Infusing Play

How do you currently infuse play into your class? How might you change this as a result of some of the ideas you have encountered?

I have used games when teaching as long as I’ve been teaching: Jeopardy, Pictionary, Bingo, Hangman other games (without names) for review. I think there is a lot to be said for teacher enthusiasm, too. What I love about what I teach (languages and computers) is the puzzle of it all: using clues to figure out the bigger picture. This is something I enthusiastically try to pass on to my students.  I want my students to know I love what I do and I think that translates into helping them love (or at least not hate) being in my classroom.

Currently, teaching online classes makes using games trickier. I’ve played Jeopardy a few times and used some team building games. Online teaching does present an opportunity to do some things that might be more difficult in a face-to-face class. For example, the structure of my online classes could make it easier to manage students choosing to work on different tasks (or units) at different times.

This week I’ve turned to reading books about gamification in the commercial world. In education we have much less time and money for development than companies who are excited about the money making side of gamification. As an example, Zichermann touts McDonald’s Monopoly game, as one of the most successful and longest-running gamified projects in the customer facing world”(2013, p.9) in 2011 the Monopoly game was responsible for a 5.5% increase in sales for the fast food giant. He points out that, in business anyway, the challenge isn’t to make games, but to “make games work for you”(p. 15).  This is the challenge in education, too. I’m thinking of using a Monopoly-type approach (in  online Intro to Business Applications), having students fill in their syllabus/assignment schedule which will be arranged more attractively than a simple list. Students could choose their own path to complete units on Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access, in any order they wish.

I’m also experimenting with gamification on the home front. Last Sunday I took my kids on a gamified walk. We had battles and challenges and, perhaps most importantly, a picnic lunch with food. I’m seriously considering a turkey trot over the Thanksgiving break and a Christmas hike with a treasure box hidden at the end.

The game I used in my time management lesson went well, but I needed more time to fully develop the connections with real life. A 30 minute lesson is so short. It would be great to talk about time management a little bit each day over several days and culminate with the game.

My quote for this week is that gamification is like the icing on the cake. If the cake tastes bad, frosting won’t help (Zichermann, 2013 p. 23).


Zichermann, G. & Linder, J. (2013). The gamification revolution: how leaders leverage game mechanics to crush the competition. New York, NY, McGraw-Hill.




4 thoughts on “Infusing Play

  1. Heather,

    It sounds like you have a lot of experience using games in your classes. I really like the Pictionary game you shared in your reflection. I think that could really work in my chemistry classes, so I may make that part of my gamification plan!

    The Monopoly stat you shared from McDonald’s is very interesting. I’ve been thinking of other gamification strategies used by companies lately, and can’t believe how many are out there. For instance, I use the Cartwheel app from Target, and it has badges in it. Last year, Carrs also had a Monopoly game going, though I don’t know how long it lasted.

    I look forward to seeing your gamification plan!


  2. If I didn’t teach high school math, I think I could develop a more gamified class in another subject area. I have taught, and may teach in the future, a photography class, which includes both digital and darkroom. I can see the possibilities with this subject. There are many paths in photography: portrait, wildlife, architecture, macro, journalism, black and white, sports, nature, and many more. This gives students a real choice to follow a path that will include learning the ins and outs of photography like composition, lighting, perspective, shapes, lines, and space. Gamification is viable in education, but I think there needs to be the right elements in place for it to take off. And yes, funding is a major roadblock. I like how you play review games. I need to start doing this too.


  3. Heather- That sounds exciting how you are going to try monopoly-type approach and have student choose their path. I think you will get a lot of buy in from the students as well because they get to choose what they want to do first. That is great that your lesson went well. I agree that would be great to talk about time management several days because student could alway learn more about that.


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