More than merely fun, José Carlos Cortizo highlights the direct feedback received by the student, the fact that they immediately get their results.
José Carlos Cortizo is a professor at the Universidad Europea de Madrid (European University of Madrid), where he has been using gamification with his students. He is also the organiser of the Gamification World Congress, an international gamification event that is celebrated yearly.
What inspired you to use gamification in the classroom?
When we started using gamification in the classroom, it was because of a common problem shared in all of the educational stages: the lack of motivation in the students. Gamification allows the learning process to be fun, taking us out of the norm of the traditional lesson format, and involving the students in all of the classroom tasks, making their experience much more enjoyable. In the end it’s very simple: if you are having an enjoyable, gratifying, and entertaining experience, you have a good time, and you learn much more.
Does one always apply gamification, or only in cases where the students are unmotivated?
In my experience, the general case is that every class has an unmotivated student. The problem is that quite often, the teacher doesn’t have a clear way to transform the class into something unique, something more inspiring. Gamification provides just such a tool, which serves at times in combination with others. If the teacher succeeds in creating an enjoyable class, involving the students so that they work and enjoy themselves, then the problem is solved.
The Zombiología project, which bases all of its classes on a gamified zombie experience with an ongoing zombie narrative. It’s an extreme, undoubtedly, to base the whole class on gamification… At university, gamification is used more as a tool to give feedback to the students when they bring in their work and carry out their assignments. Each time the students meet hand in the assignments, they receive immediate feedback, for example, a series of points that build up credits for the students, allowing them to be excused from some assignment if they wish, or granting them some additional pay-off which can be used at their convenience. We can use a small or large degree of gamification depending on the problems we have, and it’s important for the teacher to be comfortable with these techniques.
What does it have to offer the teacher?
Well, obviously, it’s more enjoyable, especially when compared to a more traditional class. If a student has to choose between going to a class in which they are given a talk, or another in which a game-like activity is developed, the student will always choose the latter. On the other hand, the teacher is able to give the student immediate feedback, and in doing so addresses another one of the problems that crops up in Education, that the students perform activities but don’t receive feedback until the end of the course or until the moment in which they receive their grades.
Does gamification really guarantee the assimilation of curricular content?
Gamification is a tool, and the tool alone doesn’t guarantee effective learning. One must design the curricular content and give it a unique twist with gamification. If the content is badly designed, or the gamification introduced as just another simple game as opposed to a learning tool, failure is assured. It’s very important for the teachers to be clear about what they want to encourage with each activity (teamwork, problem solving, or curricular content) and to design a gamified experience according to this. But the risk for me isn’t in gamifying, but in having a clear idea of what material needs to be covered with the students, and gamification can definitely help in achieving this.
How should a teacher begin putting gamification into practice?
I recommend the teacher to begin by watching some kind of gamified experience, or to get involved with colleagues who are applying these practices in the classroom in order to draw his/her own conclusions, and to later put these ideas into practice.
Wrote by Adrián Arcos.