Gamification is a buzzword these days – the idea of taking the key features of a video game structure and applying them to non-gaming situations, turning otherwise potentially mundane activities into play and adventure.
Education is a prime example of an environment where gamification works, and we can see that trend emerging through so many websites and resources available. Classrooms, and even schools, all over are embracing a gaming attitude towards learning.
Research is showing that gamifying education is leaning towards providing students with the ability to reach personal goals, to become more engaged at what they are learning, to realize that failure is ok, and that they can try again. It makes learning fun – something that often gets left behind.
There are some amazing examples of how teachers are putting together classroom games (like Mr. Andersen’s Biology Classroom), and it’s easy to see how it would work well for group settings like a school.
Mr. Daley, another teacher, has written a terrific and detailed post: Education Levels Up: A Newbs Guide to Gamifying Your Classroom (this link now requires joining the website to read, sorry). Here you can learn the basics of video games, important terminology that is used in video games, slang of the gaming community, and some suggestions on how they can be modified to fit a classroom.
But, is it possible as homeschoolers to gamify our learning? And…. how?!
At first, there’s a twinkling of excitement and a rush of ideas when I thought of turning my homeschool into a game. Then the realization that it’s going to involve a lot of planning and some serious work. I needed a way to keep track without having to remember to manually calculate rewards or move my kids’ characters, etc.
So, I started researching. There had to be a way!
Introducing Habitica – a simple “game” designed to help people turn life into a habit creating system by rewarding positive behaviours with xp, gold, and rewards. The program is FREE (although you can donate to the designers and pay for some extras – including monthly membership rewards and gems which you can use to purchase special gear or pets, etc.)
You create an avatar character for yourself, put together lists of habits you want to work on, a daily list of things to finish, a to-do task list and even personalize some rewards for yourself (like cashing in 20 gold coins for a piece of chocolate cake!) Everything is customizable – meaning that you can put a value on the rewards you will receive, select the days that things will be available to complete, etc. Your character will level up as you gain xp for completing your own list of things to do.
Here’s what we’ve done with the various categories to make them more “school” oriented instead of life oriented.
HABIT – we listed habits, both good ones that we want to succeed at and bad ones that we want to get under control. Not fighting, curbing bad language, finishing chores, etc.
DAILIES – I’ve put the school subjects we do in a day, assigning them to the appropriate day (Art is only 1 day a week but we do math every day).
TO-DO – These are where we put “badges.” When we complete a unit or they master a skill (like multiplication) – they get a badge and a bonus set of xp and gold for finishing it.
REWARDS – The system already offers in-game rewards, like armour, potions, weapons, etc. But we also put in our own bonuses such as extra computer time, treats, or such.
The only challenge that we’ve faced is that you need to remember to log in every day and mark down what tasks you’ve completed. If not, your character will have this happen:
(Oops.) That’s a little discouraging for the kids.
[You can put your avatar to rest in the inn if you aren’t going to be around for a bit – like on vacation or are sick or such. That will make sure your character doesn’t die!]
Right now, we are in the process of trying to think of how to make sure we complete our logging in each day to report on tasks complete. I’ve printed off a copy of each of their avatars that I screenshot/photoshopped to put on the wall in our school area. Hopefully a visual reminder of this will help us!
There are even parties you can create and join; we made a family one so all the boys can compare each other’s progress. Plus several other great social options if you are so inclined: guilds, challenges, and a tavern to chat in.
The game is technically in beta, constantly evolving to become better, and looks to have some great future endeavours. I even emailed with the main designer about how we planned to use it for our homeschool and he was excited, telling me they hoped to adapt it to an education setting specifically in the future. So far, we’ve seen new costumes, the introduction of mounts and pets, and other such fun.
No worries about being overwhelmed. They have done a terrific job of created a wiki guide that helps you understand how to use the program and all the features it offers.
What appeals to me as a parent is that while this is a “game” – it’s not visually over active or stimulating. It doesn’t require gameplay or time sink in order to accomplish. We don’t need to be online all day to get rewards or for them to level up. It’s simple. It’s effective. They can see exactly what they have to do and what exactly they are earning.
If this form of gamification isn’t for you, check out these ideas:
- ClassDojo – Reinforce good behaviours with points. Designed for classrooms.
- ChoreWars – Earn XP for finishing chores and housework.
- The Great Behavior Game – Earn points and stars for appropriate behaviours.