Gamifying Your Classroom

Bring competition and individualization to any content area

About me...

My name is Harrison McCoy. I have been a classroom teacher for 16 years, the last ten in the Arlington ISD. I am currently a business education instructor at Arlington Collegiate High School where I teach computer information applications. A year ago, I began to gamify my classroom with almost no money. This conference is about that journey. My hope is to share what I have learned as a means helping you begin your own journey into the exciting world of gamification.

What is Gamification?

Gamification is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate students to achieve prescribed learning goals. Gamification taps into the basic desires and needs of the users impulses which revolve around the ideas of status and achievement.

Start with your TEKS...or whatever standards you are asked to teach

I started with the standards and asked, "How can I use games to engage students?"

At the time. I taught 7th and 8th graders in a class called AVID -- a college readiness class -- that is designed to help students from typically underserved population groups close the achievement gap and be truly ready enter college and graduate with a four-year degree. I have 8 domains within which I roam somewhat freely in terms of curriculum:

  • Organization
  • Communication
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Inquiry
  • Collaboration
  • College Preparedness
  • Character Development

My experiment with gamification began with those 8 domains. I made a choice that everything I did would have somehow relate to one of those domains. With even a cursory study of the depth and breadth of gamification I decided that I would go with what is called "serious games", i.e., simulations of real-world events pr processes designed to teach problem solving. Check out this interesting article from Forbes. This was as opposed to more "entertainment focused gaming. In other words, we would not just be playing video games in order to learn or reinforce content lessons. (Although, those strategies do have merit.)

Next, I moved to on to skills...

I took a long look at the skills that each of those 8 domains is designed to teach and designed strategies to match. For example, what sort of skills are part of character development? This is where community service projects entered in for me. In order to teach in the domain of character development, I wanted to cultivate empathy and lead students to become interested in planning and conducting community service projects. The outcome was a a project in which students would either conduct a community service event or accumulate community service hours by participating in someone else's event. In the end, I developed about 18 strategies or projects that would be integrated into my lesson plans and curriculum units.


With this strategy, I avoided becoming too distracted from my primary job description by abandoning all sense of vertical alignment. I also made it inherently easier to gain administrative support for my wild imaginings.

The Great AVIDelphian Adventure