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Children playing and learning in the classroom

Game-based learning or gamification in the classroom – what’s the difference?

Surely you have heard of terms like gamification, challenges, badges, awards and escape rooms. If this all seems familiar to you and you are unsure of the differences between each of these concepts, continue reading.

While gamification and game-based learning are complementary methods, they are not synonymous. The primary element that GBL (Game-Based Learning) and Gamification have in common is their goal: to increase student learning by making students the protagonists of their own learning progress, guided by the teacher.

Children playing and learning in the classroom

Interestingly, neither of the two techniques is synonymous with playing. That is correct. While their names may be confusing, both have nuances that distinguish them from the notion of playing: playing is not synonymous with implementing a system based on game dynamics in the classroom (Gamification). Nor is playing synonymous with using, producing, or customising a game for educational objectives (Game-Based Learning).

Game-Based Learning (GBL)

What is game-based learning and what are the aims of this type of learning?

A game is played in GBL (Game Based Learning). This methodology entails the use of a game, adapted or not, for educational purposes. The objectives are didactic in nature, and the learning must be extrapolated beyond the confines of the game. Thus, the game becomes a vehicle for reinforcing notions. At this point, it should be mentioned that playability and enjoyment are critical. There are games created for pure enjoyment, and there are games created to teach a specific skill.

Whether adapted or devised, what purpose does each form of game serve in GBL?

Games made purely for entertainment purposes can be altered to fit the topic being worked on. As more traditional examples, there is Taboo, which is excellent for reviewing vocabulary, and Risk, which is excellent for learning geography.

Game-based learning: children playing board game

However, we may always build our own games to impart knowledge. Digital tools such as Kahoot or Quizlet are quite valuable for this reason, as they enable us to quickly and easily develop question games.

Escape Rooms and educational Breakouts are potentially viable additions to this group. If we have the courage and the knowledge, we may create games from scratch that are tailored to our individual needs. This can be accomplished through the usage of the Unity platform, for example. The degree of sophistication varies per individual.

Classroom gamification

What is gamification and how does it benefit organisations?

Gamification uses game dynamics, mechanics, and rules (in a non-playful environment) with the goal of raising participant motivation.

Children with computers, consoles and video games

In this methodology it is common to find avatars, progress bars, badges, medals, etc., with which students are rewarded for a certain behaviour or result (having solved a challenge, for example).

The motivation to achieve these rewards promotes learning and the feeling of achievement by reaching a goal; it also reinforces a behaviour or provokes its modification (if that is what is being sought).

Gamification: tools and applications in the classroom

There are several ways to apply gamification in learning: awarding badges to students for their achievements, setting up scoring and achievement systems, rankings, levels, rewards, etc.

Some didactic tools that allow the advantages of ICT to be used to gamify the classroom are ClassDojo, ClassCraft, Socrative, Elever or Minecraft: Education Edition, among others.

Gamification and GBL: final conclusions

In GBL we play to learn, but there can be winners and losers, so it tends to be more competitive. In Gamification, on the other hand, it is less common for there to be a winner or a loser, as it is more collaborative and the rules are geared towards progress. Even so, we must not forget that in both cases the aim is to generate emotions typical of games, such as interest, involvement and motivation.

Image about gamification and learning

The most interesting thing about all this is that these methodologies can be combined with each other; and even with others, such as Project Based Learning (PBL) or Flipped Learning.

Without a doubt, the most important thing is that both methodologies have advantages and notably improve the engagement of their participants (“players”), enriching the learning process and enhancing their happiness. In the end, it all comes down to this: having fun while learning.

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