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Increased Engagement and Literacy Through Gamification

Kathleen Reilly

Johns Hopkins University

Evaluation and Research of Technology and

Technology Supported Interventions and Programs

May 7th, 2017


Theory of Change and Logic Model

As the availability of technology has increased at Milbrook Elementary School, a need to

address the motivation and literacy of students, particularly in primary grades 1 and 2, has been

identified. Although the introduction of 1:1 devices at Milbrook has come with the promise to

cultivate 21st Century Skills, it seems that a majority of children are interested in game play. In

turn, students are entering 3rd grade below grade level in reading. In order to embrace the

interests of students, a plan to initiate the program Reading Eggspress into primary classrooms

will not only address student motivation and engagement, but also student literacy.

As observed in classrooms and documented through technology violation forms, students

are very motivated to play games. Reading Eggpress provides students with a highly engaging

gaming experience, while reinforcing, developing and introducing phonics and reading skills. It

is expected that the implementation of Reading Eggspress will engage students during their

Reading/English Language Arts block, demonstrating a change in the motivation of students and

their abilities in reading and phonics. Reading Eggspress will be a part of teachers blended

learning environments. Therefore, continued professional development and modeling of a

blended learning environment and gamification will be essential to the success of this program.

The objectives and outcomes of this plan must be clear to students, teachers, administration, and

leadership teams. Primary teachers will continuously monitor student progress with the

assistance of the Reading Leadership team. The Reading Leadership team will be responsible for

continuous data collection and coaching of primary teachers. The collaboration between

Milbrook faculty, consistent data collection, and blended learning environments is expected to

successfully implement Reading Eggspress into primary classrooms. Therefore, primary students

will enter the succeeding grade better prepared and motivated in reading and English Language


Logic Model

Situation Implementing Reading Eggspress into primary (1st and 2nd grade)
Overarching Goal To increase motivation and engagement using reading-based
gamification (Reading Eggspress) consequently developing

Outputs Outcomes
Activities Participation Short Medium Long

Initiate the use Knowledge
of Reading of effective
Eggspress as a use of
Inputs Primary
instructional Teachers technology in
tool in a blended Observed
ELA/Reading Primary classroom change in
Instructional block motivation
time Students
classrooms to attempt
Facilitate the use assigned 1st and 2nd
Time of technology
Reading Collect data work grade
and students
Teachers Team continuously
will enter
monitor the
Students Professional achievements succeeding
Research using Reading
Eggspress and
Blended Learning
Technology and
Equipment Increased motivated
Creation of
in reading
violation abilities
Reading Eggspress in /ELA
rules/lessons for Primary reading
students Students and
Use of Reading Primary interest in
Eggspress program Teachers
in a blended onics
environment through

Assumptions: External Factors:

Students will be motivated by the games Student learning styles may not match up
provided through Reading Eggspress. with Reading Eggspress program.
Teachers will blend Reading Eggspress Teacher understanding of a blended learning
program into small group rotations to environment and proper implementation of
create a blended learning approach. Reading Eggspress.

Literature Review

Todays learners are highly motivated by games. The implementation of gamification in

the 21st century classroom aims to meet the needs and interests of the ever evolving generation of

digital natives (Prensky, 2009). Although game-based teaching and learning is still relatively

new to the modern day classroom, the literature shows its potential to motivate learners, create

meaningful experiences, and therefore increase student outcomes (Holmes & Gee, 2016).

Although gamification has been notably present in fields such as marketing, it is

relatively new to the education environment (Martens, 2014). This review will discuss the impact

of gamification on motivation, literacy and transliteracy development in the 21st century

classroom, and the misconceptions of gamification, as well as, how to address them and create

purpose when implementing games.

Title Searches, Articles, Documents, Journals Researched

The literature review examines peer-reviewed online journal articles that were published

within the last 5 years, with the exception of one source looking through a historical perspective.

Resources included research done on reading and literacy in a digital world, gamification, its

impact on motivation and obstacles of gamification in education. Title searches included

gamification, motivation, reading, literacy, game-based teaching, game-based learning, and

online reading.

Historical Overview

Educational gamification made an appearance in the 2005 NMC New Horizons Report

as an upcoming technology to enter the classroom (Holmes & Gee, 2016). Since then programs

have been developed and implemented in classrooms across the world. One of the major

concerns for students in the 21st century is their motivation and engagement with traditional

learning methods. Gamification has helped create engagement, motivation, enjoyment, interest in

content, and senses of achievement and accomplishment (Kim, 2015a).

