20+ resources for engaging game-based learning


Teaching | Monday, February 8, 2016

20+ resources for engaging game-based learning

Bringing aspects of games into the classroom can be highly motivational and engaging, making content stick. Here are some resources. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Bringing aspects of games into the classroom can be highly motivational and engaging, making content stick. Here are some resources. (Public domain image via Pixabay.com)

Our society thrives on games. They’re everywhere, from our social lives to our work lives to our school lives.

People kill time on the bus, in a doctor’s waiting room and even in the bathroom (eww … but true!) playing games on their smartphones and tablets.

The sports world is a force to be reckoned with, and it’s all focused on games. Billions of dollars are exchanged in various professional, semi-pro and amateur sports, from salaries to equipment to apparel.

There are reality shows. Game shows. Quiz shows.

As people, we’re fascinated with games. And so are our students.

Bringing games and game aspects into class can help focus and motivate hard-to-reach students. They can provide a structure and “playing field” that students need to wrap their brains around certain tasks and concepts.

Game-based learning takes many forms, from a simple 10-minute review game to a complex system of XP (experience points) that lasts all school year — or beyond!

Unnamed image (18)During the weekly #DitchBook Twitter chat (Thursdays at 7 p.m. PST / 8 p.m. MST / 9 p.m. CST / 10 p.m. EST), we discussed gamification in the classroom. It featured fantastic moderator Karly Moura (@KarlyMoura) and special guest Michael Matera (@mrmatera), gamification guru and author of the new “Explore Like a PIRATE” book.

The conversation spanned the broad ideas around integrating educational gaming to the specific tools you can use to create it.

You’ll find 20 entries in today’s blog post below about gamification, but you’ll see that there are far more than 20 resources. With the lists and webpages of resources, there are dozens and dozens of ideas … and certainly at least a handful that are relevant to you right now!

Check out the Storify archive of the chat to see the whole discussion. Also, check out Michael’s website, explorelikeapirate.com, for more resources and ideas!

Before we jump into the list, the resource below is probably the most rich of them all! Moderator Karly Moura created a Padlet wall where we could share resources. Check out all the treasure! (Had to do the pirate reference for “Explore Like a PIRATE”!)

1. Power-ups and control over character sound a lot better than red pens and disciplinary referrals.

2. This infographic digs into some of the terms, research and history that have affected game-based learning.

3. These aspects of gaming in the classroom can boost engagement!

4. A leaderboard is one way to show students where they stand and encourage them to reach the next level.

5. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, doing the same old thing in class. Games are different every time you play them.

6. Redo’s are a normal part of real life, and they’re a natural, logical way to learn without stigmatizing failure.

7. Among the facts in this post: 75 percent of people consider themselves gamers!

8. Rewards, even if simple and extrinsic, can really motivate!

9. Brad lays out the details of his Call of Duty/Halo/World of Warcraft-style XP points system in his class. (It includes professional wrestling-style belts, too!)

10. Authentic team work. Achieving this in basic “do this activity in groups” assignments is tough.

11. Classcraft: “Track behavior, motivate students with clever fantasy-themed game.”

12. When we can catch students in the “moment of learning” with feedback, I’ve found they’re more likely to internalize that feedback!

13. Great digital tools to create game conditions in class!

14. Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) presented on gamification at the BETT Conference in London. These are her slides and resources!

15. Turn a coordinate plane math lesson into a Battleship game!

16. This template can turn your class OR professional development into a game with badges.

17. Engage students in class games with movie trailers.

18. Includes “make students co-designers” and “allow second chances … and third.”

19. “Educator Al” shares a TON of links to gamification resources, including 13 days of World of Warcraft in science class!

20. Not everyone believes in gamification. Here’s a look at the debate.

[reminder]How do you feel about game-based learning? How have you used it in class? Which of these ideas could you start using?[/reminder]

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  • […] 20+ resources for engaging game-based learning | Ditch That Textbook […]

  • K. Pelky says:

    Having read Sheldon’s work and others, I had been trying to figure out how to gamify my curriculum, but without having taught the class before, I just couldn’t figure out ahead of time exactly what I’d need students to do, how many points everything should be worth, etc. All those decisions had paralyzed me since I seldom teach the same class for more than a year or two. Something I believe Alice Keeler had posted at one point resonated with me. She said not to use it for a grade. HUGE turning point for me. I decided to start small, and instead, I use an XP system to motivate class participation, homework completion, following class procedures and expectations, etc. I started this semester with just two sections, and it’s working so well, that I’m expanding it to another section next week. It’s a hugely simple system that allows me the freedom to even randomly assign XP for anything I want participation for on any given day, similar to what Frau Davis described in her comment above. Anyone interested, feel free to copy, tweak, use however you might like.


  • What a ridiculous amount of resources and a chat I am very disappointed I missed!!! One of my very favorite topics. I have been gamifying my classroom since last school year. It has had a fantastic impact on my students, me, my teaching and my creativity. It is such a versatile too. It can be different things to different educators, different students…its potential is endless. A great piece here!!! Thank you for all the resources!!!

  • Frau Davis says:

    I use a class points system in my classroom. Ideally, students earn points by being on-task and using the target language exclusively. But anytime I think “oh wow, that’s awesome!” by something a student says/does, I give a class point. If the entire class is doing something negative, I will deduct class points, but I try not to take away class points for a single person’s behavior. I really feel like Mr. J’s wrestling is what I’d like to get to. I’m at the point now where there are some students who just won’t do homework, or participate in class and I’m out of academic solutions. How easy would it be to say “If 100% of students turn in this assignment” or “If your entire table participates in the class discussion” that they could earn class points? Of course they’re still receiving actual grades so if they don’t make that it’s no loss. I think it’s also appealing to perhaps incorporate levels or ranks for making a certain number of class points. I’ve pondered using ClassDojo before but it was presented to me as something more for elementary and middle schools. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

  • Rob says:

    Any suggestions for adding game-based learning to a high school U.S. History class? Already using Kahoot and Socrative. Looking for something directly related to American History.

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