Gamification is the use of game design elements and game mechanics in non-game contexts, such as language education. The concept of gamification – under various names –  has been increasingly employed successfully in many web based businesses to increase user engagement, to amplify the user’s “experience” in a memorable way. In short, to make it “fun”.

For some time now, particularly with the infiltration of gaming into the lifestyles of most young people, researchers are suggesting that gamifying learning could be used in web based education as a tool to increase student motivation and engagement. As any teacher knows, increasing student motivation and engagement are essential to any permanent learning.

What is gamification? It is the process of introducing game elements into an experience. Here are four practical ways:

1.  Adapt familiar games for classroom use.

This is a bit of hack, to be sure, but it means linking learners’ presumably pleasant experiences with games they have played to learning goals. Scavenger hunts, bingo, dice games, and Scrabble have been around for ages and can be adapted for virtually any type of learning goal. For example, you can put vocabulary words on bingo cards and ask students to match the words after hearing the definitions. Or, working in groups, students use Scrabble tiles to spell out answers to questions. Or you can adapt more modern games and apps, such as using the app Goose Chase to create digital scavenger hunts or, create a photo collage or video, or search for an answer online related to a specific topic.

2. Play digital games. 

Many tech companies have developed applications to implement educational objectives. Students can learn vocabulary or grammar while “playing” Kahoot!Quizizz or Quizlet, for example, accumulating points and recording their progress. (Many of these apps use “game motifs”, such as playing cards and scoreboards.) These free platforms allow teachers to create multiple-choice questions that student-players answer on their own devices. Teachers can also choose from literally thousands of quizzes already shared on these sites or create their own content-specific questions to use as pre-assessments, quizzes or exit tickets. Breakout EDU also has a collection of digital games, puzzles and ciphers that promote critical thinking.

3. Create a quest.

This one has become a classic. A quest is a mission with an objective, easily adapted to educational goals. For example, students participate in an adventure quest based on the weekly current events. Students, working individually or (Better!) in small groups, answer a specific text-dependent question (and site their sources) to earn points. The student or group with the most points after a given period of time wins a prize. You can also post additional questions on Remind and Twitter to allow students to earn bonus points. Quests can also be independent projects or activities for the students who have finished their work.

4. Earn badges for mastery.

As you would know if you were ever in “the scouts”, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts recognize mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by rewarding student accomplishments and mastery with symbolic badges. You may say this sounds a lot like giving grades, but badges can go beyond grades because they represent more than just academic achievement. Badges can be presented digitally using Classbadgesor can be displayed for all to see once students have earned a specific badge.

From these examples, you can see that gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game, using elements such as physical game-ware (like game boards or game apps), teams, competition, long-term goals, physical merit badges, public recognition. Gamification requires creativity, collaboration and a sense of play – a shift in mindset toward making learning fun as a top priority.

Many of us tend to avoid “games” because of the connotation that we might be trivializing learning. But we are crazy to ignore the engagement value that games and gamification can bring to the classroom. There are numerous ways to bring “gaming” into the classroom that promote learning and deepen student understanding of any subject matter. Whether we are looking to bring some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, we can use gamification principles to enhance learning and student engagement and address target standards for their students.