Common Core Anchor Standards
I could go two ways with this blog post, I could discuss games-based learning and show you games that are aligned with the Common Core, or I can discuss how gamification of learning supports the Common Core. Because I know that many of the resources you will find on Teacher Engage this month will focus on games-based learning, I will focus on the gamification of learning to engage students and increase achievement.
The Common Core Standards call for students who are self directed, able to draw evidence and use that evidence to support their claims, solve problems, and apply what they have learned in the real world. We must remember that the Common Core Standards do not dictate how we teach, they are simply a list of skills and knowledge that students should have by the time they leave our classrooms and enter the real world. When you approach the standards in this manner, you will see that you are freed up to teach as you see fit. To that end, there is no reason why you shouldn’t give it a try!
Gamification of learning is when you use game design strategies to drive student learning. This can be as simple as awarding points, or as complex as designing quests. Both Challenged Based Learning and Problem Based Learning are frameworks that you can use to add game like excitement to your classes. Both frameworks call for student directed learning, which fits appropriately with the inquiry based learning the Common Core calls for.
Lets look at some of the game design principles we may wish to utilize in our instructional design:
All good games have a good story line. What would be the point of Super Mario Brothers 2 if Mario did not need to rescue Princess Toadstool? Have students reflect on their learning throughout the process, then tell their story of the process, and at the end of the unit. What did they struggle with? Where do they need additional support? Where did they excel? This will allow you to individualize the instruction for each student as the reflections serve as formative assessment opportunities. When playing games, students like to analyze what they need to change to win the game, why not encourage this same behavior in the classroom?
Levels, Points and Badges
All good games have multiple levels to work through, each level adding a new layer of complexity. Build in multiple assessments for learning as levels in your content, don’t wait until the end of the unit to give them a big test, assess their work as they move through the materials. Make sure they are ready to move on to the next level before you push them forward. Go beyond the traditional “quiz and test” method. Give them a challenge. Ask them to apply what they are learning, not just spit it back at you. Additionally, if students are able to work through the levels at their own pace, and are rewarded as they accomplish each task or gain each skill, there is more motivation to advance in levels. Consider using a Badging program to award badges or a point system that awards points for each level, rather than grades. Allow student to choose their own level of mastery, rather than push all students to do the same things. Work on a point system and create levels of mastery for your students. Newbie, Apprentice, and Master are levels used in many of the popular role play games.
Those students who are satisfied with the level they have achieved do not have to continue moving up in levels, those who wish to become masters, can. For that matter, design your badges around the standards themselves. The Challenge: How will you show me mastery of each standard? To what level have you mastered this objective? This type of challenge will allow students to display their skills and knowledge in any way they choose, and will also allow them to do the necessary cycling back and scaffolding throughout the year, as they work on different levels for each standard!
Be flexible in how you present your objectives and curriculum. You know that there are certain objectives that must be met for student success, and create a path to meet those objectives, but also offer side challenges throughout your units that allow learners to further explore content that interest them. Require students to complete at least X side quests on their way to completing the main challenge of the unit, but they get to choose which ones excite them.
Badges and points are not enough to engage your learners, Give them real world challenges that matter. You can design the challenges yourself, reach out to the community, or ask students to identify their own challenges. What problem would they like to solve? What would they like to see change? How would they fix it?
Both games-based learning and gamification of learning have a place in your classroom, both approaches can increase students engagement, which in turn, increases student achievement. Utilizing points, levels, badges, challenges and quests can help your student internalize the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful in college or career.