It hit me. As many of my ideas do, I am simply driving, eating, or doing something other than concentrating on teaching when an idea so profound, so intriguing knocks me upside the head.
I got it! Gamification IS Project Based Learning. In fact, it may be the most powerful kind. Let me explain.
In my experience with gamification, I have a storyline. For instance, for my 6th grade class this semester, students are a part of a political race in the land of Cyberium, and their work in class will have them compete for leadership. The language of the class tasks has been changed to match the theme, and spreadsheets have been established to track their efforts in the various areas. There will be a wide variety of concepts and activities covered. But it all starts with our Entry Event, a key tenet of Project Based Learning.
The other side of this that is big about Project Based Learning is authenticity. It isn't the same old, same old, and it has real relevance to our students' lives. In my humble opinion, what could have more relevance than gaming to our students today? Most of them play games regularly and naturally connect to them and think about them. As educators, I believe we get so caught up in our own beliefs about what students need we forget to actually ask and observe students to see what they need. Games are authentic - to our students.
This is what I have so far, but I've continued to ponder this subject. I'm definitely going to see how closely I can match up my musings of Gamification being Project Based Learning with the Buck Institute's own 8-steps for PBL. However, my thoughts and observations so far are really exciting.
Is it perfect? No. Is it for everyone? Maybe not. But my money is on doing what it takes to promote a love of learning and mastery with my students in a way that has them feeling like they are working towards something greater than themselves.