Aug 23 2022

What Is Gamification, and Why Is It Trending in K–12 Schools?

Educators can use gamification to keep students engaged in an increasingly digital education landscape.

Educators work hard to set students up for success in a world that is increasingly digital. A 2018 report by the Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies estimated that 85 percent of children entering today’s K–12 schools will eventually find themselves in jobs that don’t currently exist, making educators’ jobs even more challenging.

Add to that the new technologies vying for students’ attention in classrooms and on devices, plus the mental and emotional difficulties many students are facing following the pandemic. How can school districts engage students and set them up for success in a future world of advanced technology?

“Gamification is everywhere in the world, in every single sphere of everything right at this point,” says Philip Courtney, CEO of Urban Arts, a New York-based nonprofit focused on integrating arts into the classroom. “Students are going to be working in a world where they’ll need to have proficiency in technology, so it’s important to teach those skill sets at a young age.”

Gamification is one way school districts are exploring the new education landscape. And while it’s a concept that can be integrated with technology and digital skills, it isn’t new.

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What Is Gamification vs. Game-Based Learning?

Gamification and game-based learning are both used in modern learning environments to engage students, but they are not the same.

Gamification is when gamelike elements are added to a lesson or activity that does not inherently involve a game. For example, an educator might put students in groups to compete or offer rewards for correct answers. Gamification can be added to nearly any lesson an educator is trying to impart to their students.

Game-based learning, on the other hand, involves placing educational material inside a game framework. The game teaches the concepts to the students and allows them to practice, typically in a risk-free setting. Minecraft: Education Edition is an example of game-based learning.

DIVE DEEPER: Game-based learning prepares students for a digital future.

Why Is Gamification Gaining Popularity with K–12 Educators?

Gamification is popular in K–12 schools because it engages students by meeting them where they are. “Education has to be gamified because that’s the state of the world,” says Courtney. “That’s the world students are living in the minute they walk into a school or the minute they walk out of the school; everything is gamified.”

philip courtney
The classroom setting provides that rule-centered environment, and when you bring structured play to it, that’s when you get the game. Teach them through that.”

Philip Courtney CEO, Urban Arts

Introducing elements of gamification into the classroom engages students using the same methods as many other motivators in their lives. More educators are employing it in the classroom because it works at a time when competition for students’ attention is growing.

“It works because kids love games,” Courtney says. “The definition of a game is rules plus play. The classroom setting provides that rule-centered environment, and when you bring structured play to it, that’s when you get the game. Teach them through that.”

UP NEXT: Educators are using the metaverse to teach K–12 students.

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