This week, a colleague and I are leading a professional development workshop unlike any other one I’ve ever organized. The workshop, called MU Levels Up, was designed to teach about “gamification in education” and we’ve structured the week to leverage game concepts. For those of you who may not be familiar, gamification involves using game elements in non-gaming situations. If you’ve ever earned a star by using your MyStarbucks card or earned points for checking into Four Square at some restaurant, you’ve seen gamification first hand. The purpose behind gamification in education is to foster more student engagement and motivation in course material. While I recognize that intrinsic motivators are far more valuable than extrinsic ones, the truth is that many students (and adults) are motivated by external rewards (grades, class rank, etc). Gamification just takes this process to another level. In a gamified classroom, students participate in scaffolded challenges where the develop expertise and earn badges when they demonstrate competency. The students receive feedback to encourage improvement and assistance to further develop their abilities. Gamified classroom can also leverage game elements like avatars, leaderboards, and Easter eggs to foster student engagement.
But would gamfication work in a professional development capacity with educators? That’s the goal with our workshop. To examine this, we’ve constructed several professional development activities around a larger online game. About twenty colleagues volunteered to play and they are completing challenges that build their understanding of gamification concepts. Besides talking about the process conceptually, we’re using badges and a leaderboard to give the participants some experience with what infusing these tools in an educational environment is like. Participants are also collecting points based on their participation in discussions and bonus points for their contributions based on certain tasks. For instance, in a challenge released today called It’s Elemental, participants are researching how gamification is currently being used on college campuses and identifying the game elements the instructors employed. To receive bonus points, participants need to contribute “evidence-based” examples to the discussion. The goal in this particular challenge isn’t just to show how cool gamification is but to examine the instructional benefits by looking at research and critically analyzing the results. The ensuing conversation should be educational and entertaining.
While I’m sure that I’ll have more observations once the game is completed, the initial reactions from faculty have been positive. We’ve incorporated some challenges that encourage participants to meet one another face-to-face and others that ask them to motivate their colleagues. At this point of the game, almost every participant has contributed to some degree in the game and some have found the hidden “Easter eggs” that we’ve built into the game to foster other collaborative activities. It’s a promising professional development structure that I hope we replicate down the road.