Jul 272011

A new way to manage classroom instruction is slowly creeping into the world of education:  “Gamification“. Gamifying simply means turning the class content and the way students learn into a game with a rewards system, quests, experience levels, and healthy competition. Gamifying isn’t anything new; businesses and social websites have been using “gaming” to attract and keep users coming back for years now.

Here is a short list of groups already gaming:

  1. Facebook – Farmville! Need I say more.
  2. Starbucks – Buy coffee – get more coffee
  3. Khan Academy – Earn badges as you learn math!
  4. Google News – Earn badges as you read the news!
  5. CBS – Big Brother – Earn rewards and badges for making guesses about the contestants on the show!
  6. Western Oklahoma State College – Acquire badges in class for completing technology tasks!

However, gaming is all around you all the time; you have been participating in games under your very nose! Do you have a member card at a gas station or grocery story? More than likely, the store records your purchases and rewards you with coupons and discounts for spending a certain amount of money. Your credit card rewards you when you use it in certain stores or on certain purchases. You receive a reward in the mail – a coupon or discount card. The more you visit or use the service, the more you save – it’s the same concept and it carries easily over into education. Students’ work and desired behavior is rewarded in ways the students care about.

People dedicate hours everyday trying to promote themselves up these virtual scales and reach new levels. Why can’t that same system work in a classroom? Which teacher wouldn’t want his students becoming as addicted to earning badges in Language Arts, Math, or Science as they are about earning rewards in Farmville or leveling up in Call of Duty.

The Basics of Gamification:

1) Badges - These will be the rewards for completing tasks, doing homework, coming to class everyday, etc.These badges are easy and fun to make if you use a little imagination and your resources. Here are a few examples:

Each badge represents some sort of accomplishment. A badge can represent the completion of a science project, writing a great paper, helping a peer with technology, answering class questions, turning in work on time, or doing all of those things in a single month! All you need is an image and a square canvas to paste it on and you have a badge!

Here are a couple FREE online resources for editing your badges:

  1. Aviary – a great online picture editor with tons of options
  2. Paint – A free, downloadable picture editing software

Here are a few great sites for finding icons and images for your badges:

  1. IconArchive – Square and ready to roll – Grab the 128×128 sized images
  2. The Noun Project - Nice, clean looking images!
  3. DeviantArt – Great large images, but you’ll have to hunt around to find what you want. You’ll also have to scale them down.

Here is a zip file filled with some of the badges the Education Gamification Group on Edmodo had put together – Click Here

2) The Rewards - Earning badges is great, but the badges need to come with perks. In younger classrooms, earning a badge may be enough. Kids are so happy to get a sticker on their paper – that is all the recognition they need! However, as kids get older, a simple badge or sticker won’t cut it. So, the badges need to come with  rewards.

Perhaps, when a student earns a badge, he also receives a perk or reward:

  • A homework pass
  • Ability to listen to Ipod during a specified class time
  • Find a cozy spot in the room instead of sitting at a desk
  • A point booster on a test – like extra credit

Or, you could let the badge be its own reward. Many students will want to earn the badges for bragging rights!

3) Leveling-Up – Just like in video games, your character can level-up by completing missions, earning points, and collecting things. This is actually a lot like real life. Do a good job and work hard = promotion and pay increase! So, your gaming system should allow the students to level up.

What is a Level, anyway? – A Level in the gaming world is equivalent to a rank in the military. In the Marines, you start off as a Private, work your way to Private First Class, and, eventually, if you work hard enough, Sergeant Major.

You need to design your class in the same way with your own invented (or borrowed) titles.

Leveling up can occur a few different ways.

a) Badge Bandit Method – The student levels up after he accumulates a certain number of badges. For instance, after three badges he moves up a level.

b) XP Accumulator Method – The student levels up after he accumulates so many XP (experience points). XP is explained below

c) A combination of both A and B – Maybe, a student needs to receive 100 XP points and 3 badges to move up a level

Why should a student care about Leveling-Up?- A few teachers who have been gamifying their classrooms have turned their grading system into a Level System. This means that reaching Level 20 in their new gamified class will earn them an “A”.

Check out the Grading Procedure Section in this college syllabus – Click Here!

4) XP Points – XP stands for Experience Points and it has been a staple in video games for decades. Your virtual character picks up a gem and earns 10 XP, then walks into the forest and slays a few ogres and piles on 100 XP, but the final boss battle can bring 500 XP if you are savvy enough to bring it down!

In the classroom, XP is just another name for the points you are already giving out. A homework assignment could be worth 10 XP, a vocabulary test worth 30 XP and the mid-term project is worth a whopping 400 XP!

