Teaching trends: 10 ways to gamify education


Teachers are always searching for new ways to engage students, especially as attention spans shrink and today’s students have more access than ever to distractions. A growing cohort of educators is trying a novel solution— gamify their classrooms. What does it mean to gamify student engagement, and how can teachers use gaming techniques to make learning as fun and engaging as Fortnite?

What is Gamified Student Engagement?

Gaming has never been so popular. According to a Pew Research study, 90% of teens (both girls and boys) admit to playing video games on their computer, game console, or cell phone. It’s easy to understand why. Video games offer engrossing challenges as well as the ability to defeat the bad guys and level up. Gamers also have a lot of freedom within games to develop their own strategies, pick their own missions, and even update their characters’ costumes. When compared to a long lecture, most educators can’t compete.

Or can they? Many educators are taking the most exciting qualities of gaming and applying them to their lesson plans. Here are ten ways you can gamify student engagement:

1.     Turn lessons into quests

Every great game starts with a series of missions. As you begin to develop your lesson plan, figure out how you can sprinkle quests and missions throughout the semester. For example, science students may need to create a powerful new invention. Completing quizzes and projects throughout the semester will allow students to unlock pieces of the invention.

2.      Create a leaderboard with gamer tags

Video games are fueled by a sense of competition. Transfer that competitive fire to your classroom by developing a live leaderboard. To encourage your students to participate allow them to create anonymous gamer tags. Once the leaderboard is live, students can watch their scores jump with every completed assignment.

3.      Let students level up

Video game designers recognize that they need to create ongoing milestones throughout the game to keep players engaged and motivated. They do this by giving players the ability to level up after defeating “bosses” or achieving a number of accomplishments.

As you gamify your classroom, think about how you can help your students to level up. For example, maybe they level up after completing a number of assignments or after completing a specific challenge (your version of a boss). Just make sure that the challenges become harder as your students progress.

4.      Give students choices

One of the things that many gamers like about video games is that they can forge their own path through the game. If possible, give your students a level of choice in the classroom. Yes, they’ll have to get through all of your lesson plans but consider offering different assignment options connected to each lesson so that students can explore topics in a way that appeals to them most. (Learn inclusive teaching methods to support all your students.)

5.      Develop achievement badges

Gamers love their in-game swag, including new gear, helpful abilities, cool costume updates, or badges that prove that they’ve mastered a certain skill. You can create your own badges to recognize different achievements in your game. Get creative. You can even create special weekly challenges with badges. For instance, a biology teacher may offer a badge for the student who can take the most selfies with different animals in a week.

Programs like CommonSense.org and Credly allow you to create online badges that you can integrate into your lesson plan.

6.      Offer side missions

Want to encourage your students to explore a topic outside of the lesson plan? Create side mission options. This could be anything from reading an original source to watching a relevant movie, visiting the city courthouse, interviewing grandparents about historical events, etc. Offer extra points and badges for completion of side missions or even level up your students who complete the most.

7.      Turn failure into opportunity

A beautiful aspect of video games is that failure is all part of the experience. When a gamer’s character dies, they end up at the beginning of the level or at their last checkpoint and get the opportunity to try again. This is how gamers improve their skills and eventually succeed.

You can transfer this awesome life skill to your classroom, by offering to let students redo assignments or quizzes if they initially score poorly. “This motivates students to learn for themselves in order to master skills and raise achievement, while eliminating the pressure or stigma of failure,” write Mike Acedo for TeachThought.com.

8.     Encourage teamwork


Some of the most popular video games are MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), which encourage gamers to team up and use their individual strengths and specialties to benefit the whole team. As you gamify your classroom, look for ways you can encourage teamwork. This may be as easy as offering side missions that require multiple people to participate or requiring team projects in order for students to level up.

9.      Add Easter eggs


All the best games include Easter Eggs, little surprises hidden throughout the game. You can plant Easter Eggs, too. Liz Kolb, a professor in teacher education at the University of Michigan, explains that “I drop in surprise rewards for grit, or award bonus points when students help each other pursue a challenging quest.” Hiding Easter eggs is a great way to incentivize thoughtful gameplay and to help grow better future adults.

10. Use great apps

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Gamifying your classroom doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may seem. There are lots of amazing apps that can help you create fun individual games, like Poll Everywhere Competitions. Competitions are an exciting live trivia game that can energize your students and turn simple icebreakers into an interactive game. Additionally, Professor Liz Kolb recommends Gradecraft and ClassCraft, which are programs that can help you gamify your full lesson plan.

Your students are already immersed in video game culture, so use that familiarity to create a classroom experience that engages and excites them. Gamify student engagement and turn learning into play. If you’d like to learn more about Poll Everywhere, check out four ways to use Poll Everywhere in your classroom or contact our support team.