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C2C Digital Magazine (Fall 2021 / Winter 2022)

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Current learning tools in the classroom: Engagement, assessments, and data, oh my!

By Melisa Patterson, USD 259, and JaeHwan Byun, Wichita State University

“Frightened? Child, you’re talking to a man who’s laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom, and chuckled at catastrophe...I was petrified.” - The Wizard

Figure 1.  Yellow Brick Road (by Zoltan Major, used by permission)

Follow the “Yellow Brick Road.” Educators would have been very happy if the instructions to success and growth during the pandemic were as simple as those three words. If only there was a quick-witted wizard to solve all of our problems and answer all of our questions as we were dumped into digital Oz. Instead, educators were left to forge ahead on our own, so we looped arms and headed down the path for answers. Some of us indeed had a lack of knowledge, we were in need of courage and sadly, for some of us, we had to find our heart as educators again. Similar to the way Dorothy felt, we were embarking on one of our most challenging adventures with objectives and goals in mind, but no idea how to get there. We found out quite quickly that, like the movie, there were many twists and turns along the way, but behind the curtain, we found the opportunity for growth and change, not only for ourselves, but for our classrooms. After a year of intense learning, introspection and experience, we have emerged as what we are now being referred to as “Pioneers in Education.” This article will discuss what we found and learned during our travels and what tools you can use to enhance your learning environment.    

What’s new?

One of the newest trends for digital classrooms is integrating digital games and/or game elements into teaching and learning practices. Educators have found the opportunity to gain valuable insight into their own curriculum and classrooms, thus games have been employed in many educational contexts across different educational levels, showing its potential to improve learning outcomes (Seaborn & Fels, 2015; Koivisto & Hamari, 2019). Likewise,  over the last decade, gamification has been increasingly employed in learning environments as a way to enhance students’ motivation and encourage social interaction.  The term Gamification refers to an educational approach that uses game designs and gaming elements in the learning environment. According to Zichermann and Cunningham (2011), “Gamification is defined as the process of game-thinking and game mechanics to engage users and solve problems (p.xiv).” This definition focuses on the purpose of gamification and emphasizes its goal. Since the pandemic, gamification and the potential of gamification as an assessment tool has gained significant momentum in classrooms across the country. In addition, researchers like Rivera and Garden (2018) have recognized the possibilities that gamification has to offer them in terms of data, assessments and achieving content objectives.

The yellow brick road to gamification

In this article, we will discuss how gamification can engage students in the online learning environment while still acting as a key source for teachers to collect data, assess students and achieve academic learning objectives.

For the purpose of this article, we chose five popular apps that are being widely used by educators and that we have personal experience with:  Quizizz, Gimkit, Kahoot, 99math and Pear Deck for Google Slides.

Here are brief descriptions about each app. First, Quizizz is a free tool to create gamified quizzes and interactive lessons to engage students. Through the report dashboard teachers can analyze all of the students' data. It is also possible to download an Excel spreadsheet format of the reports.

Figure 2.  Quizizz

Gimkit is an interactive digital quiz-style game that can excite and inspire learning. Similar to Kahoot!, Gimkit allows educators and students to create multiple choice questions from scratch for any topic area and it also allows users to import Quizlet sets to easily create a “Kit.” One of the motivating features within Gimkit is the ability to earn “money” (by getting answers correct) and using the “money” to buy various power-ups, such as earning more points per question, gaining additional points when on a streak (getting two or more consecutive answers correct), and using insurance if a question is answered incorrectly. Teachers receive a data report at the end of each game that shows the overall class and individual student responses. The data makes this a helpful tool for formative assessment, providing students with quick feedback, and identifying areas that need to be taught/re-taught.

Figure 3.  Gimkit


Kahoot is an interactive way to quiz, survey, or have a discussion with your students, and they love it! You simply create the quiz or survey, have your students sign in, and begin playing or surveying! The program collects data, so you know exactly what your students answer.  During the quiz, students are awarded extra points, depending on how fast they respond against others. Students love a good competition so they are excited and engaged! In the past, I have created a short Kahoot as an exit ticket. This is a fast way to assess students and see which students still need remediation. Grading is instantaneous and stored in your reports.

