into the student experience is our badge program. Students can earn a variety of virtual badges for accomplishing tasks like reading for five continuous days, completing three perfect quizzes in a row, or mastering a reading level. The badge program allows students to proudly display their learning accomplishments while breaking apart longer-term educational goals into more achievable and actionable tasks. When combined with our star economy point system, it makes for a powerfully engaging combination that appeals to a variety of learning styles.
Encourages self-expression and creativity
A prominent feature of gamification is how it customizes the learning experience. As teachers are aware, one size does not fit all in education. Students develop a sense of agency when they feel empowered to make decisions and choices for themselves within their educational experience. Flexibility and freedom to express themselves and forge their own path forward are crucial in fostering a sense of autonomy and ownership of their educational journey. Resources such as high-interest books and passages along with personalized, interactive reading instruction are essential in creating a unique and effective learning program for each student.
Gamification also encourages students to get inventive in various ways. For example, the inclusion of storylines, plots and characters can engage students because they remind them of narrative games they enjoy outside of school. Those characters and plotlines hold powerful sway over students and can drive the lesson forward, no matter the topic. Many gamification platforms also allow students to create their avatars to progress through the lesson with options to personalize clothes, hairstyles and accessories.
Our students can spend the stars they earn to choose options for their avatars based on their appearance or personal interests. Their choices include sports equipment, different fashion styles, or general occupations. Importantly, we’ve made it possible for students, of all backgrounds and abilities, to create avatars that look more like them at no extra “cost.” For example, students that require wheelchairs or to wear hijabs, can freely add them without the need for stars. The avatar options available to students continue to evolve based on student needs and customer feedback.
Just as personalized learning with traditional classroom materials has seen huge success, personalization through gamification is also highly effective. Encouraging student creativity through personalized avatars and building in flexibility for self-expression is a great way to help students fully embrace gamified learning experiences and interactive learning environments. Students who can build a personalized experience focus less on virtual class fatigue and more on the lessons to be learned.
Has real-world impact
With the ability to gamify educational material comes the ability to reach beyond the traditional learning environment to make a real-world impact inside the classroom and beyond. Teachers could, for example, allow students to spend their virtual stars on real-world rewards like leading the line to the cafeteria, or extra time in the library. They can even hold penny drives where classes compete against each other and donate toward an effort that matters to students.
At our company, we collaborate with UNICEF Kid Power to implement successful donation challenges, where gamification is used to donate meals and water to families in need across the globe. Participating students were able to earn stars by engaging in meaningful interactive reading activities, such as reading books or taking quizzes. Then, they had the chance to convert the stars they’ve earned into virtual coins to help families without adequate access to food and clean water. This gamification-turned-community campaign was not only fun for students and teachers, but it was also impactful, teaching a lesson that stretched far past the classroom — virtual or in-person. On average, students and classrooms that participated in the drive engaged in reading more than three times as much as non-participating students.
This program has, by far, become the event that our students look forward to the most. Classrooms around the world compete to donate the most stars and make the biggest impact for those in need. So far, we have had winning classrooms in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The students of the winning classrooms are given the opportunity to co-author a book with us which is freely available to everyone on our website and to our customers in our digital library. In total, our students have donated more than 5.7 billion stars unlocking more than 458,000 healthy meals and 2.8 million days of drinking water for families and communities in need around the world.
Gamification has been shown to be tremendously effective both in the classroom and in engaging kids within their communities, be it within school walls or outside of them. Gamification plays into the needs for children to have autonomy with their education and express creativity both in their problem-solving and personal expression. All around the world, teachers and districts can implement gamification techniques to drive student success.
Chris Holoka is the Senior Director of Experience & Design at Learning A-Z, where he builds high-performing teams across user experience, visual design, product design, and multimedia to create engaging and easy-to-use products that delight users and instill within students the joy of learning.