Gamification in Science

If the question, “Do you use gamification in your classroom?” had come up before this week’s readings and videos, I would have answered no. Now I realize that I do incorporate it into my classroom on a limited basis. Using games to teach important content knowledge while teaching technology and problem solving skills is becoming more popular for students and teachers. As a science teacher, I find it important to engage my students while giving them a different perspective of the content. Seventh grade science in Texas focuses on Life Science including cells, body systems, genetics, adaptations, and flow of energy. Many of these concepts are very abstract for my students and the games give them a working knowledge of the information.  It also helps prepare students to think differently about learning and prepare them for a new technological norm.  When my students enter the workforce, gamification could be a regular part of not only education but the workforce as well.

gamification

One site that I have found very useful is http://www.sciencegamecenter.org. This website compares different science games including information such as publisher, cost, age/grade level, and available formats. Another great website that has lessons and interactive games is http://www.spongelab.com. When I look for games to use in my classroom, I look at the age level of the game and the concepts covered to see if it goes with my curriculum. Then I play the game to see if it actually makes the content easy to understand or more confusing. I also look at how easy it is to play. Will it be frustrating or boring for my students? The best games are those that engage my students in content and challenge them. I prefer games that create an intrinsic motivation for my students although my students really enjoy games that have external motivation such as having a higher score than their teacher!

I have tried out several different games in my classroom this year. I have found that some are best used as enrichment for my higher level students while others work well for students still struggling to gain an understanding of the scientific concepts. I used three games during my unit on cells, Build-a-Cell, Cell Command, and Cell Craft. The Build-a-Cell activity did not have a lot of interaction. I recommended that my students use it to review the cell organelles and their functions as it did not have a high engagement quality. Command Cell was a simulation game at a higher level. The game required students to discover think deeper about cell organelles that is required of my students. My higher level students really enjoyed this game. They were able to take their learning deeper than I was providing during class and work independently. They also enjoyed challenging each other to see how far into the game they were able to survive. Cell Craft was a great game for all students to engage them in our cells unit. It provided a tutorial at the beginning and let the students dive right in. It provided a dictionary for students when they couldn’t remember what a word meant and they could work at their own pace. It compared cell organelles to common items that the students would understand such as AtP is for energy like fuel in your car. Students were able to challenge each other by their cell’s amount of energy. The game helped them make connections and understand how cells work.

Another game that my students just used during our body systems unit was Code Fred: Survival Mode. Students needed to help Fred use his different body systems for survival. This game not only helped students apply content knowledge but it was a fast paced game that engaged students quickly. Not only did they have to find what they needed to survive, they had to do it quickly. All of my students enjoyed this game. The game challenged them to understand content but also do it quickly. They were able to see the body systems in action, such as your adrenal glands sending adrenaline throughout your body in a fight or flight response.

I have found several games that I plan on incorporating into my last two units of Genetics and Variations including Crazy Plant Shop and Dragon Breeder.

Through discussion, students have given positive feedback on using these games during class. They get a hands on look at specific concepts while enjoying themselves. I also like to change the format of play from iPads and Computers to help them learn to use the different devices effectively. I have had many students include references from the games in their short answer items on tests and quizzes. This shows me that it really is making a positive difference in my classroom for many of my students. When done purposefully, gamification can enhance student learning.

Resources:

Games in Education

Design your Classroom like a Video Game

4 Ways To Bring Gamification of Education To Your Classroom

 

 

11 thoughts on “Gamification in Science

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  1. I have enjoyed reading all the posts this week. Gaming in education is so fascinating. Most of my time is spent on ICT standards and technology integration. I don’t have my own classroom so I don’t get to do fun stuff like this. It has been an eye opening week.

    I can see how effective gaming could be with science. There are so many concepts in science that are hard to grasp. The games could really help with these.

    I think it is amazing that students are referencing the games in short answer quiz questions. That seems like good evidence that the students are applying their new knowledge back to the game.

