Digital games have been recognized as an important leisure activity for children and adolescents (Su & Cheng, 2014) and it would be no surprise to find even the slightest traces of them in classrooms today. Games have the ability to present clear objectives, which can be divided further into short-term achievable goals—giving a sense of ‘progressing’ to players by providing rewards to motivate (De-Marco et al., 2014). Such a method is familiarly referred to as Gamification, applying digital game elements in non-gaming situations to motivate user behavior (Educause, 2011).
There have been a number of educators and researchers who have successfully applied gamification in classrooms. Dating to previous years, for example, Schwabe and Goth (2005) designed a mobile game prototype to explore the opportunities of supporting learning-oriented games in a university setting. Huizenga, et al. (2009), developed game-based learning activities for secondary education, combining situational and active learning with entertainment. Their developments have enormous potential for enhancing learner’s engagement as well as motivation.
In 2015, Latulipe et al. primarily used the method in a flipped class of computer science. Their results suggested that the students involved had relatively higher grades on their finals on average, compared with the previous year’s student who didn’t have the same method.
Gamification can be applied to both classrooms and out-of-class teaching. Yildirim (2017) applied gamification elements such as the use of EXP points (Experience points) and levels, and allowed his students to earn badges in class or through online learning. After 14-week of lectures, he found that the gamification method had increased students’ attitude and achievement towards his lessons, compared to its non-gamified counterpart.
But what does it offer anyway?
Lee & Hammer (2011) suggested that gamification may motivate the learners better to care more about their schooling, yet the method goes beyond defining its definition. Knowing how it can benefit classrooms must also be accompanied by information about how it won’t only bring drawbacks to our door.
The social aspects that gamification brings onto the table might also be the reason that drives students to be motivated further. Bandura (1986) believed from a social cognitive perspective that self-regulated learners direct their attainments by setting themselves certain goals that are able to challenge their growth (Bandura, 1989c). This particular self-directed learning concept extends beyond cognitive skills; which includes self-regulated motivation and socially supported self-directedness (Zimmerman, Bandura, Martinez-Pons, 1992)
According to McGonigal (2011), games are able to help users to not only recognize the value of extended practice, but they’re able to develop qualities such as creativity, resilience, and persistence through extended man-hours. Not only that but investing in games can develop problem-solving skills within a similar context of games (Gee, 2008).
The method often aims to benefit the learning process by increasing task engagements (Brull & Finlayson, 2016). One of their elements, for example, the progress bar, has been analyzed by researchers before. Dicheva et al., (2015) believed that the progress bar closely engages with students as it generates a feeling of completion towards students’ original goals. Besides, other gamification elements that are commonly applied such as leaderboards, encourages student’s engagement through competing with others (Kapp, 2012).
What could be its drawbacks?
Well to start, students of the Ataturk Faculty of Education (comprising 55 female and 10 male) participated in a study conducted by Bicen & Kocakoyun (2017) to shed a light on the effects of a gamification approach on students’ perceptions. One of the main reasons why the method they were using caused inconvenience into the classrooms was that problems concerning the internet connection can affect students’ active participation.
How educators design the gameplay is crucial for the method’s success: the game setting, for example, needs to be carefully thought to make it as engagingly insightful as possible while not making the whole process seem dull. This is done to capture the student’s attention further and better, especially when the method is going to be used for an extensive amount of time.
Not to mention, motivator elements that gamification have may not be effective enough for students who aren’t natural born competitors. This is essential to be thought-off before (in the content-designing phase) as it can cause non-competitive students to lose their interest if these elements were the center of the attention.
Finding out what is suitable to be applied and what doesn’t is one way of achieving a highly successful classroom. A technology blogger and game developer Kathy Sierra suggested teachers to look beyond the surface, to find a balance between skill, knowledge, and high-quality feedback (Walker, 2014). Walker quoted Sierra, “My recommendation is to not try to sugarcoat tasks in the classroom. A good teacher can capture their attention and engage them before they even have a chance to think they aren’t interested” (2014).
It is important to figure out beforehand, just what exactly do the students need? Not all methods can be applied equally and if it is possible, not all of them are actually required. Encouraging students to set several attainable goals at the very beginning of the learning process—in accordance with what they want to achieve by taking a certain class, could make quite a difference. As previously researched by Bandura (1992), self-established goals are able to make students committed to a specific achievement for a positive self-evaluation.
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