What’s the Buzz: Gamification or Game Based Learning?

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GamificationThe idea that gamification and game based learning are closely related and need to be distinctly defined is not new.  However, we did a few OK2Ask sessions on Game Based Learning earlier this year and so I wanted to make sure that we have a clear understanding of each as we move forward.  We also have a number of new people in the TeachersFirst community, and I’d like to make sure as we discuss “fuzzy” ideas, that we define them first. Both Game Based Learning and gamification add fun to the classroom, so I encourage you to try them both.

Gamification is a great way to motivate people to change their behavior.  It can be defined as taking the ideas that make games fun to play and applying them to other situations.  For example, my local grocery store gives me one point for every dollar I spend there.  When I get 100 points, I can trade them in for ten cents off the purchase price of gas.  This summer they are offering two points per dollar if you shop on the weekend.  By offering these incentives, they have motivated me to shop at their store on the weekend during the summer.  

In the classroom, you can get students to be more engaged in lessons using gamification.  You can turn learning objectives into “quests,” offering students experience points or XP for the successful completion of the quest.  While students are working on the quest, it might be fun to offer a point bonus if they can complete an additional small application assignment within a given window of time.  Finally, you might allow them to trade points in for a prize or special privilege, making the game worthwhile for the students.

Game Based Learning is the practice of teaching through using games. For example, if you are a  middle school history teacher whose students need to learn about the revolutionary war, you might choose to dedicate some time in your classroom to the Crown or Colony game at  http://www.mission-us.org/ (reviewed here). If you teach math in elementary school, you might use the Prodigy math game (reviewed here). as one of your math centers.

Either is a great way to add some variety to your classroom.

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About the author: Ruth Okoye

Dr. Ruth Okoye is the Director of K12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning. As a long-time technology coach, Ruth shares ideas and strategies for professional learning and thoughts on how to motivate yourself to “dig deeper” into educational technologies.


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