Game-thinking in the writing classroom

Gamification in education is not a new notion. Nor is it a fly-by-night thought. It’s here to stay and it can certainly deliver some outstanding results. In this blog, I’ll look at the theory behind game thinking and nudge theory in the education sphere and explains how we’re putting the theory into practice with WriQ.

What is gamification in Education?

Gamification in education

Gamification in education (also known as gamification in learning, gameful thinking or game principles for education) operates under the assumption that the kind of engagement that gamers experience with games can be translated to an educational context towards the goals of facilitating learning and influencing student behavior. 

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, while teaching an 8th grade ELA class, I asked my students to brainstorm ways in which they experience the elements of fiction: setting, character, plot, and theme.  Most of the answers were what I expected - examples from TV shows, movies, books, etc.  One student noted (loudly, I might add) that he didn’t watch tv or movies, but all the things we were talking about he recognized in the video games he played.  It was a powerful “teacher learns from the student” moment.  Having never really been a “gamer,” I hadn’t considered video games in the same way that I had other forms of storytelling.  Clearly, he was right.  Video games had at least as elaborate settings, characters, plots and themes as movies and books and TV shows.  I began to ask how I could make sure to incorporate that further into my teaching.

So what makes something gamified then? Gamification in learning involves incorporating game elements into learning to motivate the learner - elements including immediate feedback, mastery or leveling up, narrative, progression indicators or player control. Most of all, gamification makes learning fun.  

With WriQ, students are in charge of how far they go - how many words they write, which words they use, and how well they can train their brain to let thoughts and ideas flow.  We all know writing can be a struggle.  But it’s important for students to know that writing can be fun, too.  That sometimes silly ideas and crazy characters and all the stories they have in their heads are worth writing out while not worrying about grades or rubrics.  Writing to have fun and getting rewarded for it is pretty cool too.

Why can gamifying elements of education be so beneficial?

  • Students can take ownership of their own learning
  • Decreased anxiety over failure, since learners can simply try again
  • Makes the classroom a more fun environment
  • Learning becomes visible through progress indicators
  • Students may uncover intrinsic motivation for learning
  • Students can explore different identities through different avatars/characters
  • Students are more comfortable in gaming environments

What is nudge theory?

Recently we asked out CTO, Martin McKay to explain what nudge theory was and the benefits it can bring to not only education, but to everyday life. 

How does WriQ fit in?

As Martin says in the video, WriQ’s nudges reward and encourage positive behavior.  For students, seeing the total number of words typed over a period of time can be a powerful motivator to in fact, write more.  When they see how much cumulative work they’ve done, it can really drive them to do even more.  Badges are awarded for increasing burst length, writing academic keywords, and for typing more and more words.

For teachers, burst length can provide them with a measure of writing fluency they have not had before.  By comparing average and longest burst lengths, teachers will be able to see which students are mastering the writing process, and which ones may need a little more attention.  Assessing content is, of course, still vital - but until now, it has been impossible for teachers to know who is writing with ease, and who is struggling.  So much writing is done at home (especially now), it is difficult for teachers to understand which students wrestle with  their own thoughts and ideas - and which ones confidently form ideas in their heads and can transfer those thoughts to writing.  Ultimately, writing should be judged on the merits and the quality of the writing - sentence structure, word choice, etc.  But measurements like bursts and time on task can give teachers a window into the student experience in terms of how they write, in a way they have not previously been able to.

Before now, getting students to respond positively to the mechanics of writing and the writing process has proved to be notoriously difficult. But by introducing badges and achievements with our latest release, metrics around writing and feedback can be seen in a little more playful way, nudging students on to try to gain their next badge or achievement.

If you’d like to explore using WriQ as part of your remote learning strategy, please sign up for a pilot to get free access for you and your students.