So what motivates our students? What reasons do they have for wanting to learn? I believe every student wants to learn…the challenge is motivating them to learn what I ‘need’ them to learn because let’s face it, we have required content to teach.
I am not a fan of rewards. In real life we do not get “rewarded” for things we are expected to do. I ask my students, “When is the last time your mom or dad was pulled over by a police officer and congratulated or rewarded for stopping at a red light?” They laugh of course, but it is true. What motivates us to comply? Reasons might vary but the bottom line is that we behave in certain ways because it is expected of us. First and foremost, I teach my students that. What motivates them to follow expected behaviors in my classroom…the continued privilege of learning in my environment.
Beyond expectations, I work to inspire my students to be passionate learners in every way I can. But sometimes my students may need a bit more. Here’s where I have turned to gamification, or the incorporation of game like elements in my classroom. I haven’t met a student yet that doesn’t love some type of game. For this reason, I am working to gamify more.
I became intrigued with digital badging probably 2 years ago. The thought of collecting symbols of achievement interested me because I love to collect things (anyone who knows me, knows I have issues…) I keep this in the back of my mind and it stayed on my “to do” list. Back in February I attended OETC (Ohio Educational Technology Conference). One session I attended was on digital badging. The presenters were UC professors and they worked to convince me to use badging. They made some wonderful points, but I didn’t need to be convinced; I needed to know HOW. So during the session I multi-tasked and came across Alice Keeler’s website with a detailed explanation of how to use Google Sheets and Drawings for digital badges. It took me about 6 hours of trial and error to set it up, but the next week I launched a badge catalogue complete with a spreadsheet with earned badges already for each student. My 3rd graders LOVED it! Here’s the “launch”:
Now I have a selection of more than 50 badges students can earn. Some are part of required tasks and others they can pick and choose.
After reading Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera, I started considering other game like elements. This year I am adding item cards that can be traded for extra privileges.
I’m also refreshing an element the GIS use before me used…a point system. Basically points have no value and aren’t tied to grades; they are something just to accumulate and track effort. This year I’m doing “leaderboards” for those that are motivated by that (like when they play a video game, they aim for a high score). I set up two Padlets for my 4th grade groups where I can easily rearrange leaders as they change and all students are identified by their class number. Then I have a spreadsheet to keep track and total points for various tasks. So far it has been easy to track and maintain.
The best part of “gamifying” my classroom however is the focus on mastery and not on “grades”. Students can redo and re-submit any assignment or task. This insures quality and not just mere ‘completion’. It also promotes choice. Students can chose what they want to work for and how. Through gamification I am finding that my students are motivated in ways I had never dreamed and I look forward to expanding my game landscape!
If interested in Gamification, here’s a podcast I did on it and a “how to set up” your own badging system: