What To Do (And Not Do) When Gamifying History Education

Bryn Bonino
3 min readJan 8, 2019

An early lesson that I learned as a young teacher was that if students thought learning was fun, they would pursue so much more of it. Though, as a history teacher, so much of the content that I needed to teach was reading intensive. I was faced with the choice of reading all of the material myself and summarize it for my students. Or I could have my students read the material, and summarize it themselves.

The obvious conundrum was that I did not have the bandwidth to read and summarize all of the content. And, I was teacher 11th-graders who on average read on a 4th-grade level. This lead me to research ways to gamify my history curriculum. Now a more mature educator, I did a recent search on gamification of a history class. I was happy to see so many well-thought out resources. In this post I address the most salient points for gamifying a history classroom while still focusing on learning.

An Introduction To Gamification In The Classroom

The term gamification in the classroom is unfortunately tied to the practice of framing education in a business format. As Tim Walker explains in this NEA article on Gamification In The Classroom, it can be too easy to award students points and rewards for participation. When this is done, the novelty wears off and no critical thinking takes place. What should happen is a well-designed game that gets students thinking about the content, and striving toward mastery of standards. In the history classroom, if issues are positioned in the right way, the content will seem inherently interesting. My experience as a history teacher found this to be true, and in this post, I wrote about the resources that allowed me to be a successful history teacher while getting my students interested in what I taught.

Give Students Choice and Voice

One of the reasons why students like playing games in the classroom is because they get the opportunity to have more personal agency than what generally happens in a traditional classroom. In Matthew Lynch’s article in The Edvocate, he reminds us of the importance that voice and choice play in an educational game. If this is done correctly, students can critically think about the content they are learning, and use…

Bryn Bonino

Educator, marketer, and photographer. Learn more at https://brynbonino.com