Gamification in Education: Hype or Useful Teacher Tool?

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This year at the TESL ON conference, Deborah Healey, TESOL International Association, will be one of our Keynote Speakers. The following blog post was written by Deborah. Here she gives you a taste of what she will be sharing at the conference.

Gamification in Education: Hype or Useful Teacher Tool? This is a question that I’ve been asking for the past few years, as I’ve tried gamifying some of my classes. Most teachers (myself included) have long used games in the English language classroom and in teacher training to encourage motivation and add a fun factor to learning. Some teachers have been able to use game-based learning, where a game sets the context for learning. Examples include Minecraft, where student discussion is the focus, or a game about disaster relief that encourages vocabulary development as well as collaboration.

Gamification, however, is something different. It’s taking game techniques (“mechanics”) and applying them to non-game settings, such as business or the classroom. If you’ve ever earned points for purchases, you’ve used that game mechanic – earning points toward a reward.

Gamification Elements in the Classroom

My talk at the TESL ON conference will be about ways that teachers can add gamification elements to their classes. I’ll start with easy approaches, such as changing names of classroom practices to their gaming counterpoints (“quests” for “projects,” for example) and using badges. One of the most powerful mechanics for the classroom requires a little more work to set up, but it is well worth the effort. Everyone starts at zero, and gains points with assignments, quizzes, and activities. How is this different from grading, you ask? With grades, we normally count down – students start at 100%, and drop with every mistake on every quiz. Adding up from zero is especially motivating for weaker students who get discouraged with grades. With points, they see themselves going up. You still have a minimum number of points for passing the course, but doing extra credit makes a visible difference in points – so even weaker students are more likely to do the extra work rather than just giving up. As a teacher, you need to calculate the total number of points so that you can set goals. These can be intermediate goals (levels) or final goals (minimum required to exit the course).

Gamification: Tips and Tricks

I’ll also talk about my experience with gamifying classes, including several lessons learned, and I’ll mention some useful tools for those interested in trying to gamify their classes.

I hope to see you there!

Bio: Dr. Deborah Healey is the 2018-2019 President-Elect of the Board of Directors of TESOL International Association. She teaches online teacher training courses for the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, primarily focusing on technology in education. She has also taught both ESL and EFL at community colleges and language institutes. She has written and presented extensively in the US and internationally, most recently in Indonesia, Georgia, Croatia, Serbia, the West Bank, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Thailand. Her recent areas of research include gamification, language and identity in the Middle East, massive open online courses, and online teaching approaches. Her doctorate is in Computers in Education.


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