Thursday, November 15, 2012

5 Reasons to “Gamify” Your Class

Imagine if students were as motivated to do their schoolwork as they are to beat Halo 4. “Gamification” is a fancy word to describe how to achieve exactly that - bringing game-like engagement to non-game settings - and it’s beginning to pervade all aspects of life, including education.

For example, Sam Webster, a 4th grade teacher, gamified her class using a teacher-created project called SuperFunner. “I’ve seen kids who aren’t normally excited become really excited about school all of a sudden,” Webster said about the system.

Here are 5 reasons to consider gamifying your class.

  1. Engagement - If you’ve ever played or watched someone play a good video game, you’ll know that nothing engages people like games do. Even kids who are normally unfocused, unmotivated, or undisciplined become highly focused, motivated, and disciplined when playing games. Gamification can help bring those attitudes to class.
  2. Intrinsic motivation - Not only do kids spend significant amounts of time playing games, but they do so voluntarily, with no hope of earning extrinsic rewards like candy or pizza parties. Gamification is all about guiding people to achieve things that perfectly challenging them, and typically the only incentive to do so is the sense of accomplishment they feel when they succeed.
  3. Extension of learning - It’s tough to design a course that challenges each student to the level they need. Video games, however, somehow manage to capture the full attention of multitudes of people at a myriad of skill levels simultaneously. Gamification can help deliver challenges at the right level for all students in a class, whether they’re two grades behind in reading comprehension or three grades ahead in math.
  4. You’re already doing it - School is inherently game-like - students earn points for completing challenges, and are eventually rewarded with badges in the form of grades. Gamification only improves the current system by employing game elements proven to be extraordinarily effective in video games. If we’re already doing it, we might as well do it right!
  5. Straight up fun - It’s just more fun!

This infographic helps put the significance of video games in relation to school in perspective.

For more information about gamifying school visit


  1. Just because rewards aren't tangible doesn't mean there's no extrinsic motivators built into this form of gamification. Being awarded points and badges are not intrinsic motivators in the slightest, they're just more effective extrinsic motivators than grades.

  2. I agree with Dan's comments, especially the part where badges are just another version of grades, aka extrinsic motivation. Gamification does a disservice to both video games and to education, because it seeks to "Frankenstein" sections of video games and graft them onto schooling. Don't get me wrong - I think video games (not the "edutainment" stuff that's manufactured for use in schools, but the actual stuff that kids and adults play of their own free will during their free time) can do awesome things with and for learning, but I object strongly to the idea of gamification. If you need more information on the differences, you should check out Melanie McBride's blog (Google her).

    1. All gamification really does is help students set clear objectives then recognize their achievements when they succeed - it's no different from goal setting.

      In this case the only "reward" kids get is basically checking off an achievement signifying it's completion, which feels really good! The motivation is entirely intrinsic and the external factors exist only as guides to help students see the next challenge.

  3. Although the students may be receiving badges for their accomplishments in the game, I wouldn't label that extrinsic motivation. The badges are simply a piece of paper that they cut out and get to keep on a tracking chart. Along with that, if you go to the website and read about the students' response to the game, you'll see that there is nothing motivating them other than themselves. Each week that the students play the game and their responses have been recorded. They have given feedback that they love the game and want to keep playing it, they have said that the best way to improve the game would be to get to play it more; that doesn't sound like extrinsic motivation to me. They aren't receiving anything other than the pride of doing their work and finishing their tasks, and yet they are eager to continue to play the game each week. I can't speak for other implementations of gamification, but I really believe that this implementation of gamification fosters intrinsic motivation in their work, not extrinsic despite the use of badges. Check out to read more of the students' responses and you'll see just how intrinsic it is.

  4. such a nice Idea to make kids learn quickly
    thanks for sharing it with us
    what is e-learning

  5. Dan and MZMolly, you make good points, however, this is a tricky discussion as the line between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is pretty fuzzy. In this case, kids seem to be intrinsically motivated as Sam noted.

    At it's core, this system only helps kids set clear objectives then recognize their achievements when they succeed.

    What matters here is that students are really enjoying school thanks to this system and their awesome teachers.

  6. I will admit I try to make most activities in my classroom game-like. I teach middle school students with mild to moderate disabilities. 90% of them are boys so I try to take advantage of their competitive nature. I've come to realize that by this age extrinsic motivation is the way to go. These students have been failing, academically, their whole lives. They have no intrinsic motivation anymore. ALL of my students learn best when I create opportunities for hands-on or kinesthetic games to take place of worksheets or any other paper/pencil activity. Provide the potential to reward the "winners" and you have students with special needs who want to learn. Learning should be enjoyable and interesting. Children enjoy and are interested in games. I WILL be making the extra effort to make learning in my room even more fun and unique. Good post!