The first several entries of this series have focused on specific game-elements (XP, Badges, Avatars, Narrative) with a little focus on grades and conversion. While all of those things are very important, they don't make your class game-based or "gamified" on their own. In fact, it is at this point where I start to differ with a lot of the Gamification advocates out there. Just because your class has a level-up grade system, or just because your students have avatars, or even just because there's story elements in the background, it doesn't really mean you've done anything to change the overall structure of your class. You can still have a standard "rows of desks/daily worksheets/flipped or lecture" classroom even using these tools. To make your class truly gamified, you have to look at the design of your units.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Does your course, by nature, provide students the tools they need to solve problems on their own?
2. Does your class allow for failure and repair, or does it move at an unrelenting pace?
3. Is there a mixture of structure and agency, or is your class completely scripted?
A good video game teaches you through playing the game. Levels begin simply, increase in difficulty, and gradually add new tools and scenarios when needed to complete tasks. This about how Angry Birds starts with a single pig and only one type of bird and gradually adds more birds, and more materials to destroy. In conducting my research on Gamification, one of the most significant findings was the fact students felt empowered to solve problems on their own, using the tools in the GameLab, rather than needing to ask the instructor. That doesn't mean the teacher never helped or answered questions, but there was an intentional design of allowing students to play the game on their own.
To solve this problem, I use a model called QUEST, again credit to Phillip Vinogradov for the acronym and description. My units are set up the following way:
Questions: What are the essential questions of the unit. These work best if you frame them as a challenge to be solved.
Understanding: What information do students need before the unit begins? What are the things they don't know that they don't know. (This is where traditional 'Flipped' Classroom things happen)
Explore: Students interact with the new material. In English, it's simple- They have to READ the book and do something with it.
Synthesis: Using all of the previous steps, students have to work together and put together a project which solves the "Questions". This is usually a longer project with media and multiple steps.
Test: This is where you have the traditional, individual assignment (paper, essay, writing, multiple choice test).
I'll talk more about what I do in each element more specifically over the next few entires, but this is the system I use to guide the Gamified design. Design is something which needs to be intentional, preplanned, and simple to use. While QUEST is not THAT much different than traditional teaching methods (before reading, during reading, after reading), it does allow for the inclusion of multiple teaching strategies ranging from Project-Based Learning, to Flipped Instruction, to Inquiry assessments, and many others. Gamification as a simple "shell" might be minorly motivational, but to really take advantage of the full potential, you need a solid design.