By Dr. Mohsin Raza
Ever wondered why kids get bored in class? And why playing with silly things interest them more?
Most kids want to create their own environment, an environment of a class room that suits their own personality traits. This is primarily why many a times we notice some kind of a rebellion when teachers try to mould kids’ behaviour according to a traditional class room.
In today’s classroom, teachers are constantly required to adapt different styles and techniques to give students the best opportunity to succeed. The teacher’s most important role is that of a facilitator, providing guidance and support to students through the learning process. It’s not only vital for students to learn the required material, but also critical that students gain a sense of confidence towards their work, and find motivation to increase their learning.
Climbing trees, playing tic tac toe in the class or running wild are few things that children love to do. Climbing a tree is a good example, but it has its own risks that clearly has dangerous consequences.
When a child climbs a tree he learns how to trust his own judgement. He asks himself how high he can go. What if I fail and fall on the ground?
But why kids like to do these things? They simply do it because they feel challenged. They test themselves, they use their minds and get involved in activities which catch their attention. There is something about a game that makes people want to try again and again.
“Good games are designed in such a way that the more we fail the more we want to succeed,” said André Klein, a German educationist. Gaming is a billion dollar industry and the brains behind this industry have spent decades learning how to master motivation and engagement. It’s time to learn from games and how it can be applied in a classroom.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is not a very old concept. Gabe Zichermann (2010) defines gamification as – the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage audience and solve problems. It is the art of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to real world or productive activities. Gamification follows the practices that game designers use to engage players. It’s not about creating something new it’s all about using the same game mechanics that make games so engaging and apply them to non-gaming areas. To gain the attention that can help in adding the value in education related activities.
Why it’s getting so popular?
Gamification has become a bit of a buzzword in the last few years. Since it offers a wide range of advantages for learners and can help to make the overall experience not only more enjoyable, but more effective as well. Regardless of your audience or subject matter, gamification helps the educators in creating a healthy and lively environment inside the classrooms.
There is actually an exact science behind why gamification is getting increasingly popular. It creates a sense of excitement within the learners because they feel that they are accomplishing something. Thanks to the excitement it brings in the classrooms, this experience takes the learners to a new level and keeps them excited.
Challenges of a new age
In this new age, keeping students fully engaged has become a challenge. And it will keep challenging the teachers.
“There is abundance of proof that lecturing is outmoded, outdated, and inefficient,” said Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University who has campaigned against old lecturing techniques for 27 years. He has explained in his studies why the trend towards ‘active learning’ may overthrow the style of teaching that has ruled about 600 years.
In reality, students get tired with having same schedule and tasks every day. They usually avoid going to the class where they just have to write fast and carry on even with hand cramps. Boredom is one of the main reasons students’ performance drops in the class. It may not be easy to accept that our approach might be needlessly boring. “Boredom is described as one of the plagues of modern society and is one of the most commonly experienced emotions in almost all schools today,” said Orrin Edgar Klapp, an American sociologist.
In keeping the classroom alive, motivation plays a very important part. It is a fact that motivated learners learn more than the unmotivated ones. Effective learning only takes place when students are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to learn. When students are motivated, they stay completely focused on the task at hand.
How gamification works?
Gamification works by motivating students to engage in desired behaviours, by showing a path to mastery, and by taking advantage of our human psychological nature to engage in the activities. In games, winning may be the ultimate reward, but it is equally important how someone gets there, and they can only get there by learning and following the rules. There are typical elements which are used in most games, such as: challenge, chance, competition, cooperation, feedback, rewards, winning and progression.
These game elements can be easily extracted from a game content and can be implemented in any classroom. The core idea is to take the engaging elements of games and implement them into the teaching process. As gaining a student’s cooperation is one of the basic tasks in classroom (Anita Woolfolk, an educational psychologist). We can use game mechanics to gain the attention of our learners. The rules of most games can have far-reaching positive effects when they are applied to real-life situations. By adding gamification in the classroom you are creating a ‘hook’ to education that keeps them at the edge of their seats in order to ‘win’ their game.
Do students feel challenged?
Being an educator, we need to constantly ask ourselves that do our students feel challenged in our classrooms? Teacher standing at the front giving lecture bores them out. As a result, their mind diverts to other things, like playing small and silly games in a class. It enlightens their mood because they don’t find it boring. Teaching in classrooms must be based on laws of learning, it helps us in understanding how the students learn and what conditions help them to learn better.
I tell you my personal experience. I used to think that maybe I have dumb students in my class when students failed to perform well. But my thinking changed very much when I started working on game mechanics, and when we played with this idea of making things more fun and enjoyable. Games have the amazing ability to keep people engaged for a long time and develop their creative potentials. Video games are amongst the most popular entertainment media in the world. Around 3 billion video games have been sold worldwide in 2015-2016 and the industry is growing rapidly. The definition of ‘gaming’ continues to evolve, from personal computers to mobile gaming. The rise of mobile gaming has engaged more people, from a 3-year-old kid to a grandmother everyone likes to play. For millions of kids, teenagers and adults, playing video games has become an obsession. In this modern era, we have to keep up our game with the requirements of this new age. We need to look what is in the games that make kids want to play more, and why students prefer spending more time on games instead of doing homework. Why our classrooms lack that energy that pushes students forward and ask for more? These are the basic questions that we should ask ourselves before planning for the new session.
The main goal of classroom gamification is to keep students motivated by making the content more enjoyable. There are reasons why students do not perform well even after providing all the resources. I used to blame everything on my students, thinking that they do not have the skills or potential. However, when I watched them playing games or things that interest them more I realized that they are not as weak as I thought they were. I think it’s just that sometimes our classrooms are not providing what motivate them intrinsically. And therefore they lose interest and do not play effective part in the classroom. Our classrooms must make our students feel at home.
It’s the teacher that makes the difference, not the classroom.