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  • Travis N Thurston, PhD

5 Tips for Meaningful Gamification

Guide: Using Freerice to support learning & encourage global citizenship



I have a confession to make: I’m addicted to online quizzing games regardless of the topic or content. I get enthralled trying to outwit my Facebook friends and move up the leaderboards spending more hours than I’ll admit here trying to do so. I’m not the only one either. Millions of people share this same addiction, which got me to wondering: is there a way that educators could tap into the quizzing craze, ideally using questions related to course content, to teach material and greater life lessons all at once?


Enter Freerice.


With banks of established questions in 7 topic areas to choose from, including math, science, humanities, languages, and more, Freerice tests student knowledge by asking increasingly difficult multiple-choice questions while simultaneously facilitating students giving back to the world community. With each correctly answered question students see 10 grains of rice fill a virtual bowl, which signifies actual food that will be donated by sponsors via the United Nations World Food Programme to the hungry populations of the world. Both Freerice itself and the Freerice community provide ample ways to help educators utilize the app to fit specific curriculum or classroom needs. Freerice combines student learning and global citizenship; simply put, it’s a win-win for everyone.



Learn more: https://www.wfpusa.org/get-involved/freerice/



As an educator it’s hard to find the time to learn a new app and figure out how to appropriately implement without distracting from course curriculum. To help you on your way, I’ve put together the following guide, which identifies 5 ways to use Freerice to enhance student learning, starting with the least planning and implementation time up to the highest.


1. Supplemental Learning Game Reward

Utilize Freerice as a bonus for early task finishers, or to fill the last 5 minutes before class ends with a fun activity that’s still contributing to the greater good. When you're facilitating computer-based testing, or if you’re in a 1:1 classroom, simply allow your students to play this educational game to keep them engaged while other activities finish up. You can also project your Freerice game up on the board and have students earn rice together as a class. This is a great way to sneak a fun challenge and some altruism into those “neither here nor there” minutes at the end of class or between gaps in activities.


2. Flipped Model Learning Activity

Another easy implementation is to direct your students to participate in Freerice on their own time as preparation for a particular lesson. This can be particularly powerful in a flipped classroom, as students can participate in retrieval practice on Freerice, and then bring their experiences with them to class to apply what they’ve learned. This could be carried out effectively in many ways, but one example could be using the human anatomy topic in the science subject area to reinforce main ideas from an online lecture or content video as an introduction to a unit on the body or as an introduction to a research activity the next day in class. Students can choose from 5 levels starting at easiest up to hardest level. Challenge your students to answer progressively difficult questions, or to reach a level of mastery on easy before moving forward.


3. Gamification & Digital Badges

Use Freerice as a method to gamify your classroom and award digital badges. But, before you start handing out random badges, consider a simple implementation that would allow students to earn points in class based on how many grains of rice they earn, or perhaps allow them to earn badges representing new levels of expertise in class. For example, 500 grains of rice = Good-Doer, or 3000 grains of rice = Humanitarian. This can be awarded on a per student basis or even in small groups. Badges could also be aligned to learning outcomes or Common Core Standards, so each badge earned is curriculum-based and represents an area the student has mastered.


4. Lesson or Unit Plan

Developing an entire unit plan while implementing a new tool like Freerice can be quite the challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available with developed lesson plans for educators. Teach your students about the impacts of hunger on millions throughout the world utilizing the WFP zero hunger resources, then use the three built-in categories in Freerice to quiz students on the goals of "zero hunger" and see how many grains of rice the class can donate in one class period. Many teachers have already integrated Freerice in their own classrooms in one way or another, so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Borrow from teachers’ experiences using Freerice reviews with over 50 teachers providing their reviews and experiences with Freerice, you’re sure to find what will work best for you.


5. Complete Integration & Curriculum Enhancement

A complete integration will require significant time and effort building Freerice into several lesson plans. First, consider how to align Free Rice to your own curriculum map. Also, remember that using Freerice as an element of gamification in your class can spark student attention and ignite interest to engage in an inquiry project. Also, consider how the experience of playing the game and donating rice provides opportunity to engage students in deeper reflection & discussion in class. You may also consider creating a classroom group to keep student scores and to challenge them to continue earning more. Leaderboards are created automatically when you create a group, and will provide a code to give to your students to join. You can create a group for all of your students, or create a different group for each class to encourage friendly competition.



What else do I need to know?


a. Establishing groups is fairly easy in Freerice. Helping your students create accounts to get started is a good idea as well. There is a feature that is yet to be released in Freerice Beta that will be specifically designed for teachers to create groups for their students.


b. The Freerice game interface has been recently updated to match eye-popping graphics like some popular apps. The web-based interface is functional and easy to navigate, and there is also an app version available on Google Play, and now on the Apple App Store.


c. This game hits the mark with students of all ages. I have personally implemented Freerice with graduate-level college students and with high school students in various classes, and my students absolutely love it.


d. Despite the name Freerice, nothing in life is free. For most other sites, I recommend turning on some type of ad-blocker to shield your students from advertisers and malware. However, for Freerice I highly recommend turning off your ad-block software, because the advertising dollars spent on the page are paying for the rice that is donated. Someone has to foot the bill for all that free rice, right? Learn more about how “free rice” gets paid for by sponsors.


In Short

Whether you use Freerice as a fun intervention for vocabulary acquisition or to reinforce geographic acuity, the bottom line is that playing this game is addicting in the very best way. If you only have time to use Freerice as a reward game, or if you completely integrate Freerice into your curriculum, your students will love learning by answering quiz game style questions. What’s more, knowing that your class is actually fighting hunger and making a positive impact on the world will make you want to fill just one more bowl of rice before you quit, or maybe two more.


How will you use Freerice with your students?



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