Gamification means applying certain gaming elements to the teaching and learning process. It appears at the Horizon Report 2013 as one of the technologies that will have a strong impact in higher education in the near future. Graded's Innovate 2013 Conference hosted some gamification sessions which inspired our Biology 9 teacher, Ms. Beck, to apply the idea in her DNA Genetics Unit.
Two elements of gaming that are very important and actually mix together involve "storytelling" and "challenge". In a game, the fantasy aspect is key to transport the player to another world where a challenge will take place. Below, you will see the storytelling and the challenge for the DNA Genetics Unit. It involves groups of students trying to unlock the secrets of DNA, which takes us to other elements of gaming: "cooperation" and "competition". The competition element involved cooperation within groups to come up with the first DNA model. This process actually mimicked the real life challenge among different scientific groups around the world when the DNA structure was unveiled by Watson and Crick, who won the Nobel Prize. The students watched a movie about the real world DNA scientific competition at the end of the Unit.
At the end of this post you can watch Ms Beck's video describing the whole gamification process in the DNA Unit, which was used to encourage student independence. She reports that students were on task and engaged while she was able to offer more individualized support. In order to encourage such independence, the "challenge" was combined with another important element of gaming which is a "reward system". That involved the use of bagdes and a leaderboard. The badges were created by the teacher and assigned to students as they achieved levels, built vocabulary, found facts, created concept maps, etc. So they were associated with achievement in terms of covering the material/activities. Below you can see the badges that were assigned through Edmodo.
A similar principle was applied to the use of a "coin leaderboard", which indicated the top 20 students with more "coins" collected. The coins were actually physical "bingo"coins that students would get as they completed tasks and levels. The leaderboad is therefore not based on who is smarter, but based on an incentive to cover the material and activities (collect coins). Students could then exchange some coins for "prizes" such as taking a 5 minute break, going to the snack bar, etc
The overall feedback from Ms Beck is very positive, and while she will not use gamification for all her Units, it seemed appropriate for the DNA Genetics study. Enjoy Ms. Beck's full description at the video below!
The ideas about gamification in this post came from the following sources, which you can check for more information:
Kapp, K.M. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. 2012. John Wiley & Sons. Pfeiffer.