An Extensive Guide to Gamification
Welcome to Constitutionople
Constitutionople is the project I'm working on in conjunction with another amazing educator: Miss Cockayne (stay tuned to the end of this post to learn more about her and where to connect!).
Drawing inspiration from tabletop gaming (Gloomhaven specifically) and RPGs (like Skyrim), this is a project aimed to "gamify" a Unit to make the content more accessible and engaging to our students!
I wanted to share our progress so far in this adventure, explain more about "gamification" in the classroom, and give advice on what we've learned in this process and how you can do this yourself!
"The simplest definition of gamification is: a process for integrating game mechanics into something that already exists to motivate participation, engagement and loyalty" (Michael Guta, Small Business Trends).
Gamification, in an education sense, is taking these ideas into either the entire classroom, the unit, or a project/topic.
An example of what this might look like is turning your elementary classroom into a gamified system - turning in homework gets you points, being ready at the bell gets you points, you get badges and achievements for being a good student. etc.
You can introduce these as minimally into your unit as you want, or as much as you can handle. That's the beauty of gamification - it's infinitely adaptable to you, your room, and your students.
So, why would you use gamification? Are the pros worth the cons?
Pros of Gamification:
Collaboration and friendly competition
Digital and physically accessible
Cons of Gamification:
Gaming just to game
Engagement, but no interest in content
Too much competition
Alienating students who can't adapt
Some students prefer a more traditional curriculum
Faculty and/or admin pushback
In terms of if you should try gamification, well that's up to you. There are amazing benefits, but a lot of issues as well. A huge part of gamification is knowing your class. Talk to you students about doing it before you do. Troubleshoot any worries or concerns you might have with the class. Be prepared with content that speaks to traditional students and have traditional devices accessible. Promote friendly competition, but make sure everyone's still a winner.
Gamification can be so useful in engaging students and increasing their motivation and interest, but it's up to you, as the educator, to make sure the content still comes first.
Earlier, I introduced part of the "concept art" for Constitutionople, the gamified unit Miss Cockayne and I are working on, and now I want to lay out the details of our project with you.
Inspired by RPG mechanics and different aspects of tabletop/board games, Constitutionople sets to bring about interest in students learning about the Constitution, and what it means for them to be American citizens.
This is medium-length Unit built with the idea of individual exploration and collaboration. It aims to take something students might not have a lot of interest in, and merge and blend it with more interactive elements to encourage interest and interaction.
Constitutionople is a world divided into seven different lands, based on different sections of the Constitution. Each of the lands represents an increase in difficulty, with the final land (Ratifical) being the hardest.
The entire unit splits the class into three separate guilds. The students get to name their guild, and decide what sort of ideas their guild wants to promote. Next, students will assign roles among themselves within their guild (some recommended positions: Scribe, Coordinator, Treasurer, Secretary, etc.). Then, each student gets to begin the unit as an "Adventurer" at Level 1.
Within the classroom setting, adventurers will have access to a Job Board, a Constitutionople Map, Maps and Breakdowns for each Land, and Guild Halls. These can be done physically in the classroom, in digital spaces accessible to the students, or both! Take a look at what an online version of Constitutionople might look like here.
The Unit has students doing quests, meeting with their Guilds to discuss local issues and enforce laws, fight minibosses, and bosses, and level up.
Students can get achievements and certifications/badges as they progress. Here's some sample "concept art" for the unit.
So, you want to introduce gamification into your classroom? That's awesome! It can seem daunting at first, but when you break it down, it's really quite simple, and I developed a small list of questions to help guide you through the process.
1. Why Gamify? This is the most important part of beginning to gamify your own classroom. You absolutely need to know the why before you begin. If you're doing it just for the sake of doing it, you might not want to spend the time and effort. If you think gamification can transform your unit or classroom and help the students engage with the material, then absolutely go for it!
Before you gamify, you should also have a strong understanding of gamification. This is an amazing resource for building a gamified unit off of.
2. What's Your End Goal?
What do you hope to get out of your unit? This is important for making sure the gaming doesn't get in the way of the content. You also need to have a clear goal and trajectory for your unit that you can then turn into gamified concepts.
If this is your first experience with gamification, it can be really helpful to turn a lesson or unit plan you already have into a gamified unit so you have some of these goals already set.