    I have never played Mine Craft but found out a lot about how collaborative the game is. The drawback to this game, from what I gathered in the resources I read, is that it takes too long and doesn’t mesh with the traditional 45 minute class period timeframe that many classrooms have.

    Do you use any games where the students have to collaborate with other students?

    1. Laurie,
      Thanks for your reply! I have used collaboration games in the past. A fellow teacher and I used mangahigh.com with students. They worked together and could even compete with other classes around the world. It was a math instructional game. The hardest part for me is finding quality science games to use with my students that are more than skill and drill but also focus on the level of my intended objective.
      Michelle

      1. Thanks for the tip on the collaborative math game. I have a great list from this week’s posts to bring to my teachers.

  2. Reading your post reminded me of the connectivity between subjects that technology can enable. For example, your references to science-specific games could also correlate to some lesson assignments in Health class. With properly planned collaboration between teachers I can easily see how some of the games you referenced could simultaneously serve more than one objective. Additionally, the graph you included that depicts how easily we can quickly stray into frustrating or boring makes me ever mindful of how critical it is to ensure games are properly qualified and implemented, if only because most of my students are gaming “experts” outside of class. I also connected with your thoughts re: external motivation, which I interpreted more as the power of peer comparison. Lastly, as I move through gaming centric assignments or lessons I (try) and pay very close attention to the objective and subjective scoring needed to assign defendable grades – which can be difficult when the fun-factor exceeds the educational value of the application. Thanks for another great post!

    1. Kim,
      I have a hard time finding quality science games that engage students and are at a higher level with my objective. It is easier to find skill and drill games where the fun exceeds the educational value. The games that have high educational value often are considered boring or uninteresting by my students. Games definitely have a place in education –finding the right ones can be a challenge. Thanks for your reply!
      Michelle

  3. Michelle,

    I really liked the links you provided. I think “gaming” in the classroom can be very engaging and encouraging for students, but there are times that I find it hard to find truly beneficial sites that are completely on topic. Thanks for the resources.

    Tara

    1. Tara,
      Finding quality games is something I struggle with as well. Occasionally I will make games available for my students outside of class through my website but not during class time. I definitely do this for the skill and drill type games that students enjoy but don’t necessarily fit my higher level objective. Thanks for your reply.
      Michelle

  4. Hey Michelle,
    What great sites. It’s amazing to see how many great teaching tools are out there that we can incorporate into our classrooms. While looking at some of the websites, I was thinking how it would have been great to have some of these science games back in the day of high school biology. What I really liked best was the science game center website. I enjoyed how you can break down lessons by topics to select games that may work. If you find anything similar for the elementary level, please feel free to share that info with me! 🙂 My one question is, how would you maybe plan to differentiate for your struggling learners with these games? Would you have them work in pairs? Great post as always!

  5. I loved reading your post – thanks for the links to those science sites! I have a very inquisitive 4 year old and science is all his rage. I want to do as much as I can to support his interest, being a biochemistry major in college, myself. I have found that he has a lot of questions that have complex answers – as most scientific questions do. He is very interested in the way things work, he has an engineer’s mind. I am really excited to look at some of the resources you use in your classroom and see if they might be something he could benefit from. My largest obstacle with gaming at this age, is the technical skill required for the game. He has a pretty good learning curve, but by the time he understands how to control games and play them effectively, the attention span time limit has almost expired. In my experience, the theory of gaming has also been very useful for working with younger students, or students that are not comfortable working on a computer quite yet. We use gaming priciples to create our own games, or try to create a working model of different things and talk about why we chose to use certian materials based on their properties, etc.

    Thanks again for your post – I found your post really beneficial!

    Allie

    1. I can see how younger students would have more trouble than older students with learning new games. My son learned to play video games early and learned quickly at around age 4. My daughter is six and doesn’t have an interest or desire to learn how to play video games such as the Playstations and Wii like her brother. It really depends on the child.

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