In today's digital era, educators, parents, and students alike are searching for innovative solutions to enhance student engagement and motivation inside and outside of the classroom. While not a new phenomenon, gamification is taking educational systems by storm, building upon core psychological concepts, primarily motivation, behaviour, and personality.
As games become a bigger part of culture, their role in education provides the potential to transform students' experience in school. By design, games increase motivation by engagement, and this is especially relevant in educational settings. While teaching methods have evolved over the years, a noticeable constant continues to ring true: People have a natural desire for achievement, competition, status, philanthropy and collaboration.
Leveraging these natural urges and instincts, it makes sense to want to bring gaming into the classroom to 'gamify' learning.
What is gamification?
By definition, gamification can be defined as the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques in non-game contexts to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals.
The five key elements of gamification include:
- Mechanics (incentive drivers)
- Experiential Journey (setting and story line)
- Engagement (application platform)
- Motivation (goals)
- Achievement (organisational goals are aligned with player goals).
Coined by Nick Pelling in 2003, the basic concept and application has been around since the 1980s. However, it wasn't until after 2010 that gamification was more widely adopted by global companies like Nike and Starbucks, to better connect and incentivise customers through loyalty rewards programmes, lifestyle applications, and corporate training.
Applying gamification in schools
There are many different ways gamification has been introduced to schools to enhance the traditional learning environment depending on academic goals.
Gamification applications may be used to:
- Test theories and work with variables in authentic scenarios;
- Start a thoughtful discussion on a particular subject matter;
- Reflect and document logical and critical thinking processes using deductive reasoning; pattern recognition and hypothesis testing.
Creating a holistic learning environment
It's important to note that gamification is not intended to replace traditional methods of academic practice, but rather to create complementary solutions for a holistic learning experience that boosts engagement, motivation and essential skills development.