I taught junior high and high school English in Edmonton for a decade. I loved it; the job was demanding, but getting to know so many remarkable young people was a joy, and poring over stories, poems, and plays with them and exploring how to write about them and create their own was a blessing.
That being said, I was trained in a specific mode that hasn’t changed much in a long time. When I left public school teaching more than a decade ago, my distance from the classroom made me more capable of seeing my previous blindspots and the deficiencies of a traditional classroom.
In my experience since then, the most electrifying development in education has been gamification. You can find plenty of internet articles telling you why it’s a bad idea, claiming it amounts to bribing kids. Those people clearly don’t know what gamification is or can be, especially in the context of fantasy role playing games. It’s not simply handing out prizes for completion of tasks kids don’t care about—many parents and teachers have been doing that for ages even though research proves that doing so decreases enjoyment of the rewarded task.
Gamification is applying the process of games—what makes them fun, engaging, and addictive—to the experience of learning. Add in the aesthetics and imaginative story worlds and characters of role-play games, and you can create an immersive learning adventure that kids can’t wait to re-engage and which gives them reasons to learn content and skills that might otherwise bore them into failure. Gaming is a core human drive. While some other life forms play, we’re the only ones who make games, and we do so in every culture. Why not harness that essential drive?
To discuss how to gamify your classroom to help students learn more and love learning, I spoke with Scott Hebert. He’s the author of Press Play to Begin, a manual for teachers on how to implement game principles into their classes. He teaches at Our Lady of Angels in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, north-east of Edmonton. The Alberta Excellence in Teaching Awards named him a Top 20 Teacher in Alberta in 2013, and the World Gamification Congress honoured his work with its Best Gamification in Education Project Award in 2015. His website, mrhebert.org, contains videos and articles on gamification, and a link to buy Press Start to Begin.
We spoke by web video on May 22, 2018. We discussed: