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Looking at Bringing Gamification Into the Classroom

As gamification implementation is being tackled in K-12 education, organizations and individuals across the nation are weighing in on where this trend is heading.


Teachers are now implementing game mechanics into classrooms in order to better engage and educate students that might view new systems as fun and might be motivated by novel reward systems. 


The new "Global Education Gamification Market: Research Report 2015-2019" from TechNavio has forecasted that the global education gamification market will grow.


TechNavio's analysts dove into the revenue generated from the sales of gamification solutions to K-12 schools and institutions of higher education in order to calculate the growth prospects from the current market size through to 2019. In 60 pages and 30 exhibits, the research presented and supported is completely revenue driven. 


Both through in-depth market analysis and data from industry experts, the report is able to span the international landscape while pinpointing the factors that major players within the educational gamification market contribute to the growth rate globally. This includes revenue generated from educational gamification solutions in the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. 


Mike Young, Associate Professor of Education Psychology at The University of Connecticut, is an expert on gamification. He says that in higher education, open source badges from Mozilla are given out for accomplishments via the Blackboard system in the Masters in EdTech program.  


He noted that transferring grades to a point system is relatively easy, and referred to a Latin program at UCONN where the grade is the equivalent of 300,000 points. The difficult part, he said, is establishing a good narrative. 


“How rich the narrative is and how much reading there is in addition to traditional coursework. The way it’s set up for Kevin’s Latin class- all of those resources that you would normally use in classes and assignments are there as mission-assist aids for doing one overall quest for the whole year, which in his case is finding the secret to this tomb that’s been written in Latin,” Young said. 


All students in the class become characters in the quest, where they time travel to ancient Rome as an avatar. A website is integrated into the class, so students can go and complete assignments at home, which Young highlighted, adds elements of flipped learning as well. 


Other stories of gamification’s success in K-12 continue to emerge. Fantasy Geopolitics, an online game that helps teach about politics, international current events, and geography by utilizing the game mechanics from fantasy football, is a fantastic example of when easily implemented methods of gamification can be used to enrich learning objectives while remaining accessible to most classrooms. Varying levels of usage are offered, and the free package offers teachers the ability to create up to five teams, or “player” accounts, that students can use in coordination with your learning goals for the year. 


The 2015 New Media Consortium Horizon Report on emerging technology for K–12 published in June 2015, on the other hand, excluded gamification. The report collects thoughts and insight from industry experts spanning educators, technology experts, and members of the news media, amongst others, with each ranking the impact, longevity, and possibility of mainstream acceptance of trending educational technologies. 


New Media Consortium CEO Larry Johnson doesn’t see it taken off in classrooms.


"For most [teachers], it's just too hard to integrate and there are no tools to make it easier,” Johnson said in a event before the report was published, as reported by EdTech Magazine


Some fundamentals of gamification, such as digital badges, continue to grow in popularity, the report says. 


“There are cards. There are random rolls and things that happen to their characters,” said Young. “But if you’re not a Dungeon and Dragons player, you’re not fluent in the whole role playing, than it’s a little harder to do as a teacher.” 


He said that instructors truly need to take the lead, and while it may be tempting to have students help craft the narrative, as they may be “more fluent” in gaming mechanics, it’ll create an ethical slippery slope within the process and will be less beneficial to the class overall if they control where the lesson is going. He also said that there are concerns with maturity levels amongst different classrooms.


Ultimately, the heavy reliance on online tools, and common struggles within personalized gamification implementation, present a much broader spectrum of issues when many classrooms fail to be manageable, with new techniques difficult to introduce when student behavior can be volatile. 


A recent roundtable discussion in Washington D.C. covered inadequacies in teacher preparation, especially when it comes to students that have suffered trauma or come from diverse backgrounds and those some low-income settings, reported in the The Hechinger Report.  


Hosted by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), last week’s roundtable discussion presented a slew of startling facts and observations from educators and exerts alike.


Colleen Labbe, a teacher from Boston, stated that teachers are ill-equipped to support students living with trauma and/or poverty.


“I think all education prep programs should require completion of coursework that includes understanding the impact of trauma on learning,” said Labbe. 


The panelists provided evidence for teacher training programs lacking authentic student-teaching experiences for many education graduates, mainly in schools with low-income students.


“We need to train teachers in schools that actually reflect those demographics. The students that are in front of me have such difficult experiences and I was able to train for that for a year in a school that actually reflected those demographics,” said Chicago science teacher Kris Beck. “If I hadn’t done that, I don’t think I would have been prepared for the kinds of things I faced when I was in my own classroom.”


The conclusion was that a common lack of experience in interacting with diverse groups matches the increasingly complex issues surfacing as education reform is explored nationwide. 


When it comes to gamification, many educators, including Young, believe it’s a way to tap into disinterested students, including those from diverse and low-income backgrounds. He said that some students that offer the most resistance to gamification become its most enthusiastic participants and proponents. 


“It’s a mistake to think it’s going to work for everybody, and the real gamers have certain expectations in how it’s going to look and feel. If it’s watered down, they’re going to be disappointed…Then there are kids in the middle. Then there are some that self define as non-gamers, so there’s this pushback, this initial resistance: ‘I don’t do that; it scares me for some reason; I have too many fears about it.’ I would like to know what those fears are,” said Young. 



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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