3. What Resources Do You Have? Inspiration? Models?
This is an important part of it! Familiarize yourself with gaming so you can understand the elements of gamification. Even if you just like to play Candy Crush on your phone in lines, that's gaming!
Here's a brief list of amazing free games you can check out to familiarize yourself with games and gaming:
Next, you need some sort of inspiration or models. Obviously, these aren't complete requirements, but having an existing game in mind when designing your gamified unit can really help to streamline the creation process.
Play games, see what aspects of them you love and that keep you playing, and
find ways to transform those concepts into your lesson/unit.
For myself, I was heavily inspired by the RPG mechanics in Skyrim and Gloomhaven. I wanted my students in this lesson to have a sense of exploration, adventure, and action that you feel in games like Skyrim.
I was also inspired by the sort of "living world" in Gloomhaven, where characters can take direct actions that effect the town around them and affect the relationships between the players and the town.
4. How Much Time Do You Have? This is such an important conversation to have very honestly with yourself. For the surface-level work Miss Cockayne and I have put into Constitutionople so far, it's been hours of work.
As fun and effective as gamification can be, it takes a lot of time. It's an injustice to your students to implement it if you might not have the time to dedicate to perfecting it.
Knowing how much time you have to do this grunt work is super important, but if you don't have a lot of time, make gamifying your unit a summer project! Or try a smaller project and gamify that.
5. Are You Artistic? You don't need to be artistic to be a teacher or to gamify, but knowing you personal artistic level is important!
Video Games are all about visual effects and fun graphics. Your gamified unit needs these as well, so it's good to know what sort of graphics you want to have and how you'll get them.
Personally, I wanted an old-timey map for Constitutionople. I have enough Photoshop knowledge that it was easy to follow a simple guide for creating a fantasy map for me to do it, but not everyone can do that. It's good to know what resources are out there to help with the visual side of things.
All of the images in the gallery above (the concept art) were made in Canva. Canva is an easy-to-use, free software for designing hundreds of types of graphics.
6. Will It Be Online or Physical? This question determines the entire foundation of your gamified project. Luckily for you, gamification is easy both digitally and physically!
In your physical gamified classroom, you'll need a decent amount of wall and/or bulletin board space. For example, in our Constitutionople lesson, we need space to track:
Lands and Info
Job Board and Quests
That's a lot of stuff! Some gamified classrooms might not need quite that much space, but it's important to know the extent of space you'll need before you begin so you can plan accordingly.
You'll also have to keep track of more papers. For example, our students will receive tickets to signify any gold they earn, and those tickets can be exchanged physically. We have to track the tickets, how many tickets are given out to each student, and track when tickets are returned/exchanged.
Organization is so important in gamification with all of the additional parts.
Earlier I demonstrated (very) briefly what an online gamified class could look like, and here's that link again.
But even if you don't want to make an online website for this project, there are still tons of digital tools out there to help you with your gamification!
Padlet - Online bulletin boards
Class Dojo - Allows you to track students and give badges, etc.
Google Classroom - Digital space to upload documents and certificates
Classcraft - An extensive option for gamifying a class
GooseChase - Create Scavenger Hunts for students
It really isn't as important which you decide to choose. What's important is that you decide and really invest yourself into the format you picked.
I (a proud, self-diagnosed nerd) have a lot of tools and resources related to teaching, gaming, and gamification that I'd love to share with you!
Graphics Creation Tools:
Online Web Presence Builders:
Wix (my site uses it)
Become a gamer!
Learn from others - find educators who have used gamification and see what they did.
Collaborate! Gamifying a unit together can take so much of the pressure off.
Google is your best friend. If you want to create a classroom map, google fantasy map creators. If you want to know how RPG games work, Google it!
Embrace your inner child. Learn to have that fun curiosity we seem to stifle as we get older.
Always ask yourself why you're doing something. If you don't have a good answer, you maybe shouldn't gamify it.
Ask questions! Get in touch with me (Twitter) or other educators.
What do you think? Are you inspired to gamify your classroom now? What tips or tricks do you have for gamification? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks so much to Miss Cockayne for working on this project with me! Miss Cockayne is a pre-service educator at the University of Northern Iowa with a specialization in secondary Social Sciences Education. She shares a love for educational technology and instructional tech
You can find our more about her here: Miss Lauren Cockayne
Check out her blog here: Changing the Social Studies Game
Still wanna connect? Get in touch with her via Twitter!