Teacher: Espen Espeseth Clausen
School: Grinde School in Tysvær, Norway
Devices: Smartboards, iPads and laptops (about 1:2)
Espen Espeseth Clausen has been teaching at Tysvær primary school for eight years. The school uses the itslearning platform and is well-equipped with devices. The staff is positive to the use of technology, but Espen is one of the few teachers there who uses gamification. He has found it can be a great motivator for his students and allows them to learn more easily.
Espen explains, “Video games can contain pedagogical qualities that improve students’ cognitive abilities and problem-solving skills. They are a part of what students do in their spare time anyway. Kids think of them as something they get as a reward. However, in the classroom, they don’t have to be used as a reward for doing something – they can be used as a reward in advance. We can use games to motivate students.”
Espen stresses that in order to succeed, you must put the games into the context of teaching. “You must set clear goals for the teaching, have good pedagogical leadership and forethought, or it won’t work.”
Here’s how Espen used gamification with his fourth grade class:
The Goal: To inspire students and motivate them to write.
The Exercise: Write the background story of the main character in the video game Temple Run.
Temple Run is a game for handheld devices. It’s part treasure hunt, part action adventure, and is easy to play. The main character has stolen a treasure from a temple and must flee from monkeys while collecting points.
A) Students form pairs and take turns playing Temple Run for five minutes each. (Espen has them work in pairs to create dialogue and make the activity social.)
- The pairs brainstorm about the main character’s personality and make a mind map (either by hand or digitally).
- The mind map is generated using a list of questions from the teacher. For example:
- Who is the main character?
- What are his strengths/weaknesses?
- How did he end up at the temple?
- The mind map provides the students with structure and makes it easier for them to write longer texts. Students refer to the mind map for ideas throughout the writing process.
B) Each pair plays two more five-minute rounds of Temple Run. After these sessions they brainstorm about the setting and the action of the story:
- What country is the temple in?
- Does the story take place in the past, present or future?
- What has the main character stolen?
- How does the story end?
C) Espen presents the students with rubrics; criteria for evaluating their writing. (Rubrics can be created within the itslearning platform.)
D) The students work individually on the introduction, body and conclusion of their story.
- Espen suggests that the stories be written on a computer so that students can practice their digital skills. That way, they can incorporate teacher feedback more easily as well.
In order to enhance the experience, Espen recommends adding elements of process-oriented writing. He suggests that:
- Students upload their texts to itslearning discussion boards, read each other’s writing and give feedback.
- Each student comments on the two discussion threads before and after their own so that everyone gets feedback.
- Students use the criteria in the rubrics to evaluate each other’s writing, so that the criticism remains constructive and actionable.
- Students and teachers use the discussion threads as a record of writing progress.
Espen suggests adding other subjects to the exercise as well, such as…
Arts and crafts: Have students make books with illustrations and covers for the stories:
Math: Temple Run keeps a record of coins collected and meters run.
Ask the students to chart the answers to these questions:
- How far did we run as a class?
- Who ran the farthest?
- How many miles did we run as a class? (convert from metres)
Espen interviewed students to get feedback on the exercise. Although they weren’t used to playing video games at school, they said it inspired them. Students agreed that the game made it easier to come up with mind maps and caused them to write longer texts than they had before.
“Their creativity blossomed.”
We encourage you to try this exercise yourself. Please let us know how it goes in the comments section below.