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Gamification levels up

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Not long ago gamification was a bit left field, after all learning is learning and playing is playing and each should stay in their lane, no?

A few years in and it’s looking like a definite no, gamified learning has shifted from something that was set as part of homework, sometimes, to front and centre in class where gamified tasks seem to be a natural fit; they’re collaborative, accommodative of varying ability levels and engaging.

“Gamification for us is aligned to the prevalence of digital education tools, certainly in Australia we’ve seen teachers becoming much more comfortable using them and we’ve seen digital education tools’ journey to becoming the core instructional element in the classroom.

“I’ve been in the business for four years and at the start there was the perception that this wasn't much good. Now we’ve been able to prove educational outcomes, show how kids are improving and we’ve also been able to show how easy it is for teachers as well, how gamification is making their lives easier,” says Literacy Planet CEO Adam McArthur – Literacy Planet is an online reading and writing resource.

Teachers are using gamified tasks to take a deep dive into new ideas being introduced to the students.

“Take adjectives, there’s 50 different concepts in the area, the teacher can bring up Literacy Planet on the smartboard and use a fun activity to explore adjectives, get the kids to come up to the board and find an adjective in a sentence and drag it out.

“Teachers can use it as an interactive activity that is fun and engaging rather than listening to a teacher describe it out of a textbook, then they can set a few activities to practice the concept.”

Group work and accessing understanding through collaboration and conversation with peers is a great way to get ideas to sink in and games are proving to be a good conduit.

“There are naturally groups within a class and a lot of our work with teachers in the last year has been around creating groups. You can set them up based on different capability levels, students can work in groups of four and five, the more advanced kids can do the harder stuff and everyone can work at their own pace,” McArthur says.

It doesn’t take all that long to get the program running in class, which is key. The introductory training lasts about 20 minutes and McArthur estimates that it takes about three months for teachers to really get cooking with the platform.

“A big part of it is getting teachers to understand how to use the platform to do their lesson plans, once they do that there is a significant shift. Teachers can plan their lessons for the whole week rather than expending the time and effort to do that every day and they can put it all together pretty quickly.

“In schools where there are lots of classes within a year group, one teacher can put together a lesson plan and share the plan with their peers, we see one teacher doing it one week and another will do it the next to share the task.”

Literacy Planet suggests that teachers check back to see whether a concept has been mastered by revisiting a topic that was completed weeks ago and discover whether it has sunk in by comparing scores achieved on the game.

“Teachers are very intuitive and kind of know where a kid’s problems are, but with the kind of data the program generates they can say ‘right, this where we need to spend more time’.”

The operative things look to be structure, intention and alignment to the curriculum, that and fun activities which are adaptive and refreshed at regular intervals. New approaches and activities being added at a regular clip.

“We’re adding new things all the time, we’ve done seven of them recently, we’re also looking at building adaptive technology to make it even easier for teachers to differentiate their students.

“We have a team of game designers who are always coming up with new concepts for engagement with kids, after students have used the platform for a little while they get sick of it, while the concept might be the same they want different games around it,” McArthur says.

Literacy Planet is a local platform made good, it has spread to 70 countries around the world from the Gold Coast, there is a London office and a recently opened office in Chicago.

They work hard to make sure the product aligns with curriculums and there are now 55 around the world that it contends with.

“We’ve found there’s a lot of similarities between curriculums, as an English-speaking program we see that a lot of them are aligned to the British curriculum.

“We often get the same initial response ‘that’s just a game, it’s not educational’ and then we show them the progress, the kids were building two letter words and now they’re building four letter words and then six letter words which leads them to eventually pick up a book and begin to read,” he says.

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