Options for using XP

  1. XP to Class Grade Method – At the end of the 9 weeks or semester, you could make your Grading scale coincide with the XP! For instance, if you dish out 2000 XP by the end of the 9 weeks, the student would have had to earn 1800 XP to achieve an “A”.
  2. XP to Badges Method – Perhaps, you could design it so after every 100 XP earned, your student receives a special badge.
  3. XP to Privileges Method – Just as badges can come with a reward, reaching XP peaks is a good way to drive the class as well. Earning a certain number of Xp, the student receives a perk of some kind. Maybe, if the class, as a whole, earns 10,000 XP, you have a video game day! Everyone brings in their Xboxs, Wiis, and PS3!
  4. XP to Class Cash Method – Receiving a set number of XP may award the student with some sort of Class Cash (call it gold, coins, gemstones, whatever). For instance, if you design your game so after 500 XP the student levels up, he is also awarded with 50 gold coins to spend. You could, instead, allow the student to spend XP if you do not want to introduce Class Cash.

Maybe, the student doesn’t automatically receive the perks after being awarded a badge or leveling-up; he must purchase them using his Class Cash! This may be better than the student automatically getting it when he earns a badge or levels-up because he will feel more in control.

What can he spend Class Cash on?  you ask – Here is the list from above you could have available in your store.

  • Extra Credit
  • Play a video game for 20 minutes during class
  • Listen to Ipod during a specified class time
  • Get to open up textbook for 1 minute during a quiz or test
  • Get 30 seconds of teacher help during a quiz or test
  • A Bathroom pass
  • More XP !
  • A bag of chips
  • A pencil or notebook paper

5) Quests! - No video game can be without quests! Mario must save Princess Peach. In Halo, Master Chief works her way through alien worlds in an attempt to destroy the Covenant: An alien race bent on interstellar domination. Even puzzle games nowadays have quests. Check out Puzzle Quest – Click Here! In this game, you battle great warriors and monsters by…(wait for it)…matching color-coded balls!

So, what does a Quest look like in a classroom? – Simply, a Quest can be a class project, a collaborative presentation, the designing of a webpage. Virtually any activity that involves reaching a final, tangible goal.

Although class projects can be called Quests! True Quests revolve around storylines. Which leads me into the next section…

6) Storylines - Almost every video game you turn on has a storyline. A character has to get from point A to point B for a reason – usually saving a princess, a kingdom, or the world.

So, if you REALLY wanted to go all out and completely gamify your classroom, the quests need to revolve around a structured storyline – a “campaign”.

Here is one I am developing at the moment:

Dante Alighieri comes back from his travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven to his kingdom in Italy. (I know, Dante didn’t have a kingdom, but in the gaming world, anything is possible) Anyway, he gets back and his kingdom is in disarray. The people he left in charge have been abusing their privileges, the peasants can’t read or write, dogs are living with cats! The place is a mess. It is up to Dante, and your class, to put the kingdom back together. The students will have to write letters to the commoners, manage the kingdom’s treasury to make sure it is financially sound, and figure out how to build a (virtual) moat that will prevent attackers from the neighboring kingdom. See, it’s easy to work in Language Arts, Math, and Physics! Although mine will center around Language Arts, but, you see how easy it could be to collaborate a Storyline with other teachers in your school!

7) Knowledge Map – A Knowledge Map is simply a guide that illustrates the progression of the class content. Most teachers work from a curriculum and a Knowledge Map is just a gaming word for your curriculum mapped out in sequence. It is a guide – Where do we start? Where do we go next? Where do we end?

Check out Khan Academy’s Knowledge Map – Click Here!

You can see that this map begins with simple Addition and moves through mathematical concepts all the way through Quadratic Equations and Solving for the Y-Intercept.

Having this map available to the students will allow him to understand where the class is going and how concepts are connected. This element is not vital to gamifying your classroom, but it does add an element of organization. Every student will know what challenges they’ve overcome and which are on the horizon.

Here is one I am working on presently – Click Here!

8 ) Selling the game -So, you have your badges made, XP system thought out, and a few quests planned – what next? All of this isn’t worth a hill of copper coins if you can’t sell the product to your students. You must be able to suspend disbelief for the duration of the course. That seems hard to do, but here is a few good ways to help.

Wix.com is a website that allows you to make FREE flash-based websites. You can easily create a virtual village (a sort of class hub) for the students to come to. But, it needs to look and feel like a video game. I did mention that it is FREE!  – Check out Wix! – Click Here!

Here are some great examples of virtual class hubs and quests: (All of these are works in progress)

Weebly.com is another website that is FREE. With this you can organize quests by creating web pages with all the information your students will need to succeed. Maybe, you can even use it to create a story. – Check mine out!