Figure 4.  Kahoot

99Math is designed to engage students on any level. Students play with their peers to make math learning social, and fun.Leaderboards, badges and other gamification elements are fine tuned to get kids focused and eager to advance.

Figure 5.  99Math

Pear Deck for Google Slides is an add-on built right into Google Slides.This add-on allows you to engage students during presentations. It allows you to instantly see who understands the learning objective and who did not. This gamification tool allows for formative assessments and interactive questions to your presentations right from Google Slides.

Figure 6.  Pear Deck for Google Slides

These apps have been found to build engaging instructional content while assessing student learning in a way that feels like play. All of these apps offer teacher dashboards where teachers can download reports on student participation and understanding of content. These reports give educators a quick assessment of what students took away from the lesson and whether or not learning objectives were successful. The grading is done automatically which saves time and allows for an immediate reteach. Students can also practice the lesson until mastery occurs. This learning strategy not only made learning objectives more fun, but also provided me with valuable feedback to reinforce my lessons where students needed it the most.

Engagement through digital hooks

Graham and West (2015) suggested, “A lesson hook is a way to grab learners’ attention and engage them with the material” (p. 325). Using gamification as part of our lesson could act as an immediate digital hook. As educators we are taught that the lesson hook is what grabs the students' attention and allows the teacher to insert enthusiasm into a new learning journey. The hook is important and prepares students for learning and aligns with the lesson's objective.  The use of a digital hook should be present throughout the learning sequence, and provide the students with feedback and reference on what they learned and the importance of the learning objective.

Developing a hook is critical to gaining students' interest in a lesson. To create effective, meaningful hooks, use your knowledge of pedagogy, infuse your personality, keep students' needs in mind, and connect the hook to the learning goal (Simmons, 2016).  The hook is all about engagement. We learned with the transition from classroom to online that engagement is the essential worker in every classroom. This element will make or break you as an online educator. In person educators have long mastered which classroom management and engagement strategies are tried and true, however, we learned during 2020 that in person strategies simply did not work online. The pandemic pushed teachers to find new ways to engage online students, assess what they are learning and ways to utilize technology to help them absorb and retain information.

What we have learned about the online classroom is that you can’t just transfer your in-person curriculum and experiences to an online platform. Most of our tried and true lesson plans fell flat.  Educators also had to find new ways to build community and keep students logging in. There is an old saying that states, “The family that plays together, stays together,” and the same theory applies to classrooms. Classrooms that embed gamification into learning create stability and structure, and they facilitate bonding and closeness. These extraordinary times called for new extraordinary measures for educators and learners alike, it just took a little courage.

Game on

No one likes to take a test. Let’s face it: the mere mention of the word "test," and students are plagued with emotional reactions. Gamification allows for all of those emotions to be put to rest and puts kids into a familiar, relaxed state of mind. Classrooms and kids have changed, and educators are rallying to catch up. Mark McCrindle created a new term for individuals born between 2010 and 2025, Generation Alpha (McCrindle, 2021). This generation fills the halls of elementary schools across the globe. The pandemic was the global push for adults to level up with this tech savvy group of pre-adolescents and adolescents. One thing you can count on with Generation Alpha is they are immersed in technology. They grew up logged on and linked up. Auxier et al. (2020) show that many parents say their children are engaging in technology before the age of five.

