Games and Culture
With the advent of video games, games have returned in full force as a cultural product, with more people in North America consuming video games than movies and music. In point of fact, 58% of Americans play video games, 45% of gamers are women, and 58% of parents play video games with their kids as a way to socialize with them (1). Games are part of the cultural landscape, and they aren’t going anywhere. While Classcraft isn’t a video game, it is inspired by them, and its power on learning is very similar.
With that in mind, it makes sense to want to bring gaming into the classroom to ‘gamify’ learning. Teaching is all about relating to kids’ experiences and tying that to course matter. All kids have played video games – they understand the general rules and memes in gaming and enjoy playing them.
This idea isn’t new. Indeed, numerous examples of using games in educations have cropped up over the years, such as using Spore to teach evolution, simulators to teach physics, or game quizzes to interact with subject matter. Some systems have implemented attributing points and giving out badges to students when they reach a certain number.
However, gamification has received its fair share of criticism. Many have decried it as tool for implementing carrot-and-stick behaviorism, saying that the game is just a reward and punishment system with icing. Others put forth the idea that students should be motivated by the desire to learn, not by some external tool. We also hear that games breed competition or that they lead to students learning about the game rather than the course matter.
These criticisms have merit. We do see a lot of gamification efforts leading to those outcomes. However, we believe that this is because those games are badly designed, not because gamification or using games in education is inherently a bad practice.
Design Principles Behind Classcraft
In this modern era, students could learn everything in the curriculum by staying at home and surfing the Internet. Schools need to offer students experiences that they can’t get at home. In the same way a music lover will buy tickets to a concert even though he already has the album, we have to give kids an experience that they want and can’t get anywhere else to keep them engaged and involved in their own learning. There are a myriad of different ways of doing that. We believe well-designed games represent one of the most effective approaches.
Classcraft Is a Designed Learning Experience
Any educator and researcher will tell you that students learn much better when they are motivated (2). Recent studies (3) have explored what makes video games so addictive. It turns out it’s because video games fulfill three basic needs: the need for autonomy (being able to make choices), the need for competency (to overcome challenges), and the need for relationships (which add a perceived value to the game). Studies in education (2) show that the needs fulfilled by video games are actually the same three factors that one has to take into account to stimulate motivation in learning. Games can be used to motivate students in surprising ways.
That’s what makes Classcraft different and innovative. Rather than being a simple system for scoring points, Classcraft empowers students to take control of their learning process. It fosters significant relationships by reenforcing teamwork and collaboration rather than competition. It’s pervasive and affects all aspects of a student’s life. It’s fun because unexpected things happen during gameplay.
These aspects make Classcraft unique and make for a gamified learning experience that adds a layer of meaning and engagement to a student’s school experience.