Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Using Games to Increase Student Engagement

Using Games to Increase Student Engagement

Gamification and Game-Based Learning are two ideas currently sweeping the educational world.  These ideas can be extremely beneficial for boosting student engagement in the classroom.  Remember: Game-Based Learning is using a game to teach or practice the content (Minecraft, Sushi Monster) and Gamification is using game mechanics in a non-game setting to boost engagement and problem solving (badges, XP, leader boards).

I have seen kids stay up all night trying to beat a video game (I was one of those kids growing up).  I have heard about adults spending ridiculous amounts of money just to crush some candy (not me . . . at least not yet).  I have witnessed people become annoying on Facebook asking for extra lives so they can tend their virtual farm (plant a garden it's Earth Day).

How can we capitalize on the relentless nature with which so many people play games in education?

Students want to be entertained and we want them to learn.  Take these two facts, smash them together and gamify your classroom for a more intense atmosphere where students are intrinsically motivated to perform at their highest level.

Michael Matera talks about gamifying his classroom by posting XP (Experience Points) leader boards that were not tied to grades, but represented extra credit assignments completed.  He also discussed how handing out physical badges that the students glued to their binders and offering "Side Quests" to allow students to extend their learning on a specific topic of interest raised the engagement level and performance of his entire class.  

Extra Credits does a nice job giving you ideas on gamifying education.  Pay special attention to our outdated grading system talked about at 1:03.

The following are resources you can use to incorporate Game-Based Learning and Gamification in your classroom!  This is an online math adventure game.  Students can currently practice the application and understanding of fractions and decimals with basic arithmetic, algebra and more still to come!  Free, online tool where teachers can award badges to students for accomplishments or academic mastery.  A user-friendly dashboard, student avatars and simple grade reporting are a few features of this website.  Using XP and leader boards can motivate students to reach their full potential.  This is a game-based classroom response system that engages students at a high level.  This game is perfect for the B.Y.O.T. environment.  Use the world-building game of Minecraft to engage and educate.  

The beauty of Gamification is that you don't need access to a lot of technology or devices to get started.  In fact, you don't need any technology at all to start offering Side Quests, XP and Badges to your students.  Once you get them hooked in your game, you will be surprised at the great lengths they'll go to to top that leaderboard posted on your classroom door.

For more resources on Gamification and Game-Based Learning visit my

Written by: Josh Bingham              

Friday, March 28, 2014

QR Codes and Augmented Reality in the Classroom

QR Codes and Augmented Reality in the Classroom

The question has been asked of me recently, "How do we engage students in class who expect us to entertain them?"  My answer . . . "Entertain Them!"

At least trick the students into believing they are being entertained rather than learning the standards and participating in authentic tasks that require critical thinking and are real-world applicable.  In the past year I have seen teachers who incorporate Gamification, The Flipped Classroom, Augmented Reality and a plethora of other strategies to engage their students at a higher level than ever before.

Students have put in hours of extra credit to earn XP Points or be on the top of a leaderboard, create hallway displays connecting their mind-blowing virtual presentations to a static picture in the hallway, and finally start understanding math because the content is now accessible outside of class and, better yet, rewindable!   

Elementary Students Scan QR Codes in P.E.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not the tech person who believes incorporating cutting edge technology into the classroom should be done just because it's cool.  If the technology does not enhance learning, increase stakeholder engagement or benefit students, it has no place in education.

But, when implemented correctly, I believe these tech models can only enhance the outstanding strategies many teachers already employ.

There are outstanding, veteran teachers out there who are starting to lose their touch for engaging students for a number of societal reasons.  So yes, maybe it is time to stop teaching the way that used to work and start teaching the way students learn today.  

Check out the PBS NewsHour Video on the "Flipped Classroom" approach below for a real-world example.

 Written by: Josh Bingham