According to the prediction in 2007, by Leu and Zawilinski, nearly half of the worlds

population is currently reading online (Leu & Zawilinski, 2007). This prediction, and now, truth,

demonstrates the necessity of increased technology in the classroom. It is argued that due to the

new literacies of the world, new literacy skills are required. Gamification provides experiences in

which students can develop new literacy skills and use programs that target early reading skills

(Leu et al., 2007). Gamification is present in a majority of core subject areas, such as

mathematics, science, social studies, and reading.

Current Findings

Student Motivation and Engagement. Gameplay presents the learner with an

experience that gives them a sensation of joy, competition, and challenge (Schaaf & Mohan,

2014). Gamification is a powerful tool due to its ability to capture peoples attention, to engage

them in a target activity, and even to influence their behavior (Kim, 2015b). Educationally

based games provide us with a look into the mind of what educates the 21st century learner. The

most used gamification design principles in educational contexts are visual status, social

engagement, freedom of choice, freedom to fail, and rapid feedback (Dicheva, Dichev, Agre, &

Angelova, 2015). Each of these principles reveal that the learning styles and strategies that

motivate the 21st century learner rely on technology. More notably, are best met by the

implementation of education-based games in the classroom.

The Gamification Learning Theory parallels the behaviorist learning theory in that it

provides positive reinforcements, immediate feedback, and progressive challenges (Ding, Guan,

& Yu, 2017). Each of these aspects of gaming provides the learner with a more engaging

learning experience and consequently improved performance. The incorporation of gaming

principles into learning environments capitalizes on the needs of students. For instance, the

challenge students receive through games to push them outside of their comfort zone provides

rigor. Meanwhile, students still feel safe to take risk because of the medium of their learning

(Kopcha, Ding, Neumann, & Choi, 2016). Not only is the positive influence on their learning and

academic achievement but also, on student emotions, stress levels, and social interactions

(Kopcha et al., 2016).

The creation of competition through gaming social interactions also is a motivator for

students. This continues to develop their intrinsic motivation. Whether they are in competition

with themselves or another, the drive to succeed and take risks allows creates a learning

experience in which the student is significantly more invested (Banfield & Wilkerson, 2014).

According to a study completed by Banfield and Wilkerson (2014), 92.2% of students exposed to

gamification demonstrated intrinsic motiviation themes. Those learning in a traditional way

demonstrated a mere 30.5%.

Literacy and Transliteracy Development in the Classroom through Gamification. In

the 21st century classroom, students need to develop their transliteracy, the ability to read, write,

and interact across multiple media platforms (Martens, 2014). The use of gamification supports

literacy development for early learners to create meaningful reading experiences (Martens,

2014). The use of technology in literacy and reading instruction provides new tools for early

reading interventions and resources for enrichment. With both printed and electronic texts,

students need to determine appropriate reading strategies to use in order to comprehend the text

(Ciampa, 2012). Intrinsic motivation to read becomes increasingly as important as a students

decoding skills. Intrinsic motivation developed through this process will assist the learner in

future challenges in learning (Ciampa, 2012). This internal drive is supported by the safety

provided when taking risk through a game.

According to the New Literacies Theory it is the responsibility of the teacher to align

gaming with Common Core State Standards and Partnership for 21st Century Skills to turn

existing curriculum and games with meaningful, rigorous experiences (Kingsley & Grabner-

Hagen, 2015). In order for teachers to create these environments, they need to receive

professional developments on the design principles associated with gaming learning

environments and blend them into their classroom (Kopcha et al., 2016).

The Significance of Purposeful Gaming. A common misperception of games is the lack

of rigor and alignment with standards (Martens, 2014). Additionally, screen time has shown a

direct relationship with obesity and ADHD (Martens, 2014). With these risks in mind, it is

important that when gaming enters a classroom is it done with purpose and a goal in mind. That

goal can specific to a learning standard or as broad as participation.

The role of the instructor in a blended learning environment is to properly utilize

gamification to support learners, and to select relevant games. Video games are highly

entertaining and fun for many children but the selection of the appropriate game for instruction is

a challenge (Kopcha, Ding, Neumann, & Choi, 2016). Because gamification involves the

incorporation of game principles into learning environments, it is essential that the instructor

select a game with a goal in mind. For the instructor or moderator, it is important to recognize

the individual learning styles and motivations of the gamers (Kim, 2015b, p. 20). Setting purpose

to a game is vital to its success. If genuine incentives are not set, the design of the learning with

gaming would be obsolete and motivation would not increase.



For elementary students, reading from a paper text can be boring. These students have not

known a world without technology. Using game-based learning strategies to develop early

literacy skills would best meet the needs of these 21st century learners. Teachers should consider

the implementation of game-based learning in a blended learning environment. Not only would

the motivation of students to use devices in an appropriate way increase, but also, student

outcomes in reading and literacy would increase. Purposeful instruction and implementation of

games is crucial to the success of students in literacy and the genuine interest of students to

remain on task.

