Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gamifying the Classroom

Kids love games. Lately, educators have been trying to find ways to incorporate games into the classroom. Dozens of apps, like Kahoot, have come along and helped get the kids stoked about learning. Broader systems of gamification, like 3DGameLab, have managed to help teachers gamify the entire classroom experience. Kids can choose assignments to complete in order to accumulate a certain number of points in order to achieve a particular grade. Kids can also earn badges, level up and even tailor the gaming experience for the next class by leaving comments that are helpful to the teacher.

Recently, I attended the Illinois Educational Technology Conference (IETC) in Springfield, IL. At the conference, Liz Kolb of the University of Michigan presented a gamification session around a new system developed at the university. It is called GradeCraft. Liz had used 3DGameLab before but switched to GradeCraft because of some features that teachers thought would be an improvement on existing gamification platforms. Indeed, GradeCraft looks very cool. Certain features, like the ability of kids to predict their grade if they completed certain assignments, give the kids a whole new level of autonomy over their work. GradeCraft also insists on mastery of skills and can even include the standards that each assignment fulfills so that kids can get a complete and thorough learning experience.

Kids like to compete. Sometimes they like to compete against each other and sometimes they like to compete against themselves. One of the reasons that video games are so popular is that the games are challenging. If there is an effective way to gamify the classroom, I am all for it. I have used 3DGameLab up until this year but could not do so anymore because we could not spend money on the subscription. I have written to the GradeCraft developers at the University of Michigan to see if a middle school teacher like myself would be able to pilot the system in class. If I get the go-ahead, then I will immerse myself in this new system and use it in class next semester.

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