Saturday, June 21, 2014

3 EdTech Tools You Can Use To Gamify Your Classroom

This post first appeared on Edudemic in May 2014

Gamification is one of the buzzwords in education right now, and for a good reason:  Gamification is empowering, exciting, and under the right circumstances can be the disruptive innovator many teachers desperately need in order to change the dynamics between knowledge and the learner.   
There is an explosion of edtech tools destined to gamify the classroom, most of which are web-based, while others come in the form of an app.  Understandably, a teacher might wonder what is the best way to navigate through this sea of new, and subsequently, not thoroughly tested activities and tools.   Throughout the school year I tried several game-based platforms with my students.  Here are three game-based classroom solutions that helped me transform my fourth grade classroom into a dynamic learning environment.  All three tools are completely free.  Each platform is particularly strong in specific areas, therefore, depending on their needs, teachers can utilize one of the tools, or use a combination of two (or three), to maximize the impact on student learning.

The first, and probably the most popular game-based classroom platform is Socrative.   A prominent member of the “audience response systems” family, Socrative is a powerful tool that offers many options to teachers.  It is also one of the most diverse and adaptive of all platforms, as it offers three different highly customizable modes: the typical question-based game mode, a mode called “space race” which is a mode that aims to combine accuracy and speed, and a third mode called “Exit Ticket”, which can best be used at the end of a lesson as a means of taking the pulse of the classroom. 
Socrative supports multiple choice, true/false, and open response items.  It also allows the user to import images to the question items, and it features live results, immediate feedback, and effortless data analysis.  It can work equally well as a web-based tool as well as a mobile app.  Socrative is by far one of the most user-friendly, most customizable, most comprehensive free pieces of software, with some functions and abilities matched only by expensive edtech platforms. 

Here is a short introductory tutorial on Socrative.

Kahoot takes a somewhat different approach than Socrative.  It is a solid platform that is designed to follow on the footsteps of modern audience response systems.  Although it is not as multidimensional as Socrative, it excels in several key areas, one of which is its strong gamification element.  Kahoot’s carefully chosen music effects and colorful interface create an atmosphere of anticipation that motivates learners in a very intuitive way.
Kahoot is a tool that combines accuracy with speed.  Therefore, it is the perfect tool for activities and problems that do not require multiple steps or long calculations.  Kahoot is perfect for quick identification questions.  For instance, some of the areas where a teacher can use this fun and entertaining tool include multiplication tables, geographical locations, periodic table of elements, roots of words or synonyms, and identification of animals or body parts.  The ability to use pictures, and even Youtube videos in question items is a noteworthy and a rare advantage.  
Also, the clever point system Kahoot utilizes is an additional bonus that truly elevates learning into an enjoyable and highly rewarding experience.  In addition, the point system enhances the gamification element of the platform, making Kahoot a big hit in the classroom.

Here is a short introductory tutorial on Kahoot.

Unlike Socrative’s multidimensional nature, and Kahoot’s strong gaming orientation, FlipQuiz, the Jeopardy equivalent of edtech platforms, is a modern take on the well-established idea of traditional game-show style review quizzes. 
FlipQuiz is designed to accomplish a finite number of goals.  However, you should not let that fool you.  FilpQuiz is very good at what it does, and thus, it can earn a place in a modern classroom.  FlipQuiz allows you to create boards that run like a typical Jeopardy game, making it a great choice for teachers who have used Jeopardy games in the past, or are just people who love Jeopardy in the classroom.   Flipquiz makes it easy to design game-show style activities in the classroom that transform learning into an engaging and entertaining experience.  Teachers have the ability to use links to images found on the web and import them into the question items, type basic equations using subscript and superscript text, and even include web links to spice things up and keep their audiences involved at all times.   In addition, if you are teaching mathematics, FlipQuiz has a very nice surprise in store for you!  The platform now supports mathematical formulas, which can be added using the LaTex language.  Overall, FlipQuiz is a solid platform and a must have tools for teachers who want to review material in their classrooms.

Here is a short introductory tutorial on FlipQuiz.

Some Final thoughts

Human beings love playing games because most games are rewarding and entertaining at the same time.  That makes Gamification the perfect vehicle a teacher can use to harness his/her students’ innate motivation and curiosity, transforming learning into a fun and intrinsically rewarding activity.  As such, gamification allows teachers to create an environment that enables all students to feel safe to take risks in the classroom.  All three platforms mentioned above are very good at achieving that goal.  Teachers can use all three platforms interchangeably to add some pizzazz into their repertoire of teaching and keep their students’ interest alive at all times.

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