Gamification in education is more effective and preferred by 21st century learners, as well

as, productive to reading and literacy learning outcomes. The blending of literacy and reading

with gamification will create a population of readers who are willing to take risk and excited to


Need for Change Initiative

As of November 2016, students at Milbrook Elementary School have had access to their

own personal devices for educational use. However, as the access to technology has greatly

expanded, students at Milbrook have an increased desire to explore applications and websites.

Frequently, teachers have reported that students are playing games during instruction or

independent work time that have not been assigned. Students have received consequences for

playing these games because, As part of their annual student behavior handbook training,

students [are] required to review the Technology Acceptable Use Policy (TAUP) for Students

which states that they are to use the technologies for educational purposes (Baltimore County

Public Schools, 2014). Over 30% of primary students have received a technology violation form.

We should begin to question why students are looking to access these games and in which areas

are they most tempted to divert from assigned work.

Unfortunately, students are disengaged and looking to play non-approved games. Since

students actively use their personal devices outside of school, recognizing their potential as a

motivational tool in the classroom, may lead to increased student engagement. They are engaged

and motivated by the games and in order for them to be available for learning, students need to

be intrinsically motivated. Instead of only focusing on penalizing these actions, it is time that

Milbrook embrace the interests of our students. Keeping students motivated and wanting to

continue to learn and challenge themselves is essential. In the 21st century classroom, our goal is

for students to take charge of their own learning. Through proper motivation and reinforcement

we can create a resiliency!

At Milbrook, students have shown significant gaps in reading on Measure of Academic

Progress (MAP) Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC),

and Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment testing. According to the student thrive reports,

only 41% of students are demonstrating ability to read on grade level. There are significant gaps

in literacy and consequently, the technology violation forms have been noted more frequently

during the Reading/English Language Arts block. After looking at the potential benefits for

students, the best decision would be to support the implementation of gamification practices at

Milbrook, using Reading Eggspress in primary grades 1 and 2.

Significance of Change Initiative

This technology plan will embrace the interests of students and address their want to

access games and address their diversion from classwork. In a current Reading/English

Language Arts block, students participate in whole group learning for 20-30 minutes and then

transition into 20 minute small group rotations. The rotations involve direct instruction with the

teacher, reading, and independent practice of skills. Right now, when students are not involved in

direct instruction, they are using their independent time to sneak some game time in. Students

should be typing responses or using the BCPS learning management system to access curriculum

tools. Many teachers have resorted to removing students from their personal devices entirely.

However, this is a disservice to developing 21st century skills. This plan will involve a blended

learning environment. Because the current reading block involves small group rotations the

implementation of Reading Eggspress games and activities into this time will keep students on-

task and motivated to develop their reading skills.

Instead of only focusing on penalizing gameplay, this plan will embrace it. Reading

Eggspress is a program that develops childhood literacy through interactive reading activities

and games. It is full of game-based learning tools that focus on the development of essential

reading skills, such as, reading, comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, and grammar (Reading

Eggspress, 2017). This website is compatible with the personal student devices currently used at

Milbrook Elementary School making it a viable solution for the independent practice time during

small group rotations.

If students continue to become disengaged, the Reading Leadership Team and primary

teachers will need to create initiatives to motivate students through Reading Eggspress. The

program allows students, teachers, and parents to see their growth. This data will be useful for

adding continuous spark to the implementation. In order to increase excitement, competitions can

be created through the program to create a community of gamers. Additionally, there is a vast

online library, containing over 2000 books that students can access (Reading Eggspress, 2017)

which will assist in the continuous development of their transliteracy skills.


Change Initiative Design

This technology plan seeks to embrace the interests of students with digital games, and

address their diversion from classwork and literacy. The objectives presented for this plan

address disengagement and, as a result, the development of literacy for students. The first

objective of this plan is the number of student technology violation forms will decrease by 50%

as a result of students utilizing digital-learning based games. Currently, 30% of primary students

have received a violation form. Not only should the percentage of students decrease to 15% of

the population, but also the number of violation forms administered should decrease by 50%.

The second objective addresses the current gaps in reading and literacy at Milbrook. Student

percentage of on-grade level readers will increase by 15% by the end of the school year.