Figure 7.  Early Smart Phone Usage by Children (Pew Research Center)

Note.  Age that children start using smartphone (Auxier, et al., 2020)

It is fair to state that Generation Alpha had more experience with technology and online communication than their teachers when the pandemic shut down schools. Adults were left to wonder, “who was really going to teach who?” So what do you do with learners who have lived their entire lives connected to everything and everyone at all times? You learn more and you take that learning to the next level. You take the gaming term “level up” and get to work. Educators are finding new ways to teach, assess and engage. Technology is not just a toy, but a way of learning and connecting for this unique group of students, and teachers have found that gamification could be one of the ideal classroom tools for these tech savvy students. In an article published from Brown University, research shows that students will learn to be persistent if they want to complete any given video game challenge because they often have to repeat the challenge many times before they develop the knowledge of how to succeed (Orenstein, 2015; Berard, Cain, Watanabe, & Sasaki, 2015). This article also states that video games not only sharpen the visual processing skills of frequent players, they might also improve the brain’s ability to learn those skills, according to a new study. Gamers showed faster consolidation of learning when moving from one visual task to the next than did non-gamers.

Assessments and data

The data driven from the gamification tools in this article will allow you to take an authentic view of your class as a whole. Teachers can create a digital portfolio of their students and chart their growth without ever grading a paper. By working smarter and not harder, teachers can pause, back up, and re-explain when scores indicate that reteaching needs to occur. Quizizz, Gimkit, Kahoot, 99math and Pear Deck for Google Slides all incorporate gamification that can be used to drive the most effective instructional practices for the 21st century classroom.


The “yellow brick road” showed us that unexpected growth can come from unexpected places.  Gamification is a trend that has great potential to become a classroom norm and change the way educators approach teaching, assessments and data collecting to meet the needs of our students. The lesson learned from this journey is to look ahead. Learning no longer looks the same. We must restructure and define what works and what does not and collaborate with our peers. The roads ahead may twist and turn, but educators know that with a growth mindset and perseverance, the takeaways are invaluable. 


Auxier, B., Anderson, M., Perrin, A., & Turner, E. (2020, August 27). Children's engagement with digital devices, screen time. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech.

Berard, A.V., Cain, M.S., Watanabe, T., & Sasaki, Y. (2015, Mar. 25).  Frequent video game players resist perceptual interference.  PLOS One.  Retrieved from

Graham, L., & West, C. A. (2015). Want to make didactics more engaging: Don’t forget to use a hook! Education for Primary Care, 26(5), 325

Koivisto J., Hamari J. (2019). The rise of motivational information systems: a review of gamification research. Int. J. Inf. Manage. 45 191–210. 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2018.10.013

McCrindle, M. (2021). Generation Alpha. Hachette UK.

Rivera, E., & Garden, C. (2018). Theory and games: developing a method for gamifying higher education. In Edulearn 18. 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technology:(Palma, 2nd-4th of July, 2018). Conference proceedings (pp. 8542-8548). IATED Academy.

Orenstein, D. (2015, Mar. 31). Score! Video gamers may learn visual tasks more quickly.

Seaborn, K., & Fels, D. I. (2015). Gamification in theory and action: A survey. International Journal of human-computer studies, 74, 14-31.

Simmons, C. (2016, May 16). Resources and articles. Exploring Adult Learning.

Zichermann, G., & Cunningham, C. (2011). Gamification by design: Implementing game mechanics in web and mobile apps. " O'Reilly Media, Inc.".


About the Authors

Melisa Patterson is a teacher in Wichita, teaching Kindergarten and First Grade. She received a bachelor's degree in elementary education, along with a certification in Online Learning and Educational Technology at Wichita State University. She is currently enrolled in the MEd in Learning and Instructional Design program at WSU. Her current field placement is with Education Imagine Academy where she teaches in a hybrid learning environment. She is interested in technology, education, gamification, and all the frills of the 21st-century learner. In 2020 she received her ESOL endorsement and was the recipient of the Golden Apple Award which honors teachers who are making a positive difference in their schools. In the future, she hopes to teach abroad and explore other countries and cultures.

Her email is

JaeHwan Byun is an assistant professor of the Master of Education in Learning and Instructional Design program in the School of Education of College of Applied Studies at Wichita State University where he teaches courses related to instructional design and technology at WSU. Dr. Byun is interested in research topics including learner engagement, online learning, learning analytics, and digital game-based learning. His career goal is to seek ways to create a learning environment where learners can learn through aesthetic learning experiences, which are engaging, infused with meaning, and felt as coherent and complete.
His email address is
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