Gamification: How we can improve K-12 Education

Engaged Student_gamificationImproving education means improving society – and when I think of ways we could improve education with the use of technology, I always think of my early days, elementary school, and how what I learnt then shaped how I think and solve problems today.

Today, I’d like to address an important issue: the lack of engagement in K-12.

We’re working on implementing gamification features in TalentLMS to improve the engagement of learners on all facets of education and training.

As George Bernard Shaw once said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

Let’s think of the benefits that could arise by incorporating game mechanics into the everyday routine; scratch that, it shall not be a routine anymore!


1) Let’s address grading – not just in gamification

When I walked into my first Ethics class in university, the encounter was the usual first day meet-and-greet, go through the curricula and discuss the semester’s work.
My professor said one thing that stuck with me: (Paraphrasing) You will all start with an A+. Work hard to keep the grade up and do the required work to excuse the grade I hope all deserve. It is up to you to form your results from here.

In retrospect, as a student, I was more than ecstatic. I had an impeccable grade record, and this only meant that I would have an easier ride at Acing my ethics class. Oh how wrong I was.
This very mentality of starting at the top is fundamentally flawed. Why, you ask? Because when you start at the top, you can only go down.
Let’s examine how this may act as a deterrent for a child to do well, as well as how gamification principles could be applied in this case.

Children don’t go to school because they want to. They only accept to go to school because they have to, and eventually we hope that they find enough stimuli that they really want it themselves.
What do children like? Games. We know that; we buy them toys and nurture them in an environment of play. It’s undeniable that they will enjoy games far more than straight-up education.
It’s logical to assume, then, that mixing games and education together will bring kids close to what we want them to gain (Education) using a tool they definitely love (Games).

Games work on exactly the opposite philosophy my professor did. Games will start you up at level 1, and demand that you try to figure out a way to move up the ranks. Games promote the idea that doing things will earn you experience, making mistakes is human, and by eliminating the wrong methods you arrive at the correct answer. This, in turn, gives you experience, levels, badges, ranks and achievements. You try different things to progress, and eventually you get there. Sounds more fun, doesn’t it? Well it is!

Having all those reward systems at play means that students long for the next level, so they are engaged. Making mistakes and eventually arriving at the solution means that problem solving is developed, and lastly, rewarding a child for the task at hand motivates the student to work toward a goal.

To return to the initial point of grading, when you start at the bottom, you have both the outlook of the top, which means you have your goal in sight, and using gamification principles, you have the motivation and platform to reach your goal and enjoy the process.


2) Healthy competition, not unhealthy rivalries

Both the education system and the job market are built around the model of competition; finding the best person for a position or getting the highest grade to shine.

Competition is great, but have we gone too far with promoting competition that we have created unhealthy rivalries?

Let’s look at how we can leverage game mechanics to promote collaboration between students.

I mentioned different types of rewards earlier as a means to motivate students to work toward a goal.
Let’s see how a reward can motivate students to work toward a common goal!
Although the work can be individual, rewards can work both ways. Let’s say for example: the first five students that finish an assignment will receive 10 more experience points, and give the whole class 2 bonus experience points. This motivates everyone in two ways; for one, students have a motive to cheer others on to get the work done, and second, students are pushing to get the big bonus, while at the same time contributing to a class-wide reward.

Creating and adjusting a Levelling system to perfection, with Experience points, Badges and Achievements is not an easy task, and it will require some work before-hand, but the experience of engaging everyone on their own playing field is definitely worth it.


3) Promoting voluntary learning

One of the biggest problems in most countries when it comes to education reform is the lack of extra time to teach more things. We don’t need 25 hours in the day to change education. We need to better allocate our time to fit the needs we have. Children are intelligent creatures that have the magnificent ability to absorb and adapt – more than adults can.

By promoting gamification in the classroom, using Learning Management Systems and other means (gamifying education happened long before technology, remember the golden star list on the wall?), we have a unique opportunity to engage children and get them interested in learning through play.
Children are usually keen to finish school, go home and play. Mixing play with learning means that we increase the chances that children will take learning into their own hands, and volunteer in the learning process.


4) Give children the leading role

Get students to think, get them to create their education. To get students to remain alert, ask them to find something they want taught – all of them. Each student can have a topic in mind – something different every week. Randomly pick a student per day and discuss a different topic. The element of surprise will make the student always expect the confrontation and have his/her topic of choice in mind, as well as research for something different every week, which leads them to get out of their comfort zone and look for interesting topics to research out of the norm.

Have any ideas of your own? Mine come out of personal experience and research, and I would love to hear how we could improve our education system; one step at a time – one feature at a time!


Save time, frustration and money with TalentLMS, the most-affordable and user-friendly learning management system on the market. Try it for free for as long as you want and discover why our customers consistently give us 4.5 stars (out of 5!)

Try for free!

Start your eLearning portal in 30 seconds!

Get started it's free!

TalentLMS is free to use for as long as you want! You can always upgrade to a paid plan to get much more!