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.
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.
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.