As my post's title suggests, game-based learning and gamification are not the same thing. They both serve purposes in the classroom, but the two terms are not interchangeable. So what's the difference? Game-based learning is when you use games in the classroom. Gamification is when you transform the entire class or lesson into a game. In its simplest form, gamification means you're adding game-type elements into the lesson. This can be through story telling, problem solving, competition, or scoring.
This 2014 Google Teacher Academy application video from Jeffrey King is a prime example of how to gamify a classroom. He's not just playing a game with his students, he's turned the class into a game. From "mission briefings" instead of instructions to they way he tracks progress and scores his chemistry class, he has transformed it into something different and exciting.
My favorite theory behind gamification is that students don't fail. Just like in a game where an avatar dies and returns to the last "save point", learning is a process as well. If the student doesn't reach the goal don't just give them a F and move on. This won't help the student and will make it harder to move forward. Let them go back and try again. They use the knowledge from that first attempt to improve.
When you use game-based learning in the classroom, you are using games to promote learning. Examples of this can be as simple as using Scrabble to practice spelling or more complex ideas such as a game show style review. Game-based learning can be really effective for student engagement.
If you would like to learn more about Gamification, I highly recommend looking into Karl Kapp, a professor at Bloomsburg University. I discovered him while surfing Lynda courses (free through my public library so check yours) during quarantine. He has a few videos on gamifying classrooms and a few on gamifying professional development for the business world. They were all extremely informative and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
To sum this up, I'm not saying that playing games in the classroom is bad. Students love games and they will help you engage the class in exciting ways to teach or review materials. Just when you are submitting proposals to EdTech conferences please make sure to specify in your description what you are discussing. I would love to become better at gamification, but I seem to always end up in sessions about game-based learning.
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