Is Gamification the Future of Educational Testing?

February 17, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016

It’s easy to quickly dismiss games as entertainment that should be limited to short time periods each day. But experts and educators are starting to realize just how much gaming can benefit students. I’m not talking about going home and spending four hours each evening on the PS4, but about how games are making their way into the classroom.

Gaming promotes many behaviors and skills that are what we want to see in students. Determination, persistence, curiosity, concentration… all of these attributes go hand in hand with gaming. And if we can get kids to apply those same characteristics to their education it could prove to be extremely beneficial to their learning.

This is being referred to as education gamification. Students enjoy seeing almost real-time results and progression on their “work”. It could be something as simple as a progress bar slowly filling up. Or it could be that the avatar they’ve chosen levels up and gains access to different costumes and accessories. They don’t have to wait months to see a report card. They have visual confirmation on their progression immediately.

Our son’s school uses ClassDojo, which is, in my opinion, a step in the right direction. Although that particular example isn’t strictly for learning per se, but behavior, which can include points for “working hard” or “paying attention”. Each students chooses their monster avatar. Throughout the day, the teacher assigns good or bad points, which can be seen on a screen right in the classroom. At the end of the week, students who achieved the most good points get to play around with their avatar and change their appearance in class. (Bonus: Parents get an email each week with a link to their child’s ClassDojo page where they can see all the points, good or bad, for that week).

Here are a couple examples that clearly show why all schools should be doing what they can to incorporate games into the classroom…

In Edmenton, Alberta, Canada several schools have teachers using Minecraft in the classroom. Minecraft is somewhat of a phenomenon, with millions of players of all ages and teen YouTube superstars have emerged streaming Minecraft gameplay daily. Students are learning social studies. They’re building virtual homes to spec. They can come up with a storyline and build it out in Minecraft. Given, it’s an educational version of Minecraft, which is designed and specially priced for educational organizations. But it’s still Minecraft and kids love it. Teachers can even access and load a project from a library of activities designed previously by other teachers, like the rainforest challenge where students reforest a deforested area as a group.

A third grade teacher by the name of Mr. Pai brought Nintendo DS into the classroom, along with other technologies. His students are now using video games and computers to practice language and math and guess what? His class, previously below third grade level, rose to an average of mid-fourth grade level in about a month and a half.

But it’s not just the learning process that can benefit from gamification. But also testing. Traditional, standardized testing has been proven to cause students anxiety and stress. Not everyone is well-suited to perform under these circumstances. Many simply freeze up in fear and aren’t able to show what they’ve really learned and what they know.

ClassCompete hopes to change that by changing the way students are tested. When students are tested in a gaming environment, they’re much more likely to succeed. Instead of answering 50 questions in one hour, they could be given a three-level game to complete. In that time, they need to gather resources needed, complete challenges, level up and work their way through obstacles using the skills they’ve been learning. ClassCompete believes that by putting into a real-time game environment, the stress and anxiety of traditional testing will fade, scores will improve and we’ll have a clearer picture as to what they’ve really learned and what their skill level is in that subject. This is just an example of course, but it just might be the direction education is headed.

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