Keep Calm & Game On!

How to add game elements in your classroom


Gamification is the process of using game elements in a non-game setting to engage users. This is the process that many business reward programs use to engage their customers, and to encourage them to keep coming back for more. For example, My Starbucks Reward using the game element of leveling to engage users to continue purchasing additional items to reach the next level of rewards. The idea of leveling is just one of many different game elements.

In an educational setting we are always looking for ways to engage our students. Sir Ken Robinson states, “Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth.” He goes on further to state that we are penalizing them for getting distracted in classrooms filled with “boring stuff.” The answer, is not to medicate our students, but rather transform our schools and classrooms to become more engaging, stimulating, and rewarding. In her book Reality is Broken, Jane McGonigal identifies the many ways games make us happier, more resilient, and better able to improve the world. Gamification in education is one ways the world is becoming a better place.

Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman


Perhaps you’re wondering what a gamified classroom looks like? Many educators are already using several game elements in their classroom already. As an elementary teacher my school building has adopted the clip chart system. If your classroom is using a clip chart for behavior, then you are already using game elements in your classroom. The idea of students receiving feedback, positive or negative, for their actions that result in them moving to a higher or lower level is gamification. The success of the clip chart system is an example of how implementing game elements can increase student motivation and in this case behavior. As with any classroom strategy, I would advise careful implementation at a pace that the educator is comfortable with so that the whole classroom is able to experience success. In my classroom I use a clip chart, but I’ve added the element of experience points (or XP) to track student progress and levels across a longer span of time. The way I accomplish this is with Class Dojo which is a website and multi-platform app that I can use to track student behaviors. Now students are able to clip up or down during the day, but their Dojo point is also converted into XP. As students collect XP, they are able to increase their level in our classroom. This is in addition to the level students are able to earn on the clip chart, these classroom levels correspond with “unlocks” that students earn. An “unlock” is another game element that simply means that students have achieved a higher status or privilege. Students are able to earn access to other educational websites or in class privileges as a result of earning XP. Check out the video below for more information.


So here is my challenge to you as educators, choose one element in your classroom that might be improved with some game elements. This might look like the example I gave of using Class Dojo to track student behavior and having students earn XP. Perhaps it looks like creating greater autonomy in one course or a project that students can “level up” and learn at their own pace. Maybe it looks like having special power ups that students earn as they progress through their learning working towards reaching mastery. My challenge to you is turn one passive, teacher lead learning activity, into an activity that the student is the one researching, struggling, and learning. Then share your ideas, celebrate your successes, and seek the input students and other teachers when you encounter failure. You can find support on Twitter look for #LevelUpEd or follow me: @kickkrowley.


Andersen, P. (2012, April 24). Classroom Game Design: Paul Andersen at TEDxBozeman.YouTube. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from

Hermida, A. (2005, November 19). Xbox 360 buttons. Flickr. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from

Huang, W. H., & Soman., D. (2013, December 10). A Practitioner’s Guide To Gamification Of Education. . Retrieved July 28, 2014, from

Robinson, K. (2010, October 14). RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms. YouTube. Retrieved July 28, 2014, from