As language educators, we think of games as a handy tool to teach or practice discrete grammatical concepts or vocabulary, but Dr. Kay Berkling suggests we should look at gamification in a broader sense and gamify teaching in general. “If you think of life as a game, it’s more fun, isn't it?” Definitely, it is in Dr. Berkling’s classroom!
A professor at DHBW Karlsruhe (Germany), Dr. Berkling works on computer-based learning in the context of gamification (check out this project here - it’s quite amazing). A few weeks ago, Dr. Berkling gave a workshop at the University of Barcelona on gamification of teaching. What is it? Gamification of teaching means using game thinking and game mechanics for educational purposes. It is not restricted to using games in your classroom - think bigger!
1. "Reward with new tools to acquire more skills"
Just like in the Angry Birds game, Dr. Berkling explains, the best reward a player can get is… getting a greater challenge by moving to the next level. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, right? Why would you want to reward a student who just completed a task with a more challenging task? Yet, that is how human psychology works. Our constant desire for competence inspires us to run faster and jump higher. “Don’t give your students a stupid star. It’s disrespectful. Give them the next worse thing - a more difficult task.” Push your students to the next level by increasing the complexity of the task and showing them how much they can accomplish with newly acquired skills. That is the sweetest reward ever!
2. "Failing is fun and never final"
As teachers, we are conditioned to think that failing a student is horrible and should never be done. However, when you play a game and fail, what happens? You are a bit disappointed, of course, but the drive to win goes up. You keep playing until you achieve mastery. “It’s quite surprising how many people would not move to the next level in a game until they perfected the current level," Dr. Berkling observes. We can use this natural inclination towards perfection in education and give our students more opportunities to master whatever concept they are working on. For example, you can allow your students multiple attempts to complete a quiz or a homework. Re-submission of a final draft until teacher’s/peer’s feedback is fully incorporated produces a deep sense of satisfaction and enhances learning. Your students will be forever grateful for a chance to perfect one thing before they move on to the next one.
3. "Life can be viewed as a game”
Turning your course into a treasure hunt? Designing home assignments as a series of steps that help to solve a mystery? Letting your students decide which path to take and where it would lead them? Sounds addictive, and that is why games are addictive. So, why wouldn't we use it to boost learning and motivate our students!