Editor’s note: According to Merriam-Webster, The basic concept of gamification isn’t new, but the word itself is a 21st-century addition to the English lexicon. The word refers to the incorporation of game elements, like point and reward systems, to tasks as incentives for people to participate. In other words, gamification is about making something potentially tedious into a game. Gamification is effective because it taps into people’s natural desires for competition and achievement. Teachers, managers, and others use gamification to increase participation and improve productivity.
Our students live in a world that is very different from the world we grew up in. Technology use is standard practice and expected in their day-to-day lives. If we are going to engage students today, it’s important that we harness the technology in both the way we teach and the way we learn. To do that we must also provide professional development opportunities for our teachers to stay connected to the best instructional methods for today’s students.
In Desert Sands, we engage teachers and encourage enhanced classroom technology using “gamified instruction.” Our in-house technology department worked with Alludo to create a self-paced environment that is collaborative and inspires professional development in a fun and thought-provoking way. Alludo (Latin for “play”) is a leading developer of “gamification” for the world of education. Using their platform, inspiration, and collaboration several games were created with Desert Sands needs specifically in mind. One series of games is titled Chrome Wars and teachers learn basic technology skills as well as classroom activities designed to practice what they’ve learned and to step outside their comfort zone to engage students in a different way. Referred to by the DSUSD team as “A Professional Development Galaxy for Educators,” it was named for and based upon the department’s affinity for the Star Wars series of films.
Teachers can begin with “Phantom of the Desert” to gain knowledge to prepare for the “Attack of the Chrome,” a mission to explore classroom technology tools and activities even deeper while strengthening and sharpening those new skills. At the third level “A Chrome Hope” the trilogy continues and brings the “players” to “WiFi Strikes Back” before completing the mission at the final level “The Tech Awakens.”
Teachers are being equipped to enhance their toolboxes with digital tools to help them increase engagement and productivity skills. Additionally, this gamified professional development models that learning doesn’t always take place inside the classroom. By giving learning small pieces of information with challenges to apply what was learned, we are also modeling another teaching strategy.
Beyond teacher use, there are games available for administrators and other school staff (including office and paraeducators) to increase their skills as they work with students at all grade levels. While there are some moderate prizes and stickers for completing levels, many school sites are challenging their teams to compete with one another for points. Derrick Lawson, principal of Indio High School encourages his staff to participate, “We have seen a dramatic increase in the use of Google Tools across the classrooms, pre and post-survey data show a significant increase in comfort with using technology in the classroom.”
Gamification is widespread across our economy with rewards programs at department stores and entertainment venues, so applying that same strategy to professional development not only makes it competitive but fun. In doing so we are seeing significant gains across all employee groups.
While there is still a place for “sit and get” training and professional development, using the Alludo platform and games like Chrome Wars allow for another option for many adults in our district. As we bridge the digital divide, it’s already correlating to increased student achievement. At the same time, we are seeing an increase in collaboration among teachers across the district using the tools and skills that they have gained.
Editor’s note: This article was collaboratively written by members of the Desert Sands Unified School District team.
- Principal Lawson: DSUSD