In order to implement the plan, one of the first initiatives that needs to be completed is

professional development for teachers. The series of professional development that will occur

during the first week back for teachers will include, gamification and blended learning, Reading

Eggspress, and data collection for this initiative. Over the course of the summer, the Reading

Leadership Team will meet, funded by Title I, to plan student implementation lessons for

teachers to use, to create rules for students in using Reading Eggspress, and create an exciting

kick off event to motivate both students and teachers. This plan requires the buy in of primary

teachers, so it is the responsibility of the Reading Leadership Team to best prepare these teachers

for the shift in their instruction and instructional time.

An important aspect to the implementation of Reading Eggspress is continued

professional development opportunities and coaching provided by the Reading Leadership Team.

The Reading Leadership Team, which is lead by the reading specialist, is responsible for creating

key actions focused in reading to intervene and develop stronger readers. It is the responsibility

of this team to inspire a shared vision between administration, teachers, students, and families.

The role of this team would be to delegate the aspects of this plan, gather and assess data, and

coach primary teachers. Using this team to coach others will create an communal atmosphere

and strife to a common goal (Salavert, 2015). The primary teachers are important leaders to

Milbrooks students as well as to the staff. A blended learning approach is still new teaching that

many are not used to. This team needs to be open to change and to challenge themselves to be

better teachers and challenge their students to be the best readers they can be. This team needs to

be willing to take risks, in order to, work toward the overarching goal. (Kouzes, J. & Posner, B.,

2011). They have not used gamification before and it will certainly be a challenge. However,

with the correct mindset, any new risk will be a learning opportunity.

This plan has short, medium, and long-term outcomes. First, the faculty that is a part of

the initiative should feel comfortable using Reading Eggspress. The Reading Leadership Team

will work as coaches to continue to build positivity as the plan is implemented. Their role as

coach will expand to the parents at Back To School night, where parents will be introduced to the

program and informed of how they can track their childs growth. Students will demonstrate an

increase in learning literacy skills at the implementation of the program. As the program

continues, a decrease in technology violation forms should be seen almost immediately.

Introducing a new program should motivate students and they will be less likely to explore other

programs. As the program is implemented, data should begin being collected immediately. Data

will track medium and long-term outcomes demonstrating that students are on-task and

developing literacy skills.

Evaluation Question

In order to monitor success over the implementation of the program, both formative and

summative questions will be assessed. These questions address the relationship between

engagement and literacy. It is assumed gamification will that an increase of on-task behavior. It

is also assumed that students remaining on-task will continue to develop literacy skills.

Formative Questions:

Are the number of technology violation forms issued decreasing?

Are teachers using rotations and blended learning to implement gamification in their


Summative Questions:

Did the introduction of gamification increase on-task behavior?

Did the increase in on-task behavior increase the percentage of students reading on-grade


Evaluation Framework

In order to evaluate the success of this technology plan, both qualitative and quantitative

data should be used. This plan measured engagement and motivation of students. In order to

quantitatively measure this, use of technology violation forms will be used. Students receive a

technology violation form if they are on a website or application that was not assigned to them

during the learning block. If a student is not on the assigned program, it can be assumed that the

program was not engaging or motivating to them. Currently, 30% of primary students have

received violation forms. Teachers will document technology violations through the STAT

teacher. The STAT teacher will provide this data to the Reading Leadership Team through a

consistently updated and shared Excel document. In order to evaluate the success of this

program, this number should decrease. If this number decreases, it will reveal that more students

are engaged in on-task behavior. In order to measure perception of students and teachers, surveys

will be administered prior to the implementation of Reading Eggpress and at the conclusion of

the school year. These surveys will ask both the administrator of the program and the user to

reflect on their feelings of growth and engagement. For example, students and teachers would be

asked, Do you like using Reading Eggpress? Why or why not? Looking at survey results can

reveal a general perception of the program or if there are differences between the perception of

those administering it and those using it to learn.

An increase in on-task behavior using Reading Eggspress is assumed to increase student

literacy outcomes. In order to evaluate the growth in student literacy multiple formative and

summative assessments will be used. In order to formatively assess student growth, teachers and

the Reading Leadership Team can monitor growth through the Reading Eggpress platform due to

its self-paced activities, evaluating accomplishments and successes is a valid form of formative

data. Continuous Fountas and Pinnell testing will occur in the fall, winter, and spring. Lastly, the

evaluation of student growth on MAP assessments and PARCC will reveal the true success of

gamification in a blended learning environment. Should this plan prove itself successful,

implementation of gamification in the secondary grades will be considered.


The implementation of gamification, using Reading Eggspress, will increase primary

student engagement and literacy at Milbrook Elementary School. Through collaborative

professional development for the staff and the continuous monitoring of data, this technology

plan will create positive perceptions of blended learning using games and will create a culture of

collaborative gamers. Using formative and summative qualitative and quantitative data and

questioning, will ensure the success of this plan over the entirety of its implementation.


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