How to Use Gamification to Help Struggling Students

If you aren’t familiar with the idea of gamification, be prepared to thank the Millennials for its inclusion in almost everything. Gamification involves bringing in traits traditionally associated with video games and using them to engage people in other activities. The principle has been used in everything from employee engagement efforts to healthcare objectives about customer wellness. And the educational system is not excluded from attempts to gamify previously uninspiring activities.

But why is gamification popping up everywhere? It’s actually pretty simple; because it often works. In fact, it might be the ideal way to help struggling students get back on track.

It is hard to engage struggling students in the classroom. If they are having trouble grasping the material, they may be less inclined to be involved in a traditional classroom lesson. These aren’t the kids that will volunteer to go to the board to work out a math problem; they aren’t raising their hands to answer questions, and may even be afraid of asking for help.

Adding a video game component can increase their comfort level. Various studies have shown that African-American students traditionally game more than their Caucasian counterparts, so this can be effective for reaching out to certain minorities in the classroom. It gives them a system that they enjoy, allows the information to be conveyed in a new way, and may feel like a more level playing field psychologically.

Not every student learns well by simply reading the textbook or managing homework. Some students prefer auditory input while others need hands-on demonstrations. Video games have the ability to combine all of these traits into a single learning system. And the increased entertainment value might make it more interesting to students in general.

In some cases, it may help students achieve flow, a psychological state where the person is fully immersed in the task at hand. This increased focus and absorption helps improve performance by completely engaging the brain.

A competitive spirit can also be fostered through video games. Students that are struggling in the grades department may find more intrinsic motivation through video game-based success. Leaderboards and level advancement can help students see how they are improving, even if they don’t immediately connect the achievement with learning.

Since gamification in edtech is relatively new, it is important to keep an open mind about its potential use in the classroom. If you see the value, then try to extol its virtues to those with decision-making authority. This may help your struggle students get what they need and give everyone a chance to have more fun. With the potential rewards so great, why not give it a try. Your students may do more than thank you.

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