A few months ago, I heard my husband tell my children that they could “level up” if they did the dishes properly. It was as if he lit a fire under their bums because they’d never washed the dishes better… the first time! After looking at the beautifully gleaming dishes I wondered, “Did he give them some kind of treat?” or “Did he up their allowance for this?”

Nope! He did none of that.

My kids’ only incentive to doing a good job was “levelling up!” A gamer-speak version for getting a sweet treat or some extra money in your piggy bank. The levelling system was completely insignificant. Levelling up offered nothing tangible but the intrinsic reward of getting to the next level.

Now… how do I apply this thinking to my students?

Gamifying My Classroom

My students love games. They love video games, board games, word games, and race-to-tidy-up-your-table games. They love talking about games. They love writing about games. And they even love inventing recess games that look a lot like video games.

So why am I not turning everything in to games?

Apparently I am.

This week, a new student joined our class. While my students were completing a summative assessment, I used the opportunity to conduct a numeracy evaluation on my new kiddo. At one point, while asking him to explain his mathematical thinking, he said to me, “This is fun. Why don’t all of the kids get to play this game?”

It was at that point that I began to realize that most of my classroom activities are game-like. But I need to do more and I need to be more deliberate about my choices. And so.. I’ve made a turning point. In an effort to finally speak my students’ language, I’m trying two new things to level-up my classroom.

  1. Minecraft Edu
  2. Class Dojo

Minecraft Edu

Photo Credit: kjarrett via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kjarrett via Compfight cc

My children and students love Minecraft. For years, I’ve been listening to the high-level of conversations, collaboration, and logical thinking that take place when one or more kids is clicking away at the keyboard. This game had piqued my curiosity. Over my summer break, I began inquiring about Minecraft and our new 2nd Grade Common Core Science and Social Studies standards. It was when I came across the blog of completed COETAILer Mike Hoffman’s blog (@mikehoffman), that I was inspired. Having read through Mike’s blog and working with one of his former colleagues, my team and I will be modifying his Farm-to-Table unit using Minecraft Edu to suit our classroom needs. The kids (and teachers) could not be more excited!

Class Dojo

Class Dojo is a fun and interactive tool to help students earn (and lose) points and badges when they are following (or not) classroom agreements. For my 2nd graders, this tool is perfect. It’s got interactive functions I can use in my classroom, it has been set up on the children’s tablets so they can monitor their own success, and their parents have access to what we’re doing in the classroom and how their child is progressing.

Next Steps

After reading KQED’s Mind/Shift article, “Five Reasons Why Video Games Power Up Learning” I have come to believe that there are two important reasons for me to gamify my classroom:

  • build enthusiasm because of an emotional interest
  • critical thinking and logical thinking skills

I know I have a lot to learn and that there are bound to be a lot of potential failures on the horizon, but gamificiation is speaking my students language. And I’m on my way!