Feb 26 2020

Ways to Gamify Your Professional Development

Use tech and nontech resources to drive greater instructor engagement.

Professional development can be a challenge at many schools. Educators are pulled in a million directions during the school week, and PD often becomes an afterthought among a pile of other responsibilities including grading homework, planning lessons and attending staff meetings. Nonetheless, it still needs to get done.

Taking a page from her own experience as an elementary school teacher, Stefanie Crawford, an instructional coach at Dunlap Community Unit School District 323 in Peoria, Ill., has developed an approach to PD that gamifies it. She shared tips from her program Tuesday at IDEAcon 2020 in a presentation titled “Ready. Set. Play.: A Beginner’s Guide to Gamifying PD.”

Find the “Why” to Gamify

The concept of gamifying comes out of marketing techniques that encourage engagement with a particular product or service through the use of game design elements and principles. It’s become a popular technique in the classroom to help nudge students into participating in class activities.

Crawford’s use of gaming techniques to help build engagement and enthusiasm among teachers for PD is a natural evolution of this idea.

To make use of gamifying techniques in PD, Crawford suggested organizers start by figuring out exactly what their “why” is. A clear understanding of what you want participants to take away from your PD program is key, and typically revolves around specific district goals for instructor learning.

Next, you can develop a gaming concept that aligns and supports these educational goals. “You should focus on an accessible theme that’s grade-appropriate for the participants,” Crawford said. For example, a “Blue’s Clues”-themed game won’t work for high school teachers. In Crawford’s case, she arranged her PD program around elements of the board game Clue, which fit well for the grade levels the participants work with.

Building Choice and Competition into Professional Development

Choice and competition are valuable elements to gamified learning.

Offering teachers a variety of activities that they can complete in an open time frame allows them to focus on what interests them. Meanwhile, competition can drive participation: Building out a leader board, hosted online or in a physical location, goes a long way toward getting the competitive juices flowing among participants.

Organizing participants into teams also can encourage teachers to join in PD activities. This can foster communication among teachers who may not normally interact with other teammates during the school day. It also allows the PD program to tap into one of its best resources: fellow instructors. Teammates can exchange ideas about what works in their classrooms as they work on PD activities together.

“Gamified PD adds intrinsic motivation in my classroom for me and makes me look forward to competing in more of the activities,” commented one audience member at the presentation.

MORE ON EDTECH: Find out how IT leaders can develop a team of forward-looking educators by changing their approach to PD.

Add Social Media to the Game

Incorporating social media into the mix of digital and physical PD elements is the next level of engagement, Crawford said.

In her PD program, Crawford recorded teachers and administrators as they came into the administrative office where she set up her physical leader board. She also recorded the players dropping participation beads into oversized plastic water bottles, serving as visual references on how each team was progressing in the game. She posted the short video clips on Twitter, which shared with the wider school community the progress the teams were making.

Crawford also recommended adding elements of chance into gamification, such as incorporating dice or a deck of cards that participants must draw from. Serving up Easter eggs or other bonus items within a digital platform offers another gamification element to consider.

Gamifying Professional Development on a Dime

Budget is always a consideration, so Crawford closed out her session by offering suggestions for no-cost ways to gamify PD.

She explained how to use Google Drawings and MTG Cardsmith to design and print out paper cards for gamified PDs, as having physical props can spur participation.

“Keeping the gaming elements of PD simple and fun go a long way toward driving your ideal outcome,” Crawford said.

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