COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools to shift to remote learning with modular and online as the main modalities while radio and tv-based distance learning are the alternative options. For a number of reasons, gamification of lessons can be a good way to provide fun distractions from the stressors caused by the pandemic. It can also reduce the stressing nature of summative assessments. In educational literature, gamification is the application of game-based mechanics, aesthetics, and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems (Kapp, 2012). This is quite difficult to implement in modular learning. But given its engaging nature, gamefication can provoke powerful emotional response such as curiosity, frustration, and joy (Kim, 2012) – a pedagogical innovation that increases students’ engagement and enhances students’ learning.
Starts with a purpose
In structured learning, gamifying the lesson can be simple or as complex as you plan. It always begins with a purpose that includes the learning goal. This guides us not to make the lesson so complicated that students will be ending up having a hard time acquiring the required competencies. When we want to gamily a lesson, it’s not something that we randomly choose to let it happen. It’s important to understand the learners you’re dealing with and the best way to engage them. So this is not a process to give students access to the lesson and let it just go for students’ compliance. This is about using some beneficial power of game elements to encourage students to learn. It’s also important that the one who gamified the lesson is able to use the main material before having students experience it. One case I have witnessed was that a simulation game was integrated into a lesson, but when it was sent to the students, there are many asking for clarifications because the mechanics attached in the instruction for the lesson is not consistent with the mechanics of the actual simulation game. A clear instruction can help students independently achieve the task. It also sets the behavioral goals.
Structure your lessons
Lesson plans can help structure your lessons especially if you want students to develop other real-life skills other than the required learning competencies such as problem-solving and critical thinking. In this way, we can use the ABC model (anticipation, building knowledge, consolidation phase) in letting students develop those skills while also learning the content and integrating the game into the lesson. In simple gamification, teachers can use the material as a springboard for discussion or formative assessments. But in complex gamification, the emphasis is more on quest rather than just on activities that check students’ understanding or memory. In both simple and complex gamification, some elements of the games such as progress mechanics, opportunities for collaboration, scaffolded learning challenge, mastery, and social connection may be present.
There are already a plethora of resources to gamify lessons. Depending on your lessons, we can use old-school games, board games, or video games. For online learning modality, we can use digital games, online simulation games, and quiz games. For quiz games, we have Kahoot and Quizizz to create our own multiple-choice questions or reuse existing multiple-choice questions. The two have been similar in many ways, but Quizizz offers more engaging features and allows memes pictures to be integrated as feedback and the use of power-ups has been quite engaging for students.
Meanwhile, Quizlet is for making questions on digital flashcards and is good for memorization. These gamification tools can be very useful for pre-assessment, formative exercises, or exit tests to reinforce learning.
For simulation games, many websites already offer free resources such as CK-12 which promotes the use of open resources. They have exploration series for Physics and Chemistry simulations and PLIX series for Mathematics.
Various organizations also have simulation games on their websites such as the Center for Disease Control. It’s a matter of searching/finding the right resource for your specific lesson.
Plan for its delivery
Online learning is dominated by virtual meetings and live events. There are also some who push for an asynchronous setup or independent study. Hence, planning for the delivery of gamified lessons is as important as structuring it. Will it be during a live event or virtual meeting? In this synchronous learning setup, you can structure the learning environment to monitor students’ real-time progress. Do you want students to compete or collaborate? Will it be an independent study or asynchronous learning, but how can you monitor students’ authentic progress. How will students access this material? There are questions you need to consider before delivering gamified lessons and your clear instructions will serve as a manual to guide students to achieve the task and not compromise the opportunity to learn the required competencies in a meaningful way with this non-traditional way of delivering a lesson.
Gamified lessons correlate with an increase in students’ engagement (2018, Hitchens), but without a clear manual or instructions, it is doomed to fail as another material falling for the sake of compliance. If this is the case, let’s always go back to our purpose why we need to gamify our lesson.
Got some tips to add to gamify a lesson?