How can gamification make the world a better place

Gamification - Best Practice

In order to show an expanded perspective on learning with gamified elements, the basic components of every lesson must be highlighted: the context, the learning effects and the motivation.

By Karolina Kaczmarczyk

Game elements are to be used and classified in a context-specific manner so that the greatest possible learning success is achieved. Since gamified elements in the classroom are not equated with playing through serious games or other learning games, the intensity of learning does not depend on the length of the game. It is important to achieve the greatest possible identification with the game that is positively associated with the perceived learning. The added value of using playful elements in education lies primarily in the transfer of what has been learned to specific other contexts, situations and other subjects and their requirements. The elements learned must be discussed and reflected on so that learning processes and goals are explicitly addressed. The extrinsic motivation can increase with the use of gamified elements, as the recipients consciously work towards a certain goal and are rewarded, for example, with points or the advancement of the level. Of course, the individuality of the students must also be taken into account here, as there must always be an intrinsic interest in working with the given elements. However, it is possible to use game-based elements to create a learning environment that is either specifically geared towards the pupils or shows elements that can be customized that can help with learning and thus increase learning success (Demmler / Lutz / Ring, 2014). This includes developing an avatar or using specific learning methods. This increases the feeling of immersion and creates a bond with what has been learned.

A decisive factor for successful learning with the help of gaming elements is the technical equipment that enables the quality and, in principle, the use of these possibilities. In addition, there must be a certain degree of media and creative application competence and, of course, willingness on the part of the teachers to pass on content and to work out the time and effort in developing a game-based concept linked to the curriculum (Demmler / Lutz / Ring, 2014). Even if “basic conditions exist that allow a didactically meaningful use of computer games in the classroom without any problems, due to the habitual patterns of teachers, the use of digital games is not a given” (Biermann, 2012). As a result, an interface between media convergence of entertainment media in everyday life and school must be created, which in the best case goes beyond the teaching context and thus creates context-specific patterns of action that lead to increased learning success (Friedrich / Siller / Treber, 2015). It is important not only to enable participation on the part of learners as well as teachers, but especially the feedback function, which provides social disputes and the awareness of one's own competencies.

Practical examples

In order to create a practical reference, two approaches for gamified learning are presented below. On the one hand the New York school "Quest2Learn", which is based on gaming elements, and "Classcraft" an online software for teaching.

For an overview, there is an online profile for every student, which offers an exchange of experiences and presents the results in the form of a list of learned superpowers. Every skill is special and this realization and the fact that new superpowers can be learned every day also help maintain motivation. In addition, each property can be incorporated into larger joint projects, so that people can work together, as in multiplayer games, in order to achieve set goals. Schoolchildren are valued and exchanges and assignments within social spaces are lived out in the online profiles. In this way, social processes are stimulated online and can also be expanded in the analog world (McGonigal, 2012). Within the school semester, there are so-called boss levels, which represent a special type of intermediate examination and are scheduled at different times. These are two-week intensive learning units in which the knowledge and skills that have already been acquired are to be applied in order to jointly solve a larger problem, such as fighting the boss monster math. A solution can only be found if the skills learned are used. Quests are contested together, and each student qualifies for a specific role, such as "the math expert". In this way, the skills should be used as best as possible in order to work strategically in group dynamics. Accordingly, the pupils are offered an increased chance of success and a special motivation is initiated. It is unimportant whether the skills have been learned or already existed, so that the participants can show an extraordinary level of skills (McGonigal, 2012).
"Learning agents" represent a further performance check, which indirectly and software-based query knowledge and serve as a substitute for exams and tests. The pupils should teach a digital figure solutions to a specific problem. So this figure is deliberately more ignorant than the students. In this form the pressure to perform and the fear of bad results should be relieved: "The result is a learning environment in which students share secret knowledge with each other, transform intellectual abilities into superpowers, try their hand at epic challenges and make mistakes without being afraid" (McGonigal, 2012). According to your ideasusesthe ideal school no games to teach students. Much moreisthe ideal school is a game in every way: every course, every activity, every task, every moment of teaching and evaluation is designed in such a way that the school uses the elementary structures and participation strategies of the most motivating multiplayer games "(McGonigal, 2012).

"Quest2Learn" is a state school in New York for grades six to twelve. The special thing is that it is the first gaming-based school in the world. Pupils have lesson blocks in math, science, geography, English, history, foreign languages, computer science and art throughout the day. These subjects are incorporated into play activities. The principle is that the students take on specific quests, i.e. tasks, and work them out voluntarily and with self-set goals in order to reach the highest possible level in the game, which corresponds to grade 1 in the German grading system. The motivation to learn is maintained through this independence. The system of this school sees the so-called leveling up as a fairer grading system, because only those who work hard can also level up, i.e. reach the next level. This process can replace or supplement notes. The point is that unresolved or negative results do not affect the grades of the certificate as other missions can be sought to achieve the required points. In this way, pupils can increasingly recognize their own abilities and work on them, whereby the teachers recognize and support the individuality of each individual. As a result, negative stress is compensated and there is an increased concentration on learning itself, less on concrete results (McGonigal, 2012).

"Classcraft" is also an approach to bring gamification into the curriculum of schools. This is a less complex system and can be quickly and easily integrated into the classroom. "Classcraft" is an online platform or app that allows you to play together in class. There are three character classes with different properties and powers: healers, warriors and magicians. This enables the students to recognize their characteristics and to come together in teams accordingly. Over the course of the school year, these teams, consisting of five to six students, work and this creates a special social dynamic that strengthens the togetherness, as everyone wants to win. All team members benefit from joint actions. This is how each other is treated and the needs of others are taken into account. The platform is very useful for teachers to manage assignments and teaching materials interactively. The game management takes only 5 minutes and runs in the background during the lesson, while students can collect points and manage powers. What is special is that any action, be it being late or performing well during the lesson, has an impact on the score and experience level in the game. Real powers, such as a question in the exam or the meal in class, can be unlocked through experience points. Attending class is necessary to survive in Classcraft.
An integrated analysis tool can provide parents with a clear overview of the child's participation in the class. This shows that gamified elements can also be found in "Classcraft". Risks and rewards are real, the sense of community and identity is transmitted and the points to be achieved maintain and increase motivation and commitment to learning. The system demands and promotes the skills of the students, especially when they identify with the avatar. This dynamic learning environment changes the student and teacher relationship and behavior. But this can also lead to negative competition, because every participant wants to be the best. The fact that the motivation only comes from the game raises the question of how effective and permanent this is in conveying content.

It can be seen that ludified elements can be applied in practice in the classroom in order to promote and challenge the skills and competencies of learners and to offer the teacher new opportunities to rethink and develop their own teaching skills. It is precisely the mutual learning of both sides that can lead to a teaching dynamic that can deliver special teaching and learning results.


The first part: Gamification in education



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