The Insert Coin Series has examined why and how one would attempt to gamify their classroom. We have looked at methods for creating student Identity in game. We have looked at common strategies for differentiating Challenge structures. We have considered the benefits and drawbacks of typical classroom Feedback systems. Now that you are ready to embark on your own gamification adventure, it is time to fully disclose that none of this is necessary.
You do not need to gamify your classroom to make it more engaging. According to Daniel Pink’s Drive, Intrinsic motivation stems from a combination of 3 factors: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Simply put, people are engaged and motivated when they have choice in their task, when they know they are doing well, and when they know why they are doing it. Gamification taps into all three of these motivational components. Consider the three categories of gamification elements previously discussed in this series: Identity, Challenge, and Feedback. When you combine any two of these you produce a component in Pink’s framework. Mix Identity and Challenge by allowing players to choose their own path and you get Autonomy. Give a player Feedback on the Challenges they choose and you get a sense of Mastery. When a player sees their character grow, they receive Feedback on their Identity, establishing a Purpose for playing.
Games are engaging in part because they activate the primary components of intrinsic motivation through a blend of Identity, Challenge, and Feedback. However, this is not the only way to create Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in your classroom. Strategies like Project Based Learning, Making, Tinkering, Coding, Service Learning, Inquiry Based Learning, and really any type of student centered learning creates an engaging space for learners. As much as I love gamification, it really doesn’t matter if you actually use it or not, as long as you are doing something that gets your students engaged.
You do not need to gamify your classroom to make it more fun. I don’t know if I should say this, but… Gamification does not inherently make your class more fun. If done well, gamification can create a type of suspended reality, an environment where fun can grow. That does not mean that the gamification creates the fun. Even the best designed games cannot make people have fun. In fact, nobody can MAKE anyone have fun. The best we can do is create environments in which fun can be had. In my article, 4 ways to Make School Fun, I describe four different types of fun which could easily exist in school if we allow them: Challenge, Exploration, Cooperation, and Making a Difference. None of these require gamification, but they do require an environment which allows for them. Gamification is one tool that helps create this space for playful teaching and learning. However, at the end of the day, as Ralph Koster states, “Learning is fun.” If your class is not having fun, you may need to ask yourself a hard question, “Are they not having fun because they are not actually learning?”
If you understand the fundamentals of student engagement, you quickly understand that nobody NEEDS to gamify their classroom to achieve a fun, engaging learning environment. That being said, if you think learning is truly fun, if you are ready to create a playful environment for your learners, if you are ready to step to the side and play along with your students… Game on!
Missed out on the previous Installments of the Insert Coin Series? Part 1- Introduction / Part 2-Why Gamification? / Part 3- Essentials of Game Design / Part 4- Identity Elements / Part 5- Challenge Elements / Part 6- Feedback Elements / Part 7: Some Assembly Required / Part 8- Your Epic Fail / Part 9- Game On!