Food for Thought Friday: Gamifying Your Classroom

by Kristie Burk

When I attended ISTE 2015 last week, the educational technology trends were obvious.  There were a lot of sessions on 1:1, blended learning, project-based learning, and, of course…gamification.

Gamification in education hopes to seize upon our students’ (and their parents, admittedly) intense interest in games and harness that enthusiasm for classroom learning.  Unfortunately, there are a number of different ideas about what “gamifying” looks like, which is why I decided to attend Dr. Harrold’s session on gamification at ISTE.

Dr. Harrold, a high school English teacher, has gamified his classroom and offers some great points about how to do it successfully.  He emphasizes that you don’t need technology to gamify your classroom, but it can certainly enhance the game.

Here are some things I learned from Dr. Harrold:

  1. Losing has to be an option.  In a real game, players always run the risk of losing. Students need to have this option.
  2. There should be multiple paths to winning. In most games, there is not just one way to finish the game.  Your classroom should be the same; give students choices as they progress.
  3. Incorporate scaffolding.  Give your students easy rewards early in the game, but make it more challenging as they progress.
  4. Require mastery. In a typical classroom, the students move on to the next material as a whole class.  In a gamified classroom, students cannot move on until they’ve demonstrated mastery of the current material (85% in Dr. Harrold’s classroom). Of course, this means that the teacher has to determine what qualifies as “mastery” ahead of time.
  5. Don’t give away an “A” for finishing the game. Dr. Harrold’s students get a “B” if they complete the material in his class (finish the game) and earn all the “experience” points. Students can earn additional “gems” and “badges” for more points toward their grades if they go above and beyond expectations.
  6. Add “power ups.”  Dr. Harrold gives his students a chance to power up if they earn enough extra gems and badges; they earn special privileges, such as the ability to design their own projects or to create new ways to show mastery.

Dr. Harrold has a great site with resources on how he has gamified his literature classes. If you’re interested in learning more, you can also watch Dr. Harrold’s video on gamification:

Are you thinking about gamifying your classroom? Have you done it already? Let us know at


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