Edmodo.com is another invaluable tool you can use. With this you can create a class and distribute student badges! You can use Edmodo as your student class hub. You can discuss the work here, students can turn in work, and you can even keep a grade book. Did I mention that Edmodo is also FREE! Edmodo is great because it is student-safe, which means that the teacher has complete control over the communication that occurs.

Edmodo is also the place where I began collaborating with all of the teachers to kick this project off!

If you are interested in GAMIFYING YOUR CLASSROOM, join our Edmodo Group with this code = rzaprv

Next, and most importantly, you need to speak “gaming”. Your students will smell a Newb (NoOb) a mile away, so you need to be ready to go with some video game lingo. Here are some basics:

  1. Newb or Newbie or  NoOb or NOOb = Someone new to something. A newb lacks skill and experience. It is no fun being a newb.
  2. MMO = Massively-Mulitplayer Online – These are games that are played by real human beings online in virtual worlds. World of Warcraft is the best example.
  3. Edutainment = Simply, it means games that are educational. Education + Entertainment = Edutainment
  4. Avatar = An online representation of a user in a game or social network.
  5. Guild = A community in an online game working towards a common goal.
  6. PvP = Player vs. Player (student vs. student) competition
  7. Game Master = The individual in charge of the game. In a classroom, it would be the teacher.
  8. Farming = Defeating enemies that are too easy for the player in order to level up the easy way.
  9. Trash Talking = Boastful, taunting chat that has become a staple of online gaming. In a classroom, however, it needs to be controlled.
  10. l33t Speak (Leetspeak) = Slang term derived from the word “elite”. The new online/texting language that has been becoming more prominent that is mostly based on misspellings – “c” = see, “u” = you, NoOb = new person, etc.
  11. Camping = Staying in place in order to gain advantage. Camping is a negative in the gaming world; nobody like a camper.
  12. Hard-Core Gamer = Someone who lives, breathes, and sweats video games. These would be the very tired students in your class because they were up all night playing Black Ops for the Xbox 360.
  13. Expansion Pack = New material introduced to the game after the game has been released. An add-on or bonus supplement.
  14. Mod = Modification – Many games can be modified by the user to enhance the gameplay or make an older game more fun. However, you must know how the program works to be able to modify it with programming language and software. Sometimes called “Hacking”.
  15. Hack/Hacking = A modification that allows the user to have some sort of advantage over others players. This is usually construed as cheating, but some clever hacks can add a lot of fun. For instance, the original Halo game for the Xbox was hacked, so players could jump 30 feet into the air. Only players who knew the “hack” could do it.
  16. Easter Egg – A hidden feature or prize in the game that can only be found by careful observation or exploration.
  17. Walkthru (Walkthrough) – A step-by-step guide to overcoming and beating the game.
  18. Lore – the game back story – everything that happened in the virtual world before the game started
  19. Pwned/ Pwn (rhymes with “loaned”) – when you beat someone badly at a game, you “pwned” them.
  20. Own – same as Pwned – I owned you in that game!
  21. NPC = Non-Player-Character – a character controlled by the game program or Game Master.
  22. Beta = The last phase a game or software program goes through before it is released to the public. The testing phase when programmers looks for errors and problems.
  23. Co-op = Short for “Cooperative”. This is a game meant for more than one player; a cooler term than “multiplayer”
  24. Frag = This means you defeated the player or “killed” them
  25. Swarm or Rush or Zerging – A fast and furious attack on an enemy
  26. Troll/Trolling – The act of deliberately trying to upset someone by being inflammatory or controversial
  27. Uber – Mean “ultimate” or “best” – That dinner was ubergreat! You are uberawesome at that game! (Not cool when anyone over 18 says it.)
  28. XP – Experience Points – Given to a player as a reward for accomplishing tasks in order to level-up

So, those are GAMING BASICS!

If you really want to do this, do some research and see how it has worked out for other teachers.








Another! – Seth Priebatsch: The Game Layer on top of the World

Another! – Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a Better World

If you are interested in GAMIFYING YOUR CLASSROOM, join our Edmodo Group with this code = rzaprv


EDMODOCON 2011 - Education Gamification Presentation

Gamification   PDF    /  Word

 Posted by at 12:50 pm

  One Response to “Education Levels Up! – A noObs guide to Gamifying your Classroom”

  1. I stumbled onto your site because I was trying to figure out how to gamify my class. You gave me a lot of good tips and pointers and I wanted to show you the results.


    Everything is spelled out (at least what I have planned so far) in the Syllabus but you can see a quick representation by looking at one of the Leaderboard pages on any of the classes.