Game On: Implementing and Evaluating an Online Professional Development on Gamification for K-12 Teachers

Concurrent Session 4
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Most teachers have limited experience with digital games when it comes to integrating them into the classroom. This session covers the implementation and evaluation of an online professional development on gamification for K-12 teachers.The course content and the evaluation findings will be shared. 



Dr. Jeff Ertzberger currently serves as a lecturer and director of technology in the Watson College of Education at UNC Wilmington where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in instructional design and instructional technology. A former public school teacher, Jeff has been a keynote and featured speaker at regional, national, and international conferences. His almost 25 years of experience in technology integration and engaging personality allow him to present complex technologies in ways that are understandable, and fun! The games and resources he created have been downloaded well over 1 million times to-date and used by people from over 227 countries around the world. Recognizing the significant impact of these games and resources, Ertzberger was awarded a Microsoft Innovative Teacher award from Microsoft.He leads professional development for hundreds of teachers each year. Jeff has had a tremendous positive impact locally, nationally, and internationally. The resources he has created have been used across the globe to positively impact education. He created and released a set of digital games, game templates, and resources that could be downloaded and used by any teacher. These very simple games and game templates quickly became a hit with teachers around the globe. His EdGames website, where he manages these resources has had well over five and half million page views since its creation. Jeff has been awarded grants and designed programs that were based on technology and sought to engage at-risk students through the use of technology tools such as GPS and Mobile Technology tools. Ertzberger’s continued efforts of using technology to help at-risk students resulted in him becoming an invited speaker on several occasions at Dropout Prevention Forums where he spoke on multiple technology topics. In his role as the Director of Technology for the Watson College of Education at UNC Wilmington, Ertzberger has been responsible for incorporating technology to improve and significantly advance his workplace goals. He provided direct and ongoing oversight for the installation of close to $700,000 worth of technology upgrades to the Education Building. These upgrades focused on distance education technologies that allowed the University to provide educational opportunities to students who previously would not have been able to participate in these courses.

Extended Abstract

Digital games have received increased attention from researchers and educators. The debate on the role of games in education is not new. The gaming industry has studied methods to develop this genre of games over the past number of years. Indeed, computer games have been used for educational purposes for almost forty years now (Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 2007; Games & Squire, 2011). Still, most teachers have little or limited experience with digital games (Bourgonjon, De Grove, De Smet, Looy, Soetaert & Valcke, 2013), especially when it comes to integrating these technologies into the classroom. Additionally, when teachers indicate they play video games, it is usually a small number playing on a regular basis (Kenny and McDaniel, 2011; Becker and Jacobsen, 2005), which can contribute to this limited use of digital games in the classroom.

A new approach to the application of games in education has been gamification. Although there are many definitions available for gamification, a common understanding of this concept involves the application of game elements (e.g., reward system, game narrative, rule-based, etc.) into non-game contexts (Detering 2011), such as educational settings. Even though there has been some concerns and issues with the implementation of gamification in education (Hanus & Fox, 2015), when used properly, gamification can involve, inform and educate the learner (Kapp, 2012)

Thus, this study covers the implementation and evaluation of an online professional development (PD) on gamification for K-12 teachers. The professional development will be offered to teachers in Southeastern North Carolina. Modules covered What is Gamification, Gamification and Classroom Management, Gamification and Content Delivery, and Gamification and Assessment. Each of the modules demonstrate how teachers can use gamification tools and techniques to enhance their instruction. 

It is hoped that the results of this study can contribute to future design and development of online PD for teachers as well as the body of research the use of digital games and gamification.

Implementation and Evaluation of the Online PD for Teachers

In order to design and develop a set of e-Learning modules for K-12 teachers, the ADDIE framework has been adopted for this project. This framework can be defined as an informal label for a systematic approach for instructional design, i.e., a generic instructional systems development process (Morrison, Ross & Kemp, 2007). Additionally, this framework has been implemented following Stavredes and Herder’s (2014) guidelines for the design of online course/program. ADDIE has five distinct phases followed by an instructional designer or a team (Seels & Glasgow, 1998). In the initial phase (i.e., Analysis), previous data collected by the authors on the teachers’ perceptions on video games as well as other existing data has informed learner needs on the topic.  Meanwhile, the Design phase describes the process of planning the learning goals and objectives as well as the instruction of the e-Learning modules for teachers. During the development phase, a set of four e-Learning modules has been created using GoogleSlides for prototyping and formative evaluation, and later was developed using Articulate 360 software. The actual implementation of the online PD was conducted during the Spring of 2021. In the evaluation phase, data will be collected to determine the effectiveness of the learning objectives of the e-Learning modules.  

Research Methods/Techniques:

This study is designed to examine teachers’ perceptions on an online gamification PD. Quantitative data will be collected through online surveys. Participants (partnership teachers within the district) will be asked to complete a pre- and post-survey that examines their knowledge and experiences with the PD. Surveys will be analyzed using quantitative statistical methods in order to provide summaries and any changes on participants’ perceptions and practice. Initial reviews suggest that the professional development does provide teachers with new strategies for using games in their classrooms and their perception of gamification is more favorable after the conclusion of the professional development. 


Gamification can make a significant impact in education and beyond. However, teachers need to be trained on how to use these technologies and new approaches effectively in their classroom before implementation. Additionally, the level of customization that gamification provides for learners can allow for a more personalized learning and even a culturally-situated learning design. The impact of this online gamification PD can inform practitioners and researchers who plan to implement these strategies in their own classroom or conduct similar studies.