I don’t like lugging stacks of cardboard and paper for recycling, but it has to be done. While I know it’s good to recycle, it still feels like a chore to do it. Similarly many of my students don’t like completing and submitting their work, even though they know it’s good for them. Doing work and handing it in can often feel like a chore and many students do it to avoid punishment. So how can I make my students want to hand in work? Perhaps by making it fun?
But how do I make it fun? While nothing beats designing learning that’s authentic, relevant and engaging, there are always some areas of the syllabus that is mandatory to teach, but it’s not very exciting to 15 year olds. So I started to implement gamification with my Year 10 science class. I wanted to see whether gaming elements in the classroom will increase their motivation and engagement in learning. The unit of work is that has been “gamified” is called The Great Science Race and uses game mechanics such as a narrative, quests and achievement badges. For more information on the gamification of this unit of work, please see my previous post. But in a nutshell I have turned a unit of work about setting up science experiments into a game. The unit has a story line, worksheets have been grouped into quests and students work in teams to complete their quests to receive points and achievement badges. A leaderboard has been set up in the classroom to show the ranking of each team.
So how is it going so far?
Term 2 has started and it’s the first day that students are returning to school after a two-and-half week holiday. When one of the students asked me what topic we were studying this term, I replied “scientific investigations”. He groaned: “Not all the independent variables stuff. It’s so boring”. But when I explained that the topic is a game and how the game would work, the class, including the student who previously groaned, were very excited. They laughed at the story of the secret society of epic scientists, but they were very excited about the achievement badges and the leaderboard. They quickly chose their teams and started working on their first quest.
After two lessons only two teams out of six have submitted their work. They were awarded 5 points on the leaderboard. On the third lesson the students saw the rankings on the leaderboard for the first time. The teams who were ranked first were delighted, and the teams who were on zero points worked extremely hard to ensure they caught up. One team, who was on zero points, very diligently completed most of the work from Quest 1 in a day (including doing a lot of extension work after school). They are now ranked first on the leaderboard.
I did ask myself whether the leaderboard was encouraging students to rush their work and not spend enough time on it. However, the work they submitted so far is of the same quality or better than their usual standard. But now they are submitting their work quicker and more regularly, which is allowing me to better identify their strengths and areas for improvement.
I am still in the early stages of implementing gamification so watch this space for more updates on gamification